A new smaller, entry-level Mini concept will be launched at the Geneva motor show in March

Mini’s entry-level model is under construction as a concept in preparation for a debut at the Geneva motor show next March, autocar.co.uk can reveal.

The new car - plans for which were exposed by Autocar in May - will be based on a modified version of the existing hatchback’s front-engined/front-wheel-drive platform, but will have a shorter wheelbase among other detailed architectural changes.

See the Mini Spiritual concept

The car has been conceived as part of BMW’s broad-based Project i mobility initiative, which has also spawned the more hi-tech, carbonfibre-intensive Mega City Vehicle – a car with which the new Mini shares very little, according to Autocar sources.

Little else is known about the new Mini’s exact layout at this stage. But engineers involved in the development of current Mini models concede it would be very difficult to create a front-engined, front-wheel-drive, four-seat city car shorter than today’s 3700mm-long hatch while adhering to all relevant crash test criteria, both in Europe and North America.

This tends to indicate the new Mini will receive a two-seat interior in a move mirroring that of the Smart Fortwo – just one of a number of possible rivals.

Read new Mini range unveiled, plus see the pics

Another possibility is a three-seat configuration like that of the Toyota iQ. Warning that the urban concept’s future production is anything but secure, Mini officials say they will monitor reaction to the car shown in Geneva before making any hard and fast decisions on a production future.

“The idea to create a highly compact Mini model is one that has been on the agenda for quite a while,” said one source.

“On the outside it would appear a natural fit for the brand but profitability is a major concern at this end of the market. It’s one thing making a good looking small car but it’s another thing making money on it.”

Although the new Mini and Megacity vehicle aim at a similar market segments, the concept of the former planned for Geneva is expected to showcase a new small-capacity petrol engine, while the latter is being developed primarily as plug-in electric vehicle.

Read Autocar's Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4 first drive

As well as hinting at Mini’s plans for a new urban based small car, the new concept car planned for Geneva is set to feature the company’s future design lineage, which BMW Group design boss, Adrian Von Hooydonk, describes as being an evolution of the existing retro-infused theme, as seen on today’s hatch, Clubman and Countryman.

Mini’s plans for a Smart Fortwo-rivalling city car hark back to the company’s earlier rear-engined/rear-wheel drive Spirtual concepts, revealed at the Geneva show shortly after BMW’s purchase of the Rover Group in 1994.

Greg Kable

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Comments
16

16 July 2010

“The idea to create a highly compact Mini model is one that has been on the agenda for quite a while,” said one source.

Since about 2002 for the buying public...

Still better late than never - somebody must have looked at the Maxi Countryman and realised they've gone too far...

Brought a smile to my face that you use the picture of the stillborn design study for this article - what the "new" Mini should have been in a many people's eyes.


16 July 2010

The Mitsubishi i-car does look remarkably like the 5 door Spiritual.

Oh well, better late than never.

16 July 2010

I understand that it's hard to make a truly small car nowadays, but the whole MINI range has always seemed huge, and the most recent models stupidly so. It makes using the name seem a bit daft. It's always seemed to me that the primary motivation when making the MINI was to make a fashion item, not the "smallest way of moving four people about" that was the design brief for the original.

The bubbly, cartoonish interior that all modern small cars seem to have is very offputting for me, and I don't want all the bells and whistles. I drive an Austin Mini, and inside it's not cute and doesn't feel that small. I tried to test-drive a Fiat 500 and it felt so cartoony and unreal, and so cramped inside that I had an attack of claustrophobia before I even got the key in. I don't really care how small a car is, I care about how in-control I feel - and in a car that feels like a computer game from the drivers' seat, I never will.

16 July 2010

I think part of the problem in selling really small cars in a modern market is one of perceived safety. In a world where lots of people buy 4x4s largely so they don't feel dwarfed in modern traffic, a car anywhere near the size of an original Mini - which looks tiny on the road nowadays - could be a tough sell even if you could engineer it to 4/5 star NCAP standards.

16 July 2010

Surely if the MINI is 'Fiesta sized' then the next smaller MINI may be 'KA' sized?

16 July 2010

Do they realise they are competing with the FIAT 500?!

16 July 2010

Old Twingo design is back! :) I wonder if BMW paid Renault for intellectual property rights..

16 July 2010

The car in the background looks similar to a 1st generation Daewoo Matiz

16 July 2010

When will we get the estate version? And the offroader? And the convertible?

rwb

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