The first 'New' Mini was launched just five years ago, replacing the original Mini that had changed only in detail since its 1959 debut. Designed by Frank Stephenson, now head of design at Fiat, the current design has been a sales success and most significantly has been very influential in demonstrating how small cars need not be explicitly functionalist, smaller versions of larger car types or feel cheap.
The new 'New' Mini, designed under the direction of Gert Hildebrand at Mini, is announced today with exterior design by Marcus Syring, interior design by Marc Girard and colour and trim design by Annette Baumeister.
The 2001 Mini was technically unusual in having a Chrysler-designed engine despite its wholly BMW parentage. The new car has a completely new BMW engine with variable valve timing for efficiency: 1.6 litre 120bhp in the Cooper, 175bhp turbocharged in the Cooper S, and a 1.4 litre version to follow for the One, and a diesel to follow later also. There are 6 speed manual transmissions for both Cooper and Cooper S and both variants have optional 6 speed automatic with paddle shift.
ABS, EBD (Electronic Brake Force Distribution) CBC (Cornering Brake Control) ASC+T (Automatic Stability Control + Traction), EBA (Emergency Brake Assist), DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) and also Hill Assist preventing the car rolling back on a hill start are the standard safety features. Run-flat tyres and electric power steering are also new, although whilst saving the weight and space required for a spare tyre and energy use of hydraulic power steering, they threaten handling sensitivity and ride comfort.
Four core color and trim packages are available; black, grey, beige and red with more detail options under the 'Color Line' range which has five colors, and four trim materials (including oak!) on top of those standard fit to the Cooper and Cooper S. Several additional extras are also available such as the piped leather and 16 chrome plated rims for the circular cockpit elements (air vents, cup holder etc).
The new design appears very similar to that of its immediate predecessor, but whilst it shares some of its predecessor's under-structure, every part that can be seen on the car is new as Hildebrand said to CDN today: "Nothing is carry over; the car is completely new".
The core differences is a 74mm increasing in length (all other dimensions are within 7mm of the previous design) of which 38mm is in the front overhang which is evident in lamps that now can be seen from the side view more as they sit on a nose section with more plan shape to disguise the increased overhang necessary for improved pedestrian impact performance. At the front the hexagonal grille graphic incorporates the lower grill aperture, and the headlamps incorporate the indicators for a cleaner solution. The side aspect is near identical to its predecessor with slightly larger wheel arch treatment, marginally more dive and shoulder in the body side, larger mirrors and different detail resolution around the small front wing. At the rear the only significant change is the lower valance which has been cleaned up and made more of a feature (particularly in the Cooper S version).
Inside the changes are greater the main differences being an even larger centre speedometer (this time incorporating ICE and optional navigation information displays), and slimmer IP section.
There have been very few, if any, new cars which appear to differ so little from their predecessor as the new Mini design the Porsche 996 to 997 (or Boxster equivalent) being the perhaps the only example of this in such extremis. But this approach is clearly necessary for this particular brand and product and it is likely that the new 'New' Mini will continue the success of its predecessor, whilst expected body style variations including an estate version will broaden the appeal and show more innovation.