Too Big? Mini Boss Thinks So, Aims to Pare Down Brand's Smallest Model
Compared to the original BMC Mini from back in the Sixties, the modern Mini launched at the dawn of the 21st century was a portly affair, expanded in all directions to accommodate modern people with modern lives. And, compared to that first “new” Mini, the most recent generation of the three-door hatch looks positively ginormous. Somewhere along the way, Mini became not all that small.
Mini wants to correct the bloat, but only to a degree.
Speaking to Autocar, Mini head Bernd Körber said design work had begun on the fourth-generation Mini hatch, adding he’d “love to see the core Mini shrink again.” That vehicle should reach production for 2022 or 2023.
At the other end of the Mini range, the brand would like to see something still larger to tempt those not enamored by Mini’s big boy, the Countryman crossover. Reported recently by Autocar, the Mini brand intends to offer a compact crossover built atop whatever replaces the BMW i3. That means a choice of gasoline, plug-in hybrid, or electric powerplant. It also means a further stretching of what it means to be a Mini.
“The Countryman is a very small SUV,” Körber said. “In the U.S. 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.”
While he admits it “would be hard to imagine” a Mini-branded vehicle the size of a BMW X3 or X5, that’s the way the market’s headed. The model could revive the Traveller name of yore.
But back to the entry-level hatch. The general consensus at Mini is that the current-gen hatch boasts a front overhang that’s unbecoming of the model’s heritage, meaning the model’s successor will take pains to slim down, at least in the front end.
“Hopefully in the next generation, we can make it even more compact, back to where Mini comes from,” Körber said.
Mini’s stable of compact offerings makes for an uneasy fit in the SUV-heavy domestic market, with the “large” Countryman unsurprisingly serving as its sales leader. Through September, however, no Mini model shows a volume increase in the U.S.; the brand as a whole is down 18.8 percent since the start of the year.
[Image: BMW Group]
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