We broke details of the five door F55 MINI early this year going into detail around the size and detailing of the car. And our BimmerFile correspondent in Germany has given us first hand reports on the test mules he’s seen. Now we finally have photo proof (courtesy of gmotors.co.uk – follow the link for the full photo gallery) that it not only exists but is coming just months after the F56 launch next fall. But what does a five door really give MINI and its customers?
The F55 five door will allow MINI to compete in the four door market without buyers giving up the typically MINI attributes. Despite it being a core brand attribute, many potential buyers can’t get past the size of the standard MINI hatch. It’s seen as unsafe, uncomfortable and most of all simply not practical. The first two can quickly be disproven by simply experiencing the car in person and reading about its impressive safety certifications. But getting someone who is used to four door sedans to believe that a MINI hatch can be practical for them is harder to do. So MINI is developing a secret weapon for the next generation hardtop aimed squarely at markets such as the US. The internal code-name is F55 and, if it is received as hoped, it could make a MINI seem practical for an entirely new group of potential owners.
Using the next generation hardtop 2-door (internally knowing as the F56) as its basis, MINI will shorten the front doors and add two small, conventionally opening doors behind them. This will be much like the Countryman’s layout, but in a smaller package. Those rear doors will be on the small side, but still more usable then you might expect. Sources are telling us that the rear doors will extend from the trailing edge of the front doors all the way into the rear wheel arches and up to the gas cap on the right side of the car. Opening those four doors will be completely redesigned door handles, while stylistically they will be similar to the current car, will pivot outward from the front end similar to the mechanism found on newer BMWs.
Inside we’ve been told to expect rear legroom to increase about 5 cm as compared to the next generation hardtop (which will be roughly the same as the current generation). F55 will offer a three person bench seat (like the Countryman and Clubman in some markets) likely as standard.
Stylistically the front of the car will be identical to the new F56. However the rear will be slightly raked as the extra 5 cm of legroom will push the boot out slightly. As these photos almost let you make out, think of shape as almost a fast-back. In total the F55 will likely be at least 5 cm longer than the F56 hatch which will be approximately the same size in length (give or two a cm or two). On the roof the R55 will feature a more subtle version of the Clubman’s “dune-line” roof profile to further distinguish the three and five door hatches.
MINI will even likely market the R55 simply as “the four-door MINI.” It won’t be taking the place of the iconic two door hardtop, but it will be offered for those who want a small MINI with just a bit more practicality. A little practicality wouldn’t hurt the hardtop for many. Have you ever tried to get a child seat in the back of the hatch or perhaps a dog in and out? Then you’ll know why the four-door F55 may go along way in helping Americans overcome their fears of impracticality. For the rest, the original hatchback form factor of the two door MINI will remain as well.
Or thought of another way, it’ll bring some of the Countryman’s gains in practicality, but with fewer of its SUV-bred performance compromises. Imagine being able to more easily haul passengers, kids or pets, but retaining all of the smaller MINI’s handling and lightweight efficiency. That’s a package we can get excited about.
What about the Clubman? Don’t worry MINI still has plans for the “other” MINI. But expect some tweaks to the formula in an effort to make the next generation Clubman (dubbed internally as the F54) a bit more dynamic.
Top photo courtesy of Gmotors