Currently reading: Mini saloon to be fifth model in new-look range
BMW-owned manufacturer has long promised us five 'superhero' models in its line-up as it moves towards more rounded and mature cars

The fifth model in Mini’s new-look range is likely to be a saloon as part of its global push upmarket, Autocar understands.

The new model could even, in theory, result in a return of the Riley name, for which BMW owns the trademark.

Although there’s no official confirmation of the addition of a saloon to the Mini range, sources have revealed that it is on the cards as part of Mini’s new look and ethos and the brand’s next logical evolution.

In its third generation of models under BMW ownership, Mini has pledged to focus on making five distinct model lines.

These will be more rounded and mature models, moving the brand away from its more cartoon-like recent past.

This approach started with the new three-door and five-door hatchbacks as one model line and continued with the Mini Clubman and Convertible as the second and third. These models have brought in a more grown-up identity for Mini as a whole. 

The fourth new model, a larger and more spacious second generation of the Countryman, will be seen later this year.

Mystery has previously surrounded the fifth model line since BMW’s board member with responsibility for Mini, Peter Schwarzenbauer, first spoke of the five ‘superheroes’ plan in 2014.

But Autocar now understands it will be a saloon, targeted mainly at the North American and Chinese markets but available globally.

Speaking to Autocar at the recent New York motor show, vice-president of Mini product management Ralph Mahler didn’t confirm plans for a saloon directly but did reveal that Mini had undertaken all sorts of analysis on different market trends and segments.

He said: “For example, in Asia and the US, the sedan [saloon] segment is very big. This is very interesting to us, of course.”

He said heritage was important for Mini and noted the firm had a history of making saloons with Riley Elf and Wolseley Hornet models, although he admitted most modern Mini buyers would not know this.

“The sedan concept is in our history,” he said. “So we have roots there. We have to look at it in a factual way. Customers may know of the strong heritage of the sedan concept, but it was never [sold in] big volumes. Most customers would hardly know that, so would they link to heritage?”

Mahler said history was very important to Mini as a whole. “Heritage is our core,” he said. “It will play a huge role and it’s a question our customers will always ask.”

In reference to saloon models being more popular in eastern Europe, China and North America than in western Europe, Mahler said it was “always more appealing if you can sell a model worldwide”.


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But he added: “You can have 150,000 global sales or 200,000 in a region, so that’s an easy one to answer.”

This implies the saloon would be targeted at those named markets, but the desire to grow the brand globally should also mean the saloon will be offered in all markets, including the UK.

It also hints at the sales growth potential for Mini by entering completely new segments rather than making niche and often compromised derivatives of the same model, as it has done previously.

It sold a record 338,466 units worldwide in 2015 — an impressive number given that the more mainstream Clubman only went on sale in October.

With a similarly more mainstream Countryman arriving soon which should boost its appeal and a new saloon in the pipeline, Mini’s annual sales could eventually surpass 500,000, which will make the brand far more viable. As for the saloon’s name, the Riley connection to Mini is an intriguing one.

BMW still owns the trademarks to Riley and Triumph after the break-up and sale of the MG Rover group in 2000.

Naming the new saloon ‘Riley’ would be a nod to the history of a Mini saloon but, if used, the Riley name would be a model rather than a brand in its own right.

The new Clubman is likely to provide the basis for the Mini saloon, with the pair sharing a 2670mm wheelbase and bodywork from the B-pillars forward.

A unique rear-end design would accommodate the three-box saloon look. Expect a length of around 4300mm, which would still make it one of the smallest saloons on sale, because Mini’s desire is always to make the smallest car in a segment.

Successful Relaunch

Mahler said the Mini brand’s relaunch had been successful and customers had responded well.

“We’ve repositioned the cars as bigger and more mature and not as playful as they used to be,” he said.

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“As customers are growing up, the brand is growing as well. The brand develops, like everything else is developing.

“There has been a very positive reaction to it. When you first launch a car, you have people say Mini is not the same as it used to be — the early rejectors — but after 12 to 15 months, we don’t hear from them again.”

Mahler said the premium push would continue, most likely with the new Countryman and then the saloon. Interiors, in particular, are likely to get ever more premium.

“We will evolve,” he said. “We’re heading that way, the right way, and will continue that. It’s not exaggerated. It’s the right balance and that’s how I want the brand.”

In reference to the next Countryman, he said: “What you see with the Clubman [its push upmarket], we wouldn’t expect anything other than for this to continue [with the Countryman].”

The Countryman, as with all of the new Mini range, will be built on parent firm BMW’s UKL1 platform.

Sources have called it a “more authentic SUV”, with four-wheel drive offered along with a roomier cabin as part of an overall increase in the car’s size.

Mini would offer plug-in hybrid powertrains in the future, Mahler confirmed, hinting that the Countryman and Clubman were likely to usher in this technology.

Mahler also added that Mini would keep its extensive range of customisation options but these would in time be more premium, with higher-quality materials on offer, for example.

As part of the concentration on five core models, the Coupé, Roadster and Paceman will not be replaced.

Mahler said: “Since we’re a small car brand, selling 338,000 units last year, we have to remain focused and prioritise customers wanting different characters and concepts. We try to get it all very separate. The Paceman and Countryman are really close together and, in the future, we would rather split them apart.”

Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

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5wheels 19 May 2016

Surely Joe Public has had enough

I for one have never been in favour of this spawning of the so called "mini" which is big as a Skoda Yeti or Polo. Now they dream up a saloon - only if they call it a Riley will it be possibly accepted by me at least. I have said many times before enough is enough
Pierre 17 April 2016

Yes please...

Not for me, but I like all these odd cars. The road is too boring.

So I'd like to see a Wolsely Hornet with a badge that lights up, a VDP model with wooden picnic tables, and a tie-up with Chrysler or whoever owns the Hillman name for a nice little Husky van or even an Imp with an engine that falls out of the back occasionally.

5wheels 16 April 2016


They never have been since BMW got involved. The first incarnation was really a fashion thing (copied by others like Fiat and VW) but sales were sufficient to promote another model or two or thre or four or five or six. Bloody madness for something the size of a small truck. The idea of bringing back Riley as a saloon would be very acceptable though.