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First look: Mini maxes out with Crossover Concept

Big Mini: New five-door compact SUV concept should become reality in 2010.

BMW’s Mini family grows to four via the four-metre-plus Crossover Concept

11 Sep 2008

FOUR comes to the fore with the latest Mini concept. Dubbed the Crossover Concept for its Paris motor show debut next month, this is BMW’s fourth instalment of its small-car icon after the hatch, Clubman and soon-to-be-replaced Cabriolet.

At more than four metres long, this four-seater crossover is the longest to ever to wear the Mini moniker, while width, height and wheelbase are rated at a similarly unprecedented 1830, 1598 and 2606mm respectively. It is also the first (not counting the oddball twin-engined Twini Mini of the 1960s) to feature four-wheel drive.

However, Austria, rather than Oxford in England where all other Mini variants spring from, is the likely source for the production version due in 2010.

BMW hopes to cash in on the downsizing trend by collecting compact SUV buyers who might otherwise settle for the Volkswagen Tiguan, Land Rover Freelander or the upcoming Audi Q3. BMW itself is expected to produce an X1-badged crossover version of its compact 1 Series.

39 center imageMeanwhile, they have the Crossover Concept to contemplate, with its overtly broad shouldered waistline, wagon-oid silhouette, Fiat Panda-like daylight opening (DLO) in the C-pillar region and completely bespoke body panels.

Most striking is the Crossover’s unique pillarless door arrangement, featuring a sliding rear door a la Peugeot’s 1007 city car and an absent B-pillar on the driver’s side, plus a conventional forward-opening one as its opposite number. Unlike the Clubman’s twin barn-door design, a single side-hinged rear door with a retractable rear window will have fans of the 1970s Ford XA-XC Falcon wagon reminiscing.

A low cargo floor aids loading, while a removable storage box on the tailgate and the option of roof-mounted rails extend the Crossover’s utility potential. The concept also has a full-length retractable roof cover for open-air motoring, but whether any of these make it onto the production car remains to be seen.

Inside, the lounge-style rear seats are identical to the front ones, separated by a rail-mounted moveable console that may or may not make it to production.

The dashboard features a fanciful centrally-located instrument ‘Globe’ in 3D, with all communication, entertainment and navigation controls housed within it.

The globe employs industry-first laser projecting imaging to create that multi-dimensional effect. This innovation allows the driver to see one thing and the passenger to observe something else, such as the GPS functionality, via the touch-sensitive surface/screen, a trackball on the steering wheel, buttons and slide controls in the lower section of the ‘globe’ or a keyboard on the front passenger’s side, which extends at the touch of a button from the dashboard.

An image of the Earth’s land mass is also incorporated within it, presumably for BMW to plot the Mini’s global conquests. Lip service is paid to the BMC-era original Mini by having the speedometer track along the outer circumference.

The Crossover Concept’s retro-style circular and oval themes also extend to virtually all other areas of the cabin, such as the metallic pedals, toggle switch housing and vent outlets.

BMW is keeping quiet on engines, but the existing Peugeot/Citroen-shared naturally-aspirated and turbocharged 1.6-litre direct-injection four-cylinder petrol powerplants are likely, along with a development of the turbo-diesel unit that is also shared with PSA and Ford.

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