The all-new, Mk3 BMW Mini is just 12 months away from the showroom, and it promises a dramatic leap forward in handling, performance and quality. Insiders say that because the new Mini family — which could extend to as many as 11 new models — is part of BMW’s UKL1 front-wheel drive platform project, factory costs can be reduced and quality increased.
BMW sources have already admitted that as many as 23 different models could eventually be given the green light. Indeed, estimates by industry analysts suggest that, by 2020, BMW will be selling about 980,000 front-drive cars under both the BMW and Mini brands.
All of today’s Mini models will be replaced and there will be at least three new models. These will include the new Traveller, which is a kind of sporty mini-MPV similar in layout to the BMW Concept Active Tourer. Also on the drawing board is a luxuriously trimmed baby saloon aimed at east Asia. The styling of the Mk3 range is said to have been strongly influenced by the Mini Rocketman concept.
The biggest-selling Mini newcomer, however, will be the unusual five-door hatchback, which has foreshortened rear doors primarily intended to allow children quicker access to the rear seats. The Mk3 Mini family could also introduce some significant conceptual makeovers for existing models.
The UKL1 platform brings greater dimensional flexibility because it comes in at least two lengths and two seat heights. BMW’s plans for an MX-5-sized roadster mean that today’s Mini Coupé and Roadster models could become proper sporting cars, rather than modified versions of the cabrio.
The Countryman is also expected to become a bespoke SUV, unlike today’s model, which is closer to a five-door supermini with a raised ride height. The Clubman will grow longer and wider and is expected to become more of a sports estate. The controversial ‘club door’ layout seems likely to be dropped.
Apart from the highest-performance models, all of the new Minis will be powered by BMW’s all-new three-cylinder, 1.5-litre engine in both petrol and diesel forms.
As well as six-speed manual transmissions, the new Mini will come with the option of a super-efficient eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Four-wheel drive will be offered on more Mini models in the future. Manufacturers are finding that demand is rising noticeably for the option of four-wheel drive on road cars of all sizes.
With the promise of at least one sub-90g/km CO2 model in the new-generation diesel Mini line-up, there’s no news yet on a hybrid Mini. It would undoubtedly be popular in the US market, but complexity and expense might rule it out.
To help with this massive expansion, which should enable Mini to add at least 150,000 annual sales to its current volumes of about 300,000, a new production line is being built at Mini’s Oxford plant. BMW is also in negotiations to use the old Mitsubishi Nedcar factory in the Netherlands as a satellite plant from mid-2014.