Mini unveils its revamped hatchback as BMW invests £750m in UK

The familiar style remains, but one of the biggest changes is to a front-wheel-drive

Tue, Nov 19, 2013, 21:31

Some 12 years after its hugely successful relaunch, Mini has unveiled the latest edition of its much-loved hatchback.

Billed as “the new original”, the new Mini is distinctly familiar, yet has been re-engineered from the ground up, according to the British brand’s owners at BMW. It will also herald the start of a revamp of the Mini range, which now stretches to six variants along with the regular hatch these days.

This is actually the third iteration of the Mini hatch under the German’s ownership, the last being launched in 2006. And it has become much more than a niche fashion accessory for BMW; it now represents one-in-six new car sales within the group. As a result the launch of this new car at the firm’s Oxford plant also represented a £750 million (€893m) investment in its UK operations over the next two years.

Given the hatch’s famous look, the styling changes are, of course, evolutionary, with the front grille actually harking back towards the 2001 version rather than moving further forward. The car is longer than before, allowing for more rear legroom, while LED lighting dominates the front and rear fascias.


Infotainment system
The main interior change is to the large centre dial that has long dominated the brand’s models. The speedometer, rev counter and fuel gauge have all moved onto the steering column while the large “dinner plate” dial now encompasses the infotainment system for the car. This is controlled by a Mini version of the iDrive, positioned next to the gear stick. In terms of operation, the biggest change is the ability to link the system with Android phones, where previously the full functionality of the system was reserved to Apple devices.

Under the bonnet, the new Mini Cooper range will be powered by three new engines: a 1.5-litre three-cylinder 134bhp petrol in the Cooper Hatch; a 189bhp four-cylinder in the Cooper S; and a 114bhp diesel three-cylinder in the Cooper D. Emission levels of 105g.km for the Cooper and 92g/km for the Cooper D means that motor tax rates are competitive with non-premium rivals. The entry-level Mini One is likely next year.

But it’s the car’s platform that is perhaps the biggest news: a front-wheel-drive platform that will underpin future BMW models as well. It’s the physical manifestation of a much-heralded change at the German brand, which has seemed to be a motoring fundamentalist when it came to rear-wheel-drive. Years after rivals opted for front-wheel-drive on their smaller cars, BMW is only now starting to accept that it makes sense. The reaction to this new Mini platform will be closely watched by senior BMW executives.


Starting at €22,530
Prices will start at €22,530 for the Cooper; €23,839 for the Cooper D; and €28,030 1for the Cooper S, when it arrives in Ireland in March next year.

While the launch featured welcome speeches from the usual array of high-flying German executives and the British secretary of state for transport Patrick McLaughlin, the star of the show – aside from the car – was Spike, a British bulldog that is to feature heavily in the new car’s ad campaign. A professional in the media world, having starred in previous ad campaigns for the likes of Burberry, Spike took the flashing cameras, cars and awkward political speeches in his stride.

Ironically, it was the British minister who fluffed his part, referring to BMW’s new “ID3” electric car rather than the i3 and several times referring to the outgoing model as the new car. When it comes to car launches, sometimes it’s better to work with animals than politicians.

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