For the icon that it is, it is only befitting that the latest generation of the MINI be launched on the 107th birth anniversary of its founder, Alec Issigonis on November 18. Incidentally, this third generation version after the ownership of the brand came into BMW’s hands, (2001 and 2007 being the first and second) rolls out in the centenary year of the MINI manufacturing plant at Oxford, United Kingdom.

Designed to keep the both the old-time fans and the tech-savvy younger generation happy, the new MINI is a blend of the traditional and the modern. Overall, the car remains true to the original MINI, with tweaks to rope in the latest technology, be it the drive assistance and infotainment systems, engine efficiency or safety features. Taking the wraps off the new version, Anders Warming, Head of MINI Design, rightly called the car “a balance between heritage and innovation” in his presentation at the Global Media Launch of the car at the Oxford plant last week.

Exteriors

Initially available in Cooper and Cooper S variants, the design of the exterior follows the contours that have defined the brand, examples being the hexagonal radiator grille and the circular/elliptical headlights. Select design features such as the side indicator scuttles are highlighted with more defined crease lines in the current generation. The Cooper S, the sporty version, now bears an ‘S’ logo in its honeycomb-like radiator grille. While the car still retains its premium compact segment positioning, the new MINI is taller, longer, and wider than its predecessors. The vehicle length of the Cooper is now increased by 98 mm, width by 44 mm and height by 7 mm. The car also sports longer wheelbase (+ 28 mm) and larger track width (front +42 mm, rear +34 mm) as compared to the previous model, to provide a more comfortable ride.

The new MINI is the first car in its segment to offer the option of LED headlamps, with the headlamps also undergoing a design revision. The LED units are surrounded by a LED daylight driving ring.

The car is available in five exterior paint finishes with an option to finish the roof in a contrasting colour. Roof rails are also available for the new MINI for the first time.

Interiors

Improved dimensions imply increased interior space for the new MINI. Front seats now come with a larger adjustment range and rear seats, with longer seat surface, more foot space and foldable backrests. The volume of the luggage compartment has been increased by 51 litres to 211 litres now. The highlight of the interior design change is the moving of the instrument cluster to the steering column. Road speed, engine speed and fuel level are displayed on vertically arranged circular instruments to give a ‘go-kart’ feel.

The display on the central console which shows operating feedback for vehicle functions, infotainment, maps and route directions is now supported by LED units around the outer edge of the circular instrument, a lighting design unique to MINI. The lights can respond to the situation on the road and to specific operating steps. For example, a change in the desired interior temperature is confirmed by LED units which light up in blue or red. These provide more visual and acoustic feedback to the driver, than the previous generation.

Besides, key insertion is no longer necessary. As soon as the key is inside the car, the engine can be started by pressing the toggle-type start/stop button located in the middle of the centre console.

New technology

The new MINI comes with innovative driver assistance systems such as head-up display, previously found in higher segment vehicles. Collision and pedestrian warning, road sign detection, parking assistant and rear view camera are some of the other new features. This apart, three driving modes – the standard mid, sport and green – have been introduced. The choice is between set-ups which are comfortable and well-balanced or sporty or geared towards fuel efficiency.

Improved efficiency

The engines of the new Cooper and Cooper S will be powered by twinpower turbo technology. The two MINIs will feature Euro VI compliant, 3-cylinder (a first for MINI) and 4-cylinder petrol engines, respectively. A diesel engine option is also available on the Cooper. These engines improve fuel efficiency by 27 per cent and performance by 10 per cent when compared to the predecessor models, says Peter Schwarzenbauer, Member of Board of Management, MINI, BMW Motorrad and Rolls-Royce. The MINI is also fitted with new 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic transmissions, designed to offer enhanced shift comfort. A point to consider is that the auto tranny versions are quicker off the block than the manual transmission variants.

Betting big

With one in every six cars produced by BMW being a MINI, the company is indeed betting big on the new MINI. At the launch, Harald Kruger, Member of Board responsible for Production, said that between 2012 and 2015, BMW will invest £750 million at its three British plants, with £500 million of that being pumped into the Oxford plant. A new body assembly arena has been built here for this generation of the MINI.

The car is expected to be rolled out in phased manner worldwide beginning Spring 2014. Details regarding the price and availability in India are still awaited. The MINIs will probably be on display at the forthcoming Auto Expo in Delhi.

vardhini.c@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 26, 2013)
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