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Mini happy returns

Back to the future: The new Mini draws strong styling cues from the original cult car.

The revered Mini is set for a return to Australia after an absence of almost 30 years

Mini logo11 Sep 2000

THESE are the first pictures of the production version of the new Mini, due here in early 2002.

The Mini nameplate will make its Australian comeback after an absence of almost 30 years - the previous model was discontinued here in April, 1973.

Three variants of the new model are offered in the UK - Mini, Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper S - but it is not yet confirmed whether all three will be offered here.

BMW spokesman Mr John Kananghinis says a question mark still hangs over the base model as it will be competing in a more price-sensitive section of the market.

The entry level car uses a 1.4-litre engine while the Cooper is powered by a new 1.6-litre, 16-valve unit that generates 86kW.

The range-topping Cooper S gains a 116kW supercharged version of the 1.6 engine, which should make it a worthy successor to its ancestor.

It is believed both engines will be available with a revised version of the Steptronic constantly variable transmission fitted to Rover's MGF.

Mr Kananghinis remains tight-lipped about pricing but it is possible the base model - if offered here - could cost about $25,000.

The Cooper may cost around $34,000 while the Cooper S could be priced about $40,000.

The Minis will be available through selected BMW showrooms.

First shown as a concept at the Frankfurt motor show three years ago, the new Mini was developed jointly by BMW and Rover.

Rights to the Mini project were retained by BMW when it offloaded Rover to the Phoenix Consortium earlier this year.

Although substantially larger than its ancestor, the new Mini draws strong styling cues from the original cult car.

The bonnet, lights and grille reflect a classic Mini face while the wide, steeply raked rear with flared wheel arches also harks back to the original.

It features a large wrap-around glasshouse while a full-length glass sunroof is expected to be available as an option.

Inside, the original Mini's style is also mimicked - albeit in plastic - with a large central speedometer and additional gauges in front of the driver.

"The new car might take styling cues from the original but that's where the similarity ends," says BMW project boss Mr Wolfgang Vollath.

"What buyers will get is premium engineering, premium build quality, premium safety and a premium driving experience."BMW intends to recreate a new Mini craze with a range of cross-brand marketing initiatives linked to designer fashion, music and hi-tech labels.

BMW Australia is bracing itself for a raft of model introductions, starting with the 4.4-litre X5 in November.

It will be followed in December by the updated 5 Series line-up, featuring 525i and 530i models in place of the existing 523i and 528i.

A key model introduction will be the new 3 Series compact range, due here around February. It is not yet clear which engines will be offered but a 1.9-litre unit is a definite starter.

Soon after, the Z3 roadster line-up will be bolstered by the addition of a 2.2-litre, six-cylinder variant.

The V8-powered X5 will also be joined by a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder variant next year but Mr Kananghinis would not reveal exactly when.

An all-new 7 Series, due late in the year, will top off BMW's model introductions for 2001.

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