Breaking: 2014 F56 MINI Spotted


With only one year away from a debut, we knew that we’d be seeing the real F56 test mules around Munich soon. And today they arrived. Auto Express has the first photos (which you can see here) that give us the best look yet at the 3rd generation MINI. While this isn’t camouflage free, the car is now at the stage with the actual unibody exterior and interior hard points are simply being covered up. This is much different than than the heavily disguised prototypes we had seen earlier.

That means we can actually start to get a feel of the overall shape and some details with just a few exceptions. The most notable is the front which MINI has grafted a R56 front clip onto the prototype to hide the Rocketman-like front end design.

With that said, here’s what the photos tell us.

  • Five lug wheels
  • Slighty more front overhang (Pedestrian impact standards in the EU make wheels and the corners pretty much impossible unless it’s mid-engined)
  • Length of front profile derived from R56 nose attached as camflauge.
  • Tail-lamps mounted flush with the hatch?
  • Oddly side mirrors likely hiding side repeaters?
  • Plastic wheel arches already confirmed are definitely here.

Don’t pay attention to the front or rear lights as they have bolt on disguise means to hide the final form and position.

All that said there’s likely more here to take in. So we’ll turn it over to the comments section for further dissection.

  • Rtg54

    The front overhand looks be a lot more significant, which makes the bonnet longer, which in turn makes the proportions look off to me.

  • Jay

    With all the hype surrounding this, I was expecting something way more drastic in terms of design. 

  • John

    Not sure I like the front end overhang

  • lavardera

    boo increased front overhang. Its going to be hard to avoid, I know.

  • chad

    Seems like the rear overhang is increased as well from the side view and especially the rear view where it seems the rear bumper is overall much more substantial. The interface of the hatch and the bumper makes the bumper look huge.  

  • db

    I can say, with that camouflage, I don’t much care for the shape of the bonnet and those tail lights look weird just poking out from the back like that.

    • The headlights and tail lamps are bolt over disguises meant to hide the final placement and form.

      •  So you don’t think that they’ll cut into the rear hatch like on the photos?

        • I know a lot of the details but don’t know everything about the hatch yet 🙂

  • Ween

    That bonnet looks horrible in profile; looks like The Muppets’ Gonzo’s nose…

  • David

    So much for “wheels at the corners”… front profile very Mazda 3/Ford Focus-like.

    • Yeah and it’s a shame. Pedestrian impact standards in the EU make wheels and the corners pretty much impossible unless it’s mid-engined.

      • hfred

        I’m interested in the EU “pedestrian impact standards,” since they apparently gave the R56 its unglamorous bull nose, and now take the F56 wheels farther off the corners. In my whole life I’ve spent only a few weeks in Europe, but it didn’t seem to me that there was a lot of car-vs-pedestrian conflict. What is their big deal?

        • I’ve read statistics in the past that in parts of Europe pedestrian fatalities outnumber vehicular fatalities, although I don’t have those numbers in front of me now. 

          Europe’s population centers are much more pedestrian-heavy than what we have here in the USA, so while there isn’t an increased conflict, there are a lot more people on foot than in most US cities. So to an extent, it makes sense to give extra thought about what happens if a car impacts a person.

          The other aspect of these regulations is that they’re adopted in the entire EU, yet often originate in just one EU country. For example, the regs that forced the R56’s redesigned nose originated in Belgium, if I’m remembering correctly. But because it’s an EU regulation, it applied throughout the European Union and anyone wanting to sell cars in mainland Europe would have to build to that standard. 

        • hfred

          Here is a piece in Edmunds that helps a bit. I see, mainly, Iowa, while auto designers have to consider not only European and US standards, but also Asian needs, with higher pedestrian population and a burgeoning market for their cars.

        • hfred

          Here is another that takes on the arguments of changing cars for pedestrians’ sake. An interesting bit is the use of hoods that rise, and potential pedestrian airbags.

        • Ayhorik

          You can search youtube and find all kinds of ped vs. car vids.  Problem is as stated above and the fact that many part of the EU and asia nobody obeys traffic laws including pedestrians.  It’s crazy!  Driving in Paris as a foreigner was terifying at times.

