Mini is poised to start work on a more sporting coupé version of the just-launched Countryman five-door crossover.
A Countryman coupé concept is currently on the drawing board at Mini’s design studio in Munich.
It is one of a number of new Mini niche models being considered, as work starts on merging the brand with the planned front-wheel-drive family from BMW.
Sources say this concept is partly being investigated because the BMW X6 was such a runaway success, proving that customers have a taste for the unusual ‘off-road coupé’ format.
Challenge to the Evoque
Mini’s design team is also keeping a keen eye on Land Rover’s new Range Rover Evoque, which also features a coupé-like roofline.
One suggestion is that Mini could provide a cut-price rival to the Evoque with a car that is just as dramatic looking, but with better performance and a more city-friendly package.
The car would cost around £20,000, dramatically undercutting the bigger Range Rover.
One of the options for the new coupé — which, if it gets the green light, will arrive in 2013 —is to have a four-door layout with rear suicide doors on both sides of the car and no B-pillars.
The next-generation Clubman is expected to use the same format, so the engineering work needed to eliminate the B-pillars from the Countryman platform could be shared between the two cars.
Unlike the estate car lines of the Clubman, the Countryman coupé will have a shorter rear overhang, sloping roofline and much shallower side windows.
Despite this, those pushing the new concept say leg room will be just as generous as the standard car and head room will be more than acceptable.
Two-door coupé layout
An alternative plan could see the Countryman coupé using a conventional two-door layout. Some insiders suggest this would be an ideal format for a future version of the WRC Mini, where body stiffness is all-important.
Others suggest that, stylistically, a two-door Countryman would need a much steeper roofline and more compromised rear seat space.
The Countryman coupé is just one of a number of Mini variants currently being considered by the BMW board. Next spring the company is due to show a ‘Minissimo’ city car concept, which is likely to be based on a cut-down version of today’s Mini platform.
Details are still thin on the ground, but the concept is expected to be either a two-seater or have a Toyota iQ-style 2+1 layout.
However, because the Minissimo will be built on today’s Mini platform (not the upcoming shared BMW/Mini front-drive architecture), it might be possible to profitably sell the car at a lower price than today’s £11,000 entry-level car.
The fact that the introduction of the Mini Roadster and Coupé (both also based on today’s Mini platform) has been delayed suggests that these two models and the Minissimo could all be built on the same production line at BMW Oxford.