Future Models - Mini

Mini  At a stretch: Graphic artist Norm Robinson's impression of a Mini five-door.

At a stretch: Graphic artist Norm Robinson's impression of a Mini five-door.

BMW confirms interest in a five-door version of the Mini


A MINI people-mover? BMW blanches at the terminology but a five-door version of the small car is on the drawing boards in Munich.

Although not yet confirmed for production, BMW is serious enough to be publicly confirming its interest in the project, which would form the cornerstone of a second product line for the reborn brand.

While most speculation about future Mini product has centred around a convertible - and it is as close as two years away according to UK reports - the significance of a bigger car cannot be understated in the brand's expansion.

Essentially, BMW wants to avoid the "New Beetle" scenario with the Mini, where the retro-VW tapped a large initial audience but sales declined rapidly.

Moving from a single to multiple model lines would help ensure the Mini avoids the same problem. At least BMW hopes it will.

At the world launch of the Mini Cooper S in Portugal last week, BMW board of management member Dr Michael Ganal raised the prospect of both a convertible and larger Mini.

"We're already carefully considering further versions of Mini," he said. "We could think of an open car or a version with more space, more capacity.

"One point, we must make them typical Minis. We will only look at areas and segments that Mini would fit into perfectly."

While he resisted the description of the new car as a people-mover ("People-mover is definitely a contradiction. We do not move people, people have to be delighted"), Dr Ganal confirmed a hatchback cum cross-over vehicle was in the frame.

"That's what we are thinking about," Dr Ganal said. "A smart, space-oriented car is a perfect fit for Mini because that is the history of Mini.

"You will always see and always perceive the Mini character, but this car will be more open when it comes to useability."

Mini characteristics essential to its future include the face, the wheels at each corner stance, the flat, broad roofline and its agile handling. But Dr Ganal dismissed the prospect of four-wheel drive for a Mini cross-over: "For the time being this is not an issue."

BMW research and design chief Burkhard Goschel explained his concept of the future to UK Car magazine, describing the larger Mini as a "space wagon", which suggests a high roof, wheels at each corner and a high degree of interior flexibility.

Dr Goschel also told Car he expected the current Mini to evolve in styling terms like the Porsche 911: "Eventually every part might be changed, but the concept will be the same."

Timing for the second car line is unclear and certainly BMW executives are not saying. It could be as far out as 2007, when the all-new second generation Mini is due.

* The arrival of the Mini and the launch of the new BMW 1 Series range in 2004 could spell the end of the line for the 3 Series Compact range when the current car's life ends in 2007.

"That's an open question," admitted Dr Ganal. "The Compact will be five years old when the 1 Series arrives, so there is definitely no solution at the moment."

Another BMW executive described the dropping of the Compact as a "logical move".

Despite the fact the 1 is expected to appear as a three-door hatchback first up, Dr Ganal dismissed it as a possible competitor for the Mini because of its rear-drive layout and larger size.






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