Currently reading: Two all-new Mini SUVs to spearhead growth plans
Electric BMW X1-sized SUV and larger, piston-engined model to lead sales push
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6 mins read
15 June 2020

Mini is set to expand its line-up to include two new SUV models in the biggest shake-up to its operations since coming under BMW ownership in 2001.

The firm is developing both an electric crossover as part of a Chinese joint venture and a combustion-engined SUV that will be BMW’s latest modular platform. The two models are intended to extend Mini’s reach by taking the brand into untapped market segments and exposing it to new customers, according to officials with knowledge of the plans.

Although it was originally touted to be a three-door hatchback in the mould of the Rocketman concept, Autocar has been told that the first Chinese-produced Mini will be a five-door crossover-style SUV of similar dimensions to the BMW X1. The joint venture with Chinese car maker Great Wall Motors will also produce a small hatchback at a later date.

Munich-based insiders confirm that the new electric crossover will use a new co-developed platform rather than an existing structure. The model is also likely to receive a new generation of cobalt-free battery cells from SVolt – a former division of Great Wall Motors that was spun off and established as an independent company in 2018.

Although it is unconfirmed, sources suggest the Chinese electric model, which in Mini guise may take the Paceman name, could be used as the basis for a replacement for the BMW i3.

Conceived for both domestic Chinese sales and export to existing markets, including the UK, the new electric Mini is set to be produced in a factory in Zhangjiagang, 85 miles from Shanghai. The new facility is currently under construction and scheduled to go into operation in 2022 with around 3000 employees and an initial capacity of 160,000 cars per year, including both Mini and Great Wall Motor models.

Larger ‘Traveller’ SUV to help build the Mini brand in the US

After the EV crossover, Mini will introduce an even larger SUV model that may resurrect the Traveller name. This model is scheduled to appear in 2024 and is expected to boost sales.

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Mini experienced its second consecutive year of declining sales in 2019. Although its worldwide sales of 347,474 last year were just 24,720 short of the record 372,194 sales in 2017, parent company BMW sees far greater potential for the brand, especially in the Asian and North American markets for which the two new SUV models have primarily been conceived.

The new models are set to retain Mini’s traditional focus on compactness and insiders suggest they will be positioned as the smallest offerings in their respective segments. However, the conventional combustion-engined model, which has been compared by Mini boss Bernd Körber to the BMW X3, is set to become Mini’s largest model yet. Although it is currently shrouded in secrecy, it will be positioned above the existing Countryman, in both size and price.

The modern-day Traveller is still at an early stage of development. However, Körber has told Autocar that although “it would be hard to imagine a Mini the size of a BMW X3 or X5”, there is a need in the next-generation Mini range “to address the growth in SUVs and look at if we need a compact SUV”.

The new model would be likely to use BMW’s CLAR architecture, which gives it the potential to be produced in the US, where the X3, X5, X6 and X7 are all manufactured. This would also make it the first Mini to use a longitudinally mounted engine.

The decision to add a larger Mini to the line-up has been driven by buyers’ preferences in some of its biggest markets. Körber said: “The Countryman is a small SUV. In the US and China, there are certain needs. We will look at a compact SUV in the next generation. There are lots of benefits with a car like that for urban use. For me, it’s a good match.”

Although the Traveller is set to become Mini’s largest model to date, the Mini boss said it would still be one of the smallest offerings in its market segment: “We can stretch the interpretation of Mini always being the smallest but I can’t imagine being bigger in a segment. We need to fulfil a requirement on size.”

New Mini hatch to be smaller and more advanced

Alongside plans for the two new SUV models, Mini is continuing to push ahead with the development of the fourth-generation hatchback. Körber has told Autocar the new hatch will be slightly more compact but no less roomy than today’s model and offer a totally new interior experience.

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The signature Mini model is due to reach UK showrooms towards the end of 2022. It will offer a widened range of powertrains, including newly developed 48V mild-hybrid petrol units with a particulate filter and functions such as automatic engine shutdown, coasting and brake energy recuperation for improved efficiency in One, Cooper and Cooper S models.

At the same time, Mini plans to follow up the recently introduced electric hatchback with a new, second-generation model that features a more efficient electric motor and contemporary battery technology. This is claimed to provide it with an improved electric range in combination with 150kW fast-charging capability.

The future of high-performance John Cooper Works and GP models is also secure, said Körber.

Stylistically, the new hatch is set to follow the evolutionary path of recent models, with reinterpretations of traditional elements such as the hexagonal grille, round headlights and ‘floating’ roof. However, a lengthening of the wheelbase is set to provide it with a shorter front overhang and a slightly more sloping bonnet, according to those privy to its design.

