UKL Platform to Underpin Future Small BMWs & MINIs

Over the last one to two years a handful of automotive publications (including MotoringFile & BimmerFile) have been reporting that BMW intends to share platforms and engines going forward. And while we’ve known for some time the generalities of the plans, we’re starting to get a much a much better view of the future.

For starters BMW intends on using a common platform to underpin up to a dozen cars for both the MINI and BMW brands. UKL as it’s known internally will handle all front and all wheel drive small car needs for BMW and MINI in the years ahead. In fact there are some that believe UKL will even be used for the next generation 1 Series after the F20 – yes that means a front wheel drive 1 Series. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s talk about BMW’s first steps with the new platform.

BMW Group Board Member Ian Robertson has confirmed 6-9 new cars in a recent interview:

We want to grow in the premium small car and compact segment with the BMW and Mini, “explains Ian Robertson, BMW board member for sales and marketing, told the industry magazine CAR PRODUCTION.

The logical step is therefore the extension down to a compact car family called UKL (lower compact car) that there is currently not in BMW and Mini. To close this gap, Robertson announced a product offensive. “We think about six to nine new vehicles based on this architecture UKL So a product family that our position in the arena of small and compact cars will expand massively. “Whether or not including a van to the model of a Mercedes A-Class are, the BMW manager replied: “We have analyzed in great detail, where is still room for more models.

The first step will happen in late 2012 when BMW will release the 3rd generation MINI. Codenamed the F56 and replacing the R56, the three door hatch will sport completely new interior design (with improved interface design) and an evolution of the MINI exterior design language. Perhaps most importantly, there will be the new technology and powerplants. BMW will debut it’s new range three cylinder engines in the F56 that will ultimately go on to power much of the (approximately) 12 forthcoming UKL based models.

Shortly afterwards will come the BMW version of the F56. Known internally as the 1001 the car will be offered in three and five door variations that will offer the same space and general performance of the F56 MINI. So how will BMW be able to actually give each car it’s own character? Reportedly BMW feels confident that software, design and marketing will be enough to make them each unique. This is clearly the big hurdle that we all question can be overcome.

From there MINI will be going on to release the convertible and then the next generation Clubman on the UKL1. Ah yes, sources are now telling us that the next generation Clubman won’t be based on the current Countryman platform but actually the five door hatchback front wheel drive BMW. But don’t worry, the barn doors will stay.

For those about lose count of what’s coming, it gets in murkier. The Paceman (essentially the Countryman Coupe) will make it’s way to showrooms in 2014 based off of the current Countryman platform.

And then things get really interesting. Reportedly BMW intends to stretch the UKL to underpin the next generation BMW X1 and Countryman around the 2016 and 2017 model year respectively. Yes the X1 will go front wheel drive in standard form.

2017 will also see the production version of the MINI Rocketman. According to several sources (including this month’s Automobile Magazine) MINI may even go slightly smaller with the Rocketman getting very close to the original Mini’s length of 120 inches. At this time there are no plans for a BMW city car of similar stature.

Reportedly on the drawing boards but unconfirmed by our sources are a BMW and MINI ‘sports activity tourer’ that will offer the most space and versatility on the platform. What they will ultimately look like we haven’t the foggiest.

By 2018 BMW intends on rounding out the decade with the next generation MINI Coupe and Roadster based on the UKL. And alongside the much rumored BMW Z2 front wheel drive roadster. The Z2 will finally bring an affordable roadster to the BMW range. Although how it will market it alongside the MINI Convertible and MINI Roadster is yet to be determined.

Finally there are several rumors (and at least one of our own sources) that are pointing the UKL serving as the basis of a front wheel drive 1 Series. Yes that would mean the F20 would be the last rear wheel drive 1 Series before the car moves over to what many BMW enthusiasts would consider the dark-side. However for those who doubt BMW’s prowess and building successful and sporty front wheel drive cars, just look at the last ten years of the MINI brand.

There are other rumors but things frankly get a little too murky for our tastes to report yet. However suffice to say BMW intends on leveraging everything it can to combat VW, Audi and Mercedes over the next decade. And with lighter, more efficient (yet power engines) combined with a flexible and very high-tech platform, they stand a fighting chance.

Photo courtesy of Auto Bilde

  • guest

    will we lose MINI to all of these similarities with the new small bmw? With the same engine it comes down to offerings and look. Any word on the look of the new mini?

  • JonPD

    Makes perfect sense why BMW would go down this path. I do wonder how it will change the character of the MINI brand. I think it will likely be a double bladed sword, sharing components is likely to be an upgrade. I do have some rather serious reservations about dividing the various small BMW/MINI cars with software, design, and marketing. To me this sounds like from one to the next the feel of the car is going to be common to each other with different bodies and small software changes. Should be interesting to see.

  • Does this mean we will be saying goodbye to MINI? Basicly it sounds like it will just be a small BMW!

  • Nick

    I hope this does not mean MINI will just be viewed as the economy BMW model. I like BMWs but MINI should have its own strong identity. It should not be viewed as the car of choice just because you can’t afford a BMW. I don’t want to see BMWs the same size as the MINI.