        • Adam5

          Appearently their mothers don’t teach them to look both ways before crossing the street over there.

        •  Thats part of it, but its actually a sport over here, you get 20 points for a pedestrian without fatality, only 10 points if you kill them. Cyclists are worth a whole 30 points, and when you get to 100 points you get a special sticker to put on the car 😉

    • hfred

      It seems there is one car shape acceptable to EU standards; hence: homogenization.

  • Aurel

    a huge MEH came over me. I think the overhang is exaggerated too … but I was expecting more drastic changes overall.

  • Brian

    Price of all R53’s just went up. 🙂

    • ulrichd

      For the second time. They went up went the R56 came out for the first time 🙂

    • John

      Doubtful.  R56 maybe 😉  Actually the F56 will sell like hotcakes, I guarantee it!

  • It’s hard to tell, but I can’t really make out a gas cap on the mule and since we can only see the left side, one has to wonder if it might move to the right side of the car. Anyone else make out a gas cap?

    • Aurel

       yeah, and the exhaust is also on the left.

    • This is a Cooper.

      • Aurel

         Ok I realize that, but the exhaust is on the right on current and past Coopers.

  • ulrichd

    Wonder if Mini is going back to the gen 1 clamshell hood design that incorporated the lights? This way there wouldn’t be that ugly hood shutline over the front wheel arches.

    • Aurel

       oddly i see a more traditional “hood” with a horizontal seam

    • john

      That doesn’t bother me one bit.  I prefer it the way it is on the R56

      • ulrichd

        You prefer having an extra line only over the front wheelwells that’s not matched on the back and hardly ever lines up perfectly. Okay.

  • Jordanmini

    Ughh that front end is far tooo long….,

  • JbkONE

    I think I was expecting more drastic design as well.  I’m pleasently surprised!  Looks almost like a refreshed R56.  That’s not to say I prefer the 56 over the 50/53 styling, but it’s better than I was preparing myself for.  The hood looks bulbous: I’m sure it’s for pedestrian impact, so it’ll dent when a head hits it.  Maybe someone will make a low-profile hood 🙂

  • Andrew Vella

    I guess nobody spotted the Black shadowline…Are they finally having the option for Piano black trim vrs Chrome??

  • JonPD

    Will hold out until the camo start coming off as who knows what the actual panel lines are. If I were to think the final shape was like this would be sickened. The side view is plainly nasty and fthe front clip looks like it could be hung off any number of other cars. Will be interested/nearvous in how this develops.

    • JonPD

       Also looks like the side is more sculpted like the BMW family, not a fan of that at all.

      • matthewwanderer

        I’m reserving judgement until we see the F56 sans swirls, but I see some “deflated” R60 influences, and the F56 profile shot has a certain sunk-in-the-middle look to it.  Clearly longer nose, overhang, perhaps even the swirls have something to do with my initial impression.  

        I’m with you on the suggestion of a BMW influence.  “Organic” is the only descriptor I’ve been able to come up with.  

        It’s worth pointing out that Gabe underscored MINI design’s autonomy on this week’s WRR, which I found really encouraging.

  • minimalist

    new f30 bmw 3 series has similar nose profile but not noticable when observed from normal  viewing height suspect this will be similar.Also understand that new eu regs require indicator repeaters to be in door mirrors

    • Aurel

       If the repeaters are in the mirrors does the mean the side scuttles will be gone?

    • Bingo.

      • Vanmini


  • Mechamat

    I find it hard to believe the pedestrian safety explanation for the overhangs. Does not the Smart an IQ have very short overhangs even for 2014 models? Is this going to be another ‘compromised’ mini? Disappointing. I was really hoping they would back to the R53.

    • The smart is mid engine so there’s no need to create excessive space between the bumper and the first hard point.

      via mobile

      • Mechamat

        Thanks for researching that Gabriel. What about the IQ, it is front engined ( Even with the R56 redesign it was significantly worse than the IQ with larger overhangs ( so it seems the emphasis for this standard was negated last time. Could the larger overhang have more to do with platform sharing? If so, that’s just sad.

