Why the US F56 MINI Weighs More than the Euro F56


One of the first questions I asked the MINI engineers present at the recent F56 MINI launch was about weight. The European F56 has lost weight compared with the R56, where the US-spec cars gained 60 and 90 lbs between the Cooper and Cooper S. While there’s much more standard equipment on the US cars as compared to the R56, they said that much of that new weight was from three US market changes to the F56:

  • Two additional airbags at knee-level
  • Massively reinforced B-pillars, designed for the NHTSA’s new rollover standards
  • A larger, more substantial A-pillar airbag system.

So all in all, those seem like 60-90 lbs well spent.

  • Alexandre

    More weight = increased safety. I’m all for it.

    • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

      It’s the other way ’round, really. Increased safety tends to make cars heavier, but cars are not safer by simple virtue of being heavier. If anything, it’s the opposite because the more mass you bring to the collision, the more kinetic energy must be dissipated. It’s a myth that we’ve got to be in an arms race of mass with giant SUVs in order for our cars to be safe.

      • Alexandre

        Yep, I agree with you Nathaniel. I meant to write my equation the other way around ;)- Meaning that if increased safety leads to more weight (i.e. small trade-off on efficiency) I don’t mind.

        • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

          Physics is interesting stuff, but often counter-intuitive!

  • mdsbrain

    Glad you always ask the tough questions!! :-)

  • lawrothegreat

    That’s incredibly interesting. It will be very embarrassing for BMW / MINI if the car does not achieve the full five star Euro NCAP rating in Europe, which is becoming tougher to meet year on year.

    • Alexandre

      Your assessment is unfair. I don’t remember where I read this (Consumer Reports, JD Powers?), but in the top 10 reasons driving (no pun intended) the choice of a given car for buyers, safety ranked last. So, if MINI doesn’t score 5 stars on Euro NCAP, it’s not great but not the end of the world for them either. Let’s remain confident that they’ll get there.

      • lawrothegreat

        I didn’t make an assessment on whether it would or not. I’ve ordered one in the UK so I really hope that it does make five stars. I would agree that expectations nowadays are incredibly high and that makes it difficult for manufacturers. However if side by side the US version was considered just as fun to drive (i.e. it doesn’t feel heavier, which it may) and the euro version didn’t get five stars (which is the benchmark for a more premium car) and the design and manufacturing process could have allowed it to do so then yes I think it would have been a very interesting decision to have made. This is all very subjective at the moment anyway as the tests have not been carried out, but I remain with my original comment as it is the focus of this story.

      • jppd

        I have owned three MINIs since 2003, and I would have not purchased them if I thought they were unsafe. Today the bar has been raised. MINI needs to hit a home run for me to pony up in 2014. Buyers may rank safety low, but MINI buyers may rank it much higher.

      • http://www.letsgethighandmarrygaypeople.com/ Gregory S. Balchin

        probably because people assume most modern cars to be equally safe/safe enough.

        It’s using “what’s my poop gonna look like” as a deciding factor for which fast-food burger you should buy.

    • Alexandre

      I think your assessment is unfair