    • MINI won’t be viewed as an economy BMW. All of these products will have the same efficiency yet all will be portray each brand’s values in different ways. (ie a MINI will still be a MINI).

  • Harry Dill

    Aside from platforms, I regard the new engines in the queue to be of equal significance. To this end (vis-à-vis the most recent and ostensibly “super sized” oxymoronic MINI models currently available), it would seem fitting to expand the scale of the engines as well. Admittedly, shoehorning this *(see image) appropriately oxymoronic “baby” into a standard sheet metal MINI engine bay would take incredible imagination along with some mighty Herculean engineering effort, but I am sure that the capable “imagineers” at BMW/MINI are up to the task.

    The engine is an inline-six cylinder diesel producing 7780 horsepower and weighs in at a mere 2300 tons. Not enough Clydesdales? No problema! Pony up to a 14 cylinder version producing 108,920 hp @102 rpm could be an available option. To accommodate the “baby” six-cylinder version, the MINI would need some mega doses of automobile growth hormones to reach at least 89 feet in length and 44 feet in altitude to haul this behemoth RTA96C engine. This Maxi MINI will usher in a new era of unprecedented growth for BMW/MINI in every sense of the word while providing consumers with a truly remarkable driving experience.

    *Please note the pdf image I attempted to post prompted a message that made no sense regarding non-uploadable extensions, hence I apologize for not posting this pdf image as intended.

  • Harry Dill

    VERY COOL! … And the All-Wheel Drive presentation captivating.

  • Anonymous

    GM tried this, Ford Motor Co tried this, Chysler tried it, hell even BMC tried it. Didn’t work then – won’t work now. Can you say Chevy, Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile? We all know what happened to Pontiac and Oldsmobile.

    • It’s all very true but BMW is a very different kind of car company. Case in point they’ve already been doing this for the current 1 and 3 series and 5, 6 and 7. In short BMW has traditionally known that it all comes down to how good the product is.

      • Michael Martha

        Gabriel,

        I get the general idea of, but am not completely tracking with your response. In your platform sharing examples each of the cars you mentioned had enough distinction (be it size, character, etc.) to warrant a difference. The thing is, they all fall under the BMW brand. They are viewed as logical, yet unique, relatives within the same family.

        P912 makes a good point in as much that there is no MINI equivalent to the 3 Series. p912 rightly does not want to driver his Cooper only to be seen as a some who could only pony up for the “poor man’s” BMW 1001 (or whatever it will be called). The great set up with the current brand strategy is that I can buy a Cooper JCW, because it’s what I like and not because I coun’t afford a 135i. You can look at it from the other direction as well. I don’t know about you, but everytime I see a Cadillac XRS I think, “Heh, that dummy paid too much for his Corvette!”

        I suspect many American driving enthusiast are keenly sensitive to cross-brand platform sharing. It dilutes the core character of the prime model. I think it is also rather insulting. Hello Taurus and Sable kissing cousins! Why the hell should I buy a Sable when a Taurus is the same damned car for cheaper. Redundancy breeds complacency, which manifests as a lack of creativity and evolution. When a brand does not evolve, it dies. I bet there are Motoring File readers who do not even remember Eagle.

        Unless BMW is planning different suspension hardpoints to preserve unique driving dynamics in conjunction with a more sporting fighting weight to distinguish the MINI UKL from the Bimmer UKL; I am worried that we will see the last 30 years of American, “Engineering,” all over again. This time with Ze German accent.

        • Couple things. First off you’re right this is different from a 5 vs 7. and for the record there are many of us worried about all the things you rightly bring up.

          If BMW positions the MINI as a poor mans 1001 they will fail. But the positive thing is that they know this. They know the MINI has to be unique and undeniably MINI.

          Secondly it’s extremely likely the fwd BMWs won’t make their wait to the US anytime soon. So the uniquely demanding NA customer won’t be forced to make a choice or be bothered with a BMW based on the same technologies as the MINI.

    • It’s all very true but BMW is a very different kind of car company. Case in point they’ve already been doing this for the current 1 and 3 series and 5, 6 and 7. In short BMW has traditionally known that it all comes down to how good the product is.

  • Papafoxtrot69

    I hope this is not the end of the Mini’s unique character. For all of the first and second gen’s imperfections, the driving experience and character of these cars has always been uniquely different from any other car on the market at any price. Yes, a GTI or Mazdaspeed 3 maybe arguably better all around cars, but they are not so different from their sister cars such as an A3 or vanilla Mazda 3. Only Mini drives like a Mini.

  • Nick Dawson

    Gabe, I passed on all the above revelations to you back in January but you failed to take them up (perhaps you were prevented from doing so). Anyway, the all new BMW FWD model, likely to be badged 1-series GT code-named F45, will be launched in 2014 and will form the basis of the new Clubman to be launched a year later. Although all future FWD BMW’s and MINI’s will share the same underpinnings, they will wear entirely different clothes, and the MINI will always be the smaller of the two.