        • Look at the engine placement on the iQ and you’ll have your answer.

        • Mechamat

          Front ‘mid-ship’. Here is an article on it [] it even mentions the the original Austin. It is a very interesting article and explains why this is not hard to do. I am no engineer, but it seems if BMW wanted to make a ‘Mini’ they certainly could.

    • john

      I’m totally over the R53.  Time to move on but hopefully to something better than what were seeing here.

  • ibi

    Oh my, if that front-end design holds up, the Countryman might be the best looking in the Mini stable….I hope it isn’t so….

  • JonPD

    To my eye getting a lot of BMW. Side view of the front clip from the top of the windshield forward visually looks very similar to the current crop of BMWs, along with the side sculpting wonder if the styling is going to be more BMW than MINI

  • chad

    the side profile looks a lot like the F20. especially the front end.

    from comments above, seems the consensus is that it does look a lot more BMW.

    i think Gabe has been alluding to the fact that this is what many fear, and that MINI design people have told him over and over the F56 will be distinctly MINI. not sure this mule calms any fears.

    • It won’t until you see the finished product.

      • chad

        you sound confident. either in your sources or maybe you’ve seen something.

        at any rate, one heck of a camo job if what emerges is distinctly MINI.

        it certainly is going to be a fun story to unravel.  

  • Look forward to seeing the un-disguised photo’s, difficult to tell anything really meaningful in these shots, save for the front overhang.

  • Bob Hayhurst

    Can’t wait to see it undressed; it’s so hard to unravel one of the pictures when someone is purposely trying to deceive you. What I do see though,  is wheels at the corners; gone. That hurts. 

    I think Gabe is right in that the front is so heavily disguised, there is no telling what it really looks like. I’ll wait for the clean pictures before I say much more..

  • hfred

    I am pleased to see that the windshield has not been raked back into my face. The MINI design language seems to be holding in this case.

  • Nick

    That front overhang has to be a bad joke. If that holds true it spells the end of MINI for me.

  • Aaron

    Looks like a good 1-series hatchback.  But I must have missed the MINI pictures, that thing looks way to big to be a MINI.

  • SFRedMCc

    The current front overhang on my 2008 Clubman just barely clears my short driveway while backing into my lower level garage.   Typical for our small San Francisco houses w/ the garages lower than adjacent sidewalks.  

  • Lemelou

    Alot of bad, alot of good.

    The bad: that awful Mazda 3 nose… RIP go kart driving.

    The good : I think we’re in for a pleasant surprise with the miror and healights play. I think we are getting the Rocketman headlights, with side mirors that match the design. These almost have a jet engine look from what we can make out from the pics. Looks pretty cool!

  • mnicpt

    Also looks like the bonnet opens straight across rather than coming down to the bumper.  This is like the new BMW’s where the hood no longer forms to the kidney grille but goes straight across.  Hope they aren’t doing that with the MINI.

    • I think that might just be a break in the pattern of the camo.  The panel gaps seem to indicate that it will be similar to the R56 in the way that the hood opens (wheel arches affixed to the vehicle, as is the grille).  I don’t think we have to worry about the “clamshell” being lost.  The one part that I can’t wrap my head around is whether or not the headlights will be mounted to the hood like the R50/53 or mounted to the body per the R56.  I have a feeling that they will remain on the body like the R56.

  • looks absolutely hideous. I really hope this isnt what it looks like at all. I was really hoping for a fresh and awesome new design. Oh well, if this is how it will end up like, then atleast us R50/53 owners know we have the nicest one.

  • Evan

    The needed height for the bonnet makes delicate proportions (enter R50/53) very difficult. The wheel arches should be larger with larger standard wheels to compensate for the increased height. The mule is certainly undertired; even more so than the R56 on 15″ rims…

    The front clip is way too long. I’m hoping a few inches disappear with the camouflage. The wipers are more recessed, probably in the name of drag coefficient.

