MINI has revealed its vision of how the all-new MINI will look, but unlike most concept cars it's purely a digital model. Unveiled as a 3D hologram at the MINI design centre in Munich, the MINI Vision "gives more than a few hints where the new MINI is going," according to BMW Group design director Adrian Van Hooydonk.
We've already brought you completely undisguised spy shots of the new MINI hatch (set to be revealed simultaneously at the Tokyo and LA motor shows in late November), which has somewhat stolen the concept's thunder, but there are still a number of intriguing design details shown here that will make it to production.
The most striking is the new grille which "reverts back to where we came from", according to MINI design boss Anders Warming. With an integrated bumper and fog lights it's a much simpler design, reminiscent of the original Mini. New headlights keep the classic round design, but are surrounded by an LED frame, a cue first seen on the Rocketman concept.
"The Rocketman was the first embodiment of this new design language," Van Hooydonk told us. "It was a research project that got the whole team very excited, this concept is the next step on from that."
In profile, short overhangs and the classic floating roof silhouette are maintained, but striking plastic cladding - referred to as 'spats' by the MINI design team - runs around the base of the windscreen and down to the wheelarches. "It's something we like, but might not be exactly like that on the finished car," Van Hooydonk revealed.
At the rear larger vertical tail lights cut into the boot lid, with sharp lines sprouting out of them - a big contrast to the clean surfaces of the current car. A stepped rear spoiler and twin tailpipes hint at how the sportier models in the range will look.
A number of significant changes are introduced on the inside, too. These include new functionality for the large central speedo, which is now fully digital and capable of showing an analogue style speedometer, or other parameters in a more futuristic 3D layout. With just three dials below that, the interior is much less cluttered than the current car. It has a party-piece too; hit the sport button next to the gearshift and every display switches from blue to red to signify the steering, throttle and exhaust are in their sportiest settings.
As for the interior package, "you will get a little bit more space on the inside," Van Hooydonk explained. "But MINI is all about a minimum footprint on the road with maximum interior space. I still believe it will be the smallest car in its class."
A production version of the three-door hatch, previewed by this virtual concept, will be the first to be revealed this November - just a few days after Alex Issigonis' birthday (the designer of the original 1959 Mini). That will be followed by a flood of new MINIs including, for the first time, a five-door hatch, as well as a new Clubman, Convertible, Countryman, Paceman and even a Saloon to target booming markets like China. "At any one time we have five to eight projects on the go, each of these with offshoots like JCW versions and facelifts," Warming revealed.
According to an inside source the Coupe and Roadster's future is less certain due to underwhelming sales. Instead both two-seaters could be replaced with something more aggressive, such as a low-slung sports car.
But Van Hooydonk is in no rush to launch the all-new range: "MINI is no longer under pressure. Now that we share the new front-wheel drive platform with BMW there is no longer the pressure to expand and pay for all the platform development ourselves. That gives MINI more time and space to consider its next step."