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.
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.
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.