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Revealed: Mini’s future plans
As the new generation of Minis gets established, we’ll see fewer models. But they’ll be more different from one another than they are now, Mini boss Jochen Goller has revealed to TG.
Count ‘em on your fingers. At the moment Mini offers eight bodies: hatch, five-door hatch, Clubman, Convertible, two-seat Coupe, Roadster, Countryman and Paceman. It seems like every time you turn your back they’ve added a micro-niche. But that’ll change, according to Goller.
“The industry is going to even smaller niches. But not Mini. We won’t go that way.” He says five main versions will be enough.
“We have the three-door and five-door. I count them as one. There will be an open concept. Then something like an SAV [Sports Activity Vehicle]. Plus something quirky like a Clubman. And something else.”
OK, let’s decode.
Clubman first. At the moment the Clubman and the five-door hatch offer the same amount of room as one another. That’s a legacy of the Clubman being on the old platform and having weird door arrangements.
A very different new Clubman is due at the end of the year. It’s altogether bigger, because it’s wider by a substantial 17cm and longer by 26cm, and better-packaged. Think of it as a VW Golf estate rival. We saw a concept car at the Geneva show a year ago.
It’s got four regular side doors, but keeps the barn-door rear. We know it’s going on sale with little alteration, because Mini people have told us, and besides you can ‘register your interest’ on the official Mini website.
Goller explains why it’s less oddball than the current Clubman. “The market wants SUVs or conventional wagons. Look at the Geneva concept. It has a long roof [like a wagon]. It still has the split rear doors, so it’s still unconventional.” But not so quirky? “No. the quirkiness of the current Clubman gives people a reason to reject it.”
Anders Warming, Mini’s design chief, has told me on a couple of occasions that the new Minis will look more different one from another. The new Clubman’s wider grille incorporates the foglights, and the tail end uses horizontal-aspect lights. The dash has a simpler, more integrated look than the hatch’s, too.
The new Clubman will use the longer wider version of BMW’s UKL platform. It’s known as UKL2, and is also used in the BMW Active Tourer and this year’s all-new X1. The regular Mini hatch uses the smaller version, known as UKL1.
Moving on. The open car of which Goller speaks will also be a UKL1 car. In fact it’s basically a decapitated version of the three-door hatch, just as happened with the R50 and R56 generations of Mini. We’ve already seen clear spy photos. It’ll launch in early 2017.
And the SAV? This is BMW-Group speak for a crossover. In other words, the Countryman. It will be replaced, because it’s selling well, and again will get the UKL2 platform, with front- or all-wheel-drive.
Some Minis are due for the chop. The current Coupe, Roadster and Paceman haven’t brought home much bacon and won’t be replaced like-for-like. The fifth model to replace them still hasn’t been fully defined. But I’ve been told by people who know that it’s likely to have some crossover-ness to it. The Paceman didn’t hit the target, but with the newfound freedom the designers have been given, a different-looking niche crossover might just work.
Even within model lines, the breadth will increase. Goller points to the new JCW. It has more power than ever at 231bhp, and more styling differentiation from a standard Cooper S hatch.
Sadly, although Mini motor show stands are still graced by the lovely Superleggera roadster concept, it’s highly unlikely to get built.
“We haven’t given up on it,” says Goller. “But it has no production confirmation. It would need a huge R&D effort for just 1000 cars.” I suggest they let someone else do it as a coachbuilt project, but he stymies that idea. “If it carries a Mini logo we would be seen as the manufacturer, and we are measured by a different standard to a coachbuilder.”
Don’t hold your breath for an electric or plug-in hybrid Mini either. OK, you probably weren’t. “We have access to those technologies from the Group. But when’s the right time? It’s taking longer than people expected. Anyway we now do 89g/km from a diesel. Customers aren’t prepared to pay €2000-3000 (£1500-2250) on a small hatch for that sort of technology.”
Instead Mini will go more for connected driving and social apps, because Mini has younger buyers than BMW, and they understand it and want it.