    No final decision yet as there’s too much camouflage.

    But I am happy I’ll always have my R50. Still a hoot after 8 years. 

  • Brian_282

    Gabe are you sure that they made the front bonnet stick out farther.  It looks like they just grafted an old bonnet right on top of the new bonnet.   In order to disguise what the new nose looks like.  The R56 has a diffuser but this one just disappears under the grafted bumper

    • Lemelou

      Well if your theory holds true, alot of wimpering “minionistas” will sleep a whole lot better…  I being the first of them.

      That camo job would be one true mind fudge!

    • Bingo. Think Rocketman.

      • Mechamat

        So relieving to hear that. I guess you need to ask the right questions 🙂 panic averted…

  • I refuse to believe this is the next mini. Look at all the great concepts they came out with. How could this ugly thing be the next mini? Do you not remember the first spy shot of the next gen was later proved to be the next gen 1 series hatch in disguise? This is probably that again. Proportion wise the car fits more like a BMW hatch. Plus, look at the dash. It looks much more like a BMW dash.

    Not only that, but it just looks like a stretched out and fattened R56. It hardly looks “new”. The next MINI is going to have a true BMW engine and chassis, why would they simply elongate the outside and thats it? It has to have a completely different and fresh look.

  • Jay

    I tried to submit this as a tip but the form is broken. I noticed there are more spy shots of the F56. It’s got a red roof, so I’m assuming it is the JCW flavor. It’s confusing, though because the grille appears to be the standard MINI.

    • Aurel

       Nice find … email it to the staff through the CONTACT link above.

    • Don’t read too much into the red roof.

  • frogberg

    I’m afraid the EU crash standards are ruining the look of this car. I truly hope that the misshapen hood is a result of the bolt-on disguise and not due to the redesign.

  • goat

    It is WAY too early to make final judgements, but this is not looking promising. Rather than a return to the R53 wheels-at-corners stance and taut forms we get even longer front overhang, “flat” SUV-like wheel arches like the R56 (hopefully those are just temporary borrowed from R56?), a puffy hood (again, hopefully the disguising bits will reveal more character and stronger “pontoon” fenders leading to the headlights). Wheels also look tiny which is a sign of the body being too large / featureless. 

    Where is the crisp, tidy car that we fell in love with, and many purchased on the strength of its styling, in the R53 design? With these photos, I am seeing further devolution and dilution of the “modern MINI”. Incidentally, there is nothing “modern” about the design either… the Rocketman does a far better job of carrying iconic mini design features future-forward. 

    Again, likely overly harsh, definitely premature… I remain hopeful that we won’t see a repeat of the disappointment that is / was the R56 design and the bent-over-backwards rationalization for why it is “better” that has been attached to it like an asterisk ever since.

  • R Burns

    Ask someone in random : R56 design is generally more appreciated than R53

    It is only on forums that R53 is more appreciated

    So if you want to sell, you have to produce something that will be sold the most

    Honestly if you respect Sir Alec Issigonis principles, before aesthetic, the purpose of Mini is to be sold to a maximum of people

    In that way R56 succeeded brilliantly

    One more thing, the wheels-at-corners is absolutely not a guarantee of a go kart feeling et vice versa

    • ulrichd

      You sure about that first claim. One area where the R50/R53 is more appreciated is in resale value. There are low mileage 05/06 Cooper S models going for mid to high teens-about what an 08/09 goes for.

    • JbkONE

      I bet most people don’t know the difference.  Ask them with the cars sitting side by side which one they like better and those that can tell they’re different would probably pick the 1st gen – just guessing.  But that said, more than half probably wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.

    • Chulander

      R Burns, I agree with your first statement. Most of the R53 love and R56 bashing seems to be coming from current R50/53 owners or owners. Certain aspects of the R50/R53 are charming, sure, but overall it looks and feels like an older vintage of MINI. Which is fantastic if you like that sort of thing—but don’t expect MINI’s designers to look to the past anymore. They will continue to evolve the product, possibly picking up details and cues here and there, but likely always looking forward.