The alterations to the front end are claimed to shorten the crucial front-axle-to-bulkhead measurement, allowing the A-pillars to shift further forward for what is described as “more traditional, Mini-like proportions”. The glasshouse is said to be similar in design to that of the company’s Centenary concept from 2016.

Inside, the new hatchback will forgo the retro theme that has characterised all of Mini’s models since the marque’s resurrection under BMW ownership in 2001. In its place is what insiders describe as a more modern-looking cabin with digital interfaces and new features such as conversational speech control.

Oliver Heilmer, head of Mini design, said: “A central issue here is interaction and this is something we have to shape. One approach for Mini would be to push the technology required into the background. There is a big opportunity but also a major challenge.”

Despite the planned overhaul of the Mini hatchback’s interior, though, the round, centrally mounted instrument binnacle will be retained.

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Although there were initial doubts about the future of the cabriolet model due to its slim profitability, it is now confirmed alongside a successor model to the five-door hatchback – which has sold beyond the company’s expectations since its introduction in 2014 – in a mirroring of today’s line-up. As with the current models, production will take place at both Mini’s traditional Cowley plant in Oxford and at the VDL Nedcar operation in Born, Netherlands.

Later on, Mini plans to extend the reach of its range with replacements for the Clubman and Countryman, contrary to previous suggestions that the Clubman could morph into an SUV.

Both new models are set to use a second-generation version of BMW’s FAAR platform in combination with the choice of either 48V mild-hybrid petrol and diesel or plug-in petrol-electric hybrid drivetrains. The plug-ins are set to gain new battery cell technology for what one key Mini insider calls “a vastly improved electric range”.

READ MORE

New electric Mini models to be built in China 

Mini to revive Traveller name for BMW i3-based MPV 

How Mini's Cowley factory came into existence

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Comments
34

15 June 2020
When first launched I wasn't keen on the BMW Mini, but now I really like the original (R50-53)? And it's the new ones that look ridiculously bloated and oversized. In particular is the latest clubman which compared with the original BMW clubman, looks horrendous. More SUVs is probably what everyone except me wants as they hold no interest for me at all. I am however quite tempted by an early cooper hatch or convertible.

15 June 2020
si73 wrote:

When first launched I wasn't keen on the BMW Mini, but now I really like the original (R50-53)? And it's the new ones that look ridiculously bloated and oversized. In particular is the latest clubman which compared with the original BMW clubman, looks horrendous. More SUVs is probably what everyone except me wants as they hold no interest for me at all. I am however quite tempted by an early cooper hatch or convertible.

You'll probably be saying the same thing in 20 years time about the Mini SUV.

The above comment is typical of people who do not like change. People still finding fault with BMW which I find incredible. I can remember those BL days when Minis did not sell. They tried to upgrade them, tried to make them seem posh ( Mini Mayfair  etc ) and it failed. The company fell to bits. Then along came BMW, re-invented it and it's been a massive success. So who cares what the BMW naysayers think because under your management , the company would once again die.

Face facts, the SUV is the car of today. All Mini are doing is producing what the public want. The trend I'm seeing is that those who complain don't even own Minis so why the heck should anyone care about their complaints?

I hope BMW do build SUV Mini's, I hope the build them here in the UK and I hope they're a massive sales success.

15 June 2020
The SUV phase will die down eventually. God, I hope its soon.

15 June 2020
hackjo wrote:

The SUV phase will die down eventually. God, I hope its soon.

You can't wait to "drive" econobox, can you? No family so far, no health problems? Just wait.

15 June 2020
NoPasaran wrote:

hackjo wrote:

The SUV phase will die down eventually. God, I hope its soon.

You can't wait to "drive" econobox, can you?

But the SUV is the modern econobox. They're released one after another and so many of them are indistinguishable from the next.

15 June 2020

Except that no one I know with an SUV has either a large family or a bad hip, they just prefer to look down on everybody. The large families all seem to go around in giant Volvos, possibly an even worse crime against humanity.

15 June 2020

As a paid up tree hugger, I'm always bemused by SUV lovers who have one to keep their children safe while doing their bit to destroy their future. For those unaware, their combined effort is now only second to powerstations.

15 June 2020

What do you currently drive and why

15 June 2020
NoPasaran wrote:

hackjo wrote:

The SUV phase will die down eventually. God, I hope its soon.

You can't wait to "drive" econobox, can you? No family so far, no health problems? Just wait.

What ? You clearly know nothing about the car market - SUVs are for off roading and/or towing (or people who like their cars to look like off roaders), people with families need MPVs, NOT SUVs. This is basic stuff.

15 June 2020
NoPasaran wrote:

hackjo wrote:

The SUV phase will die down eventually. God, I hope its soon.

You can't wait to "drive" econobox, can you? No family so far, no health problems? Just wait.

Right... probably worth pointing out that the spirit of my post was around the loss of variety in car design due to the prevalance of the SUV body shape.

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