This is the Mini Beachcomber, which gives the best clues yet to the appearance, size, interior layout and mechanical make-up of its long-awaited junior SUV.
The concept is a preview of the new Countryman, on sale in the UK next September. It shares key elements of the four-door body and four-seat cabin, together with its turbocharged 1.6-litre engine and four-wheel drive mechanicals.
Inspired by the original Mini Moke from 1964, the Beachcomber is also being used to explore design ideas that could find their way onto future derivatives of the Countryman, which is due to get its first public outing at the Geneva motor show in early March.
“It’s an ideas car that, depending on the sort of feedback we receive, may have a bearing on a future Mini production car,” said the firm’s design boss, Gert Hildebrand. “It’s based on our upcoming SUV but we’ve injected added fun and off-road ability into it that we think could appeal to a certain type of Mini customer.”
The Beachcomber’s pillarless body and lack of doors and roof are taken from the Moke. The aim of this is to place the driver and passengers closer to the action. The new Mini also features a series of fabric and composite panels that cover the door apertures and roof, to provide occupants with protection from the elements.
But the open-body design would be difficult to make, given today’s safety regs. And while Mini is renowned for producing rigidly structured cars, it would require major modifications to the floorpan. But Mini officials have not ruled out the possibility of offering an optional full-length fabric roof like the Beachcomber’s on the Countryman.