MINI’s Micro Car Plans Come into Focus

The usually rather unreliable Auto Express has the latest on BMW’s Project i and how it relates to MINI’s future products. According to the weekly UK mag MINI will be debuting an ultra efficient car that will feature several different propulsion systems including a full electric system. The engines will be placed in the center or rear of the car for maximum space efficiency. Much like the mid 90’s Mini Spiritual concepts seen above and below (created by Rover and designed by Oliver Le Grice before BMW went in the direction of the current MINI concept), the new micro MINI will feature the same spirit that led the original Mini to be such a ground breaker. Here’s an excerpt with a little more detail from the Auto Express Article:

With its engine in back, petrol models will offer four seats and easy to access four door cabin. Individual chairs for driver and passenger will ensure safety is first rate, while the car’s wheel at each corner stance promises to ensure the car feels secure and stable on the road.

Plenty of effort is being poured in to ensuring that visibility is as good as it can possibly be with a large glass area set to ensure that the car is as easy as possible to drive on congested city roads.

Also under consideration is lightweight, tough plastic bodywork, like that fitted to the Mercedes Smart, while the car’s chassis will mix aluminium and composite materials like carbon fibre to deliver enormous strength and light weight.

Electric models could further improve the car’s interior space by locating the batteries in a thin sandwich under the car, and placing electric motors in all four wheels.

Technology to propel this version of the machine is reportedly already well advanced, and has already been publicly trialled in a prototype MINI called the E. This machine, which uses a battery and engine set up similar to that developed by American sportscar firm Tesla is set to be made available in small numbers in both the USA and Germany.

It’s eerily similar to that original Spiritual concept isn’t it? Spiritual was powered by an under-floor, rear mounted K-Series Rover engine, Hydragas subfame suspension and full four-seat capability in a package little bigger than the original 1959 Mini. With this new car BMW may just be admitting that the time has (once again come) to create something relatively revolutionary. Of course how revolutionary it really will be is up for debate. With the car sharing major components with a new BMW Isetta and potentially a new small Fiat (not to mention the other city cars already in the market from Smart, Toyota and Mitsubishi), it will be interesting to see how maintains MINI’s unique brand perspective on it all.

And let it be said that we don’t expect MINI to resurrect the Spiritual concept look seen above. We just find it fascinating that the new concept so closely aligns with something proposed almost 15 years ago.

+ MINI Spirit returns / Autoxpress


Can a Smaller MINI Sell in the US? / MotoringFile

  • Timothy

    I think the Japanese could teach BMW how to build smaller but compelling cars. Mitsubishi, for example, sells the Mitsubishi i, and that looks a whole lot like the Rover concept. The Toyota iQ is another very interesting vehicle. (The iQ measures a mere 117.5 inches bumper to bumper — under 10 feet!) Both cars are now on sale in the U.K. and elsewhere.

  • jarrett

    revoultionary is fine but the picture above looks like a bug eyed fish. the mini cooper and its variants have a certain character, which the above does not, further it looks as if a kid on a bicylce who crashed into it would total it.

  • bee1000

    I would love to see a mini Mini, but only if it performs like a Mini. It doesn’t have to be really fast, but it needs to have something around the current MC’s 92 hp per ton in order to be of interest to me.

  • greg

    They need to raise the hood to protect pedestrians.

  • Beavers

    “They need to raise the hood to protect pedestrians.”

    From what, a nasty shin bruise??

    Seriously though, I hope all you MF’ers (motoringfilers, of course!) that have been bashing MINI for the R60 will be piling in here ASAP to breathe a sigh of relief.

    MINI returning to its Mini roots?!? This makes me very happy to hear, and I cannot WAIT to get my hands on an all electric 2-door. By the time it arrives, maybe the price/efficiency of solar panels will be down to where we could really make this a sensible alternative to a petrol machine. Whoops – sorry – I slipped into a dream for a minute there…

  • golden_child

    Looks like a TATA nano.

  • JonPD

    This is part of the Fiat/BMW co-platform development. Both of them are going to be showing their developments at Frankfurt. So far I am happy to hear what Mini is developing, still betting however that this micro car is still going to lean to the luxury side and will likely be in the mid 20k range.

  • viley

    Im so happy about the news… as long as it doesn’t look like that. That concept had absolutely 0 lines in common with any classic mini. Glad they canned that concept. I will be very interested to see how this turns out.

  • nicole

    It will be interesting to see what the new concept looks like. MINI’s getting smaller is something I’d like to be able to get excited about!

