The next-generation line-up could include a smaller three-door hatch, and something much, much bigger.
Autocar recently interviewed Mini's design boss, Oliver Heilmer. He revealed some details of upcoming Mini models and confirmed that he had nearly signed off on the next generation of models.
As you'd expect, Mini will continue to build its most iconic model, the three-door Cooper. Although heavily revised to accommodate the EV version, the all-new Cooper hatch will ride on the same architecture as the current model. The gas model will still be built in Oxford, while the EV will be built in China as part of Mini's partnership with Great Wall Motors, and will be built on a new EV platform.
The next Countryman probably won't stray too far from the current recipe since it has been a massive success for Mini, but it too will offer both gas and EV models. Currently, it's only available as a plug-in hybrid.
Minis' current EV offering is not that great, primarily because it uses outdated battery technology from the ageing BMW i3. The next generation of Mini EVs will likely benefit from BMW’s new EV technology. BMW’s focus is currently on large models, but we know that an electric X1 is in the pipeline. Since the X1 and Countryman already have so much in common, Mini will likely use the X1’s electric bits.
In the interview, Heilmer stated that he and Mini boss, Bernd Körber, discuss broadening the Mini range every two weeks. “We talk of new models, different models, and first ask about whether it’s a brand fit and not just doing the car for the sake of it. Interestingly, we’re not exploding to eight to 10 [models]. It’s always around four or five. It’s always important to question models and ask if they will have a market in the future. We’re in that process now, not for the next four to five years but the years after that,” said Körber.
As for the styling of the core model, it's good news. Heilmer stated that the three-door hatch is an icon, and therefore its design is set.
Other models might be more controversial. “Just look at the Urbanaut,” said Heilmer. The Urbanaut is essentially a bloated minivan, which is as far away from the original Alec Issigonis car as you can get.
Heilmer does make a good point, however. It's impossible to be revolutionary when you have to stick closely to the original design. We understand his point. If Mini only builds the three-door hatch, it will go under in a year. Original Mini lovers might not like it, but Mini's continued existence depends on new models.
While the Urbanaut has not been confirmed, there are rumors that Mini is working on an electric MPV. A stylish urban MPV could make millions for Mini, so it's a no-brainer.
Our resident Mini expert and actual classic Mini owner isn’t too thrilled. After looking at the Urbanaut concept, he declared it should be napalmed to death and wiped from the history books. We’re guessing that’s a no.
There is some good news for traditional Mini fanboys. Due to an EV’s skateboard design, Mini could shorten the three-door hatch while retaining the same amount of interior space.
In 2019, Körber stated that he’d love to see the core model shrink again. The EV platform is a prime opportunity to do just that.
In short, Mini is moving away from its roots, but the next generation core model will be closer in concept to the original Issigonis design. Could we finally see the production Rocketman?