Autocar's Hilton Holloway caught up with Mini's head designer Gert Hildebrand for an insight into the firm's design future.
When did you start work on the concept of a five-door Mini?
I began work with Mini on 7 January 2001, at the Detroit auto show. I had a small team of just four designers but we asked ourselves where we could take the Mini from being a one-model brand. We put together a wish list of five or six future models, which included the Clubman and the Speedster. Between 2001 and 2007 we proposed a number of four-door Mini concepts, some of which were over four metres long.
Is this as big as any Mini will get?
We had a lot of discussions about the length and we decided that four metres was the biggest any Mini could be. We also found that a lot of Mini owners had dogs and wanted extra space. The ‘dog factor’ with buyers was amazing.
The three-door Mini is 3720mm long and the Clubman is 3920mm long, which gave us an extra 80mm in the wheelbase and 120mm in the load bay. The new concept is just over four metres long – 4007mm or so. The 2.6m wheelbase also offers great rear legroom compared with similar-sized cars.
In fact, the height of the production car was fixed by the height of a standardized Japanese garage door. The number four was key for this project. We called it a four metre-long, four-door, four-seater with the ALL4 four-wheel drive system.
Is the car based on a Clubman?
It’s not based directly on the Clubman because it’s wider, so the passengers have better shoulder room. The platform also has to accommodate the four-wheel drive system. Although we used a lot of existing Mini ‘architecture parts’, this is effectively a new platform.