The all-new, Mk3 Mini hatchback will come in a family-friendly five-door guise when it goes on sale early next year, Autocar can reveal. The new model is thought to be the result of customer demands for a Mini that is more practical for drivers with young children.
Despite speculation that the new Mini would use Clubman-style ‘suicide’ doors, the new model will have two conventionally hinged rear doors. BMW engineers have managed to squeeze them into the sub-4m-long car by slightly lengthening the wheelbase of the five-door car and by shortening its front doors, but even with these measures the rear doors cut right around the rear wheel arches and close up against the C-pillars.
Although access to the rear will be tight for an adult, the primary purpose of the rear doors is understood to be to allow easy access for children. The shortened front doors will also make it easier for the driver and front passenger to get in and out in tight spaces.
The five-door version of the Mk3 Mini, codenamed F56, will join the three-door hatchback as the first of the new-generation Mini models to be launched. BMW engineers are currently putting the finishing touches to both body styles, including a three-door Cooper S version.
Entry-level and mid-range models, including the Cooper versions, will be powered by BMW’s new turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine. This state-of-the-art unit, which is directly related to the N20 four-cylinder engine in the new 3-series, will deliver much-improved economy and emissions. The Cooper S and JCW versions are expected to get the newly updated four-cylinder ‘Prince’ engine.
Despite the Mini’s enviable brand image and relatively affordable entry-level pricing, sales have not expanded as quickly as predicted. Just 50,000 Minis of all types were sold in the UK last year, with 285,000 sold globally. This was partly a result of the Mini’s niche market positioning and the declining popularity of three-door cars.
This trend is reflected in sales of the five-door Mini Countryman. Despite initial scepticism, sales in the first quarter of this year were 22,000 units, 37 per cent up on the same period in 2011.
Our rendering, which is based on recent spy shots, clearly shows that the new Mini is longer than the current car, even in three-door form, with a much longer front overhang. In turn, the bonnet is longer and flatter and the front wheels are positioned further forward. This change is thought to be a result of the need to improve crash protection and pedestrian safety and to accommodate BMW’s own requirements for its new range of front-wheel-drive cars, which are based on the same UKL1 platform as the Mini.
It is thought that more than 10 different Mini and baby BMW models will be based on the new UKL1 architecture, which will transform the profitability of the Mini. With a unique platform, expensively engineered components (such as the multi-link rear ‘Z-axle’) and global sales of less than 300,000 units, it’s thought that the Mini operation wasn’t profitable enough for BMW to have commissioned a new stand-alone Mini platform.
However, by introducing a front-drive BMW family to the mix, and with the global trend for downsizing, BMW bosses estimate that the UKL1 project will be good for well over half a million profitable sales each year, possibly even rising to as many as 800,000 a year by the end of the decade.