      It kind of reminds me of the 996 bashing by 993 and prior air-cooled Porsche purists. It certainly was a wake up call, that while in almost every measurable way, the 996 was a better car, there was a certain something that a particular Porsche fan was still holding on to. Despite the outpouring of criticism, the 997 was MUCH more an evolution of the 996 than it was in any way going back to the 993 (save the detail of the headlight shape). 

      For those that wish for the hatch to return exactly as the R53 was, just go buy an R53. It was and still is a great car. The money spent buying a used one and making it run like new surely will cost less than buying a brand new one. And you can feel proud owning the precise “vintage” of MINI you want.

      Nathaniel made a statement a few topics ago that a lot of MINI fans think the R53 was a better looking car than the R56. I’d amend that and say that a lot of R50/53 owners think the R53 was a better looking car than the R56. It’s kind a redundant statement, but one that I think is much more accurate. 

  • Charles Adams

    Is this supposed to have the new 3-cylinder engine that we’ve heard nothing about?

    • The 1.5L that we’ve been reporting on for three years? We’ve had outputs and technical info for awhile.

      • Charles Adams

        Last real news we’ve had on it was nearly a year ago. I know all of the specs and data are there, but it seems that Mini and BMW have been very quiet about it lately.

  • Aurel

    on a side note … i know this is no longer debuting at MINI United as was planned last year … but what is? if anything …

    • GP2

      • chad

        and eyes are fixed on MF for the first pictures available! and any details provided that can be made public. can’t wait. 

        do you know which day that may happen?

      • Hot Rod Hemi

        Is that it? I figured that they’d have the Countryman Pacman, excuse me Paceman. Still don’t like the name.

  • Jdulam

    My wife, who owns a MINI and knows more about them then most guys said, “Oh, its ugly…….I don’t want one……… why would they do that!”

    Give it some time, it will grow on her, but you will never pry the 2005 EB R53 out of her hands!

  • MiniToy

    It looks much longer than all other Mini we saw until now. The Mini shape is still there, but the size makes a big difference on the style. The Brand Mini may need a rename soon 🙁

  • JonPD

    Wonder how MINI feels about the general feedback on the fist spy images so far, hope that they do something to help address the overly negative feedback so far. Not feeling the design so far, but it should be interesting to see it more uncovered. Having said that though what I have seen so far I am likely to move onto something more iconic that the MINI is these days.

    • goat

      JonPD – I agree and also hope that MINI is listening carefully to all feedback. 

      And if they are: New-for-new in this segment, I would choose the Fiat Abarth over an R56 S or even R56 JCW. The Abarth has flaws as all cars do, but the overall character of the car is “more than the sum of its parts”, which is what the R53 hatch had, in spades. I know several enthusiasts that feel the same way. My rule of thumb: if more than 1/3 of discussion surrounding a new design is spent apologizing and rationalizing the car by referencing safety standards, competitors who have also grown, “average owners” in focus groups who “couldn’t tell the difference”, the design has failed to charm.

      • Aurel

         i think driving an Abarth will change that … Fiat’s might look more retro but they certainly don’t feel “sporty” inside.

        • JonPD

           Have to disagree, the Abarth is a fun ride. Maybe not as composed as MINI but still lots of fun to drive. The interior is a little cheaper feel but the design is light years beyond the Playschool MINI interior to me.

        • jason

          Agree.  The Abarth is a great little car to drive with a killer sound to match.     

    • ulrichd

      “…hope that they do something to help address the overly negative feedback so far.”

      At this stage, a year from intro, the design is set in stone.

      • The real F56 doesn’t have the issues that people are responding to.

        • Jc

          Gabe, what’s the deal with the rings around the side mirrors?  Camo or some new sort of wind deflector maybe?

  • litlguy

    When they introduced the Paceman I figured that it was the beginning of the end of the Mini as we new it, how they can badge the Paceman as a Mini beats me, its as far departed from a Mini as a Corvette is from a Chevette, so I guess I will be keeping my R53 and just updating, unless off course the Rocketman goes into production and then all bets are off…Litlguy