    I can’t even imagine that in the 90’s people were too compelled by the Spiritual concept, although you can see how that car and the current Smart cars and Yaris’ sort of all stemmed from a similar mindset.

  • viley

    What would make me happiest is keeping the classic chassis, with the new engineering. Unfortunately, Europes stringent laws wouldn’t allow that. Would love it to be a real throwback, id sell my current MINI in a heartbeat

  • JonPD

    Ditto viley

    As a next best option buy a classic and do the conversion kit available through Mini Mainia to throw a vtech into it. I have driven several of these and can say that BMW/Mini hasn’t made a car that can stay with it through the straights or the corners heh.

    I am most interested in seeing the possible electric car that comes out of the Project I development.

  • Hai

    I would never be caught driving that jelly bean.

  • C4

    That was Rover’s “Spiritual” concept from the mid to late 1990’s. It was just a concept and not meant to see production. Fortunately BMW took control of the project or the MINI would have ended up looking like the Spiritual mock up above.

  • bee1000

    The 2-door Spiritual looks a lot like the Fiat 500.

    The 4-door is nothing but sweet. It may not look like a Mini, but it’s still awesome.

  • …I would imagine that perhaps this is not the “shape of things to come”, (the slogan for Triumph TR-7) but it may well be the size of things to come. There is no question that in the not so distant future, gasoline prices will spike upward. Diminished supplies, increased demand and a generaly shaky World economy will all serve to pressure Gasoline/Diesel prices to new highs. The only short term soloution for the petro society we live in is smaller, more efficent vehicles.

    What is most interestingly in this article is how Gabe refers to Auto Express as, “usually rather unrelieable”. Now that is funny…

  • glangford

    Welcome news if it turns out true. My next car will either be another Mini or something smaller. By then the Fiat 500 will be here, and I’ll give it some thought if reliability works out. If a mico mini is in the future, I’ll hold out for that. I drove a Honda 600 for a few years and it was one of my favorites. At times I wish I still had it.

  • SFRedMCc

    The renderings posted on AutoExpress look great compared to the ones posted above, but maybe they are an “unofficial” creation, take a look at:

  • Chuck

    Here’s a place you’ll see all the old Micro cars, enjoy It’s quite a site.

  • @SFRedMCc: Yes those on autoexpress are quite Unofficial.

  • cze33r

    This is excellent news !!

  • K

    Ye gads! It’s a Fiat-Smart-Twingo monstruosity!!! Please never make this….

  • @ Chuck

    Thanks for the great link to the Microcar site!!

  • lavardera

    I think these design studies were more in keeping with the spirit of the original Mini than the R50 design and legacy. These “jelly beans” speak more to their time than the retro R50. And the Mini was always a practical vehicle that was appropriated for sporting use. The focus here by MF commentors that the Mini is performance first is indulgent at best. Not that any of this matters, but when you at the same time claim MINI is drifting from its heritage and say it should be performance first, well, you are talking out of both sides of your mouth.

  • dr

    File this in the FWIW department…..but….I would have bought my MINI (r53) whether it got 80mpg or 8 mpg. I buy cars based on how they drive and how they make me feel. Whether they are fun to drive and good to look at. and I don’t care what brand name is on them except to the extent of retained value by percieved quality by the consumer. So im not going to buy MINI again just because it says MINI….I will be buying MINI again if it remains the most enjoyable car to drive and one of the best to look at.

  • dbhouston

    Ummm. Can anyone say Yaris?

  • Aussom

    Great news. Now if MINI can change the lines and bulk out the shape into something that resembles the original series MINIs including the high power-to-weight ratio plus BMW technology, it could fill a market niche?

  • lavardera

    I have to say that the 2dr spirit is growing on me. I don’t care for a 4dr in a car this size, but the 2dr looks great. The nose also reminds me a big of the 500, but wow – the 500 looks like a heavy turd compared to the spirit. I like that this looks light and svelt. The wheels are definitely at the extreme corners, although the tires look a bit skinny.

  • C4


    What have you been smoking?

  • SFRedMCc

    Neither of these two “ungainly” proto-types look like they would meet today’s crash safety standards.

  • Ian Hendry

    People are forgetting the two “ungainly prototypes” are now 15 years old and are very true to what the original Mini was about; arguably more so than the R30. And these were in fact proposals fir production before BMW went with Frank Stephensons proposal. A lot has happenede in 15 years but I have always had a soft spot for the Soiritual concepts. It’s interesting to see even BMW believes the time is right for such a car (10 years after Mercedes we should note).


  • Pingback: MotoringFile » Archive » BMW’s New City Car to Not be Branded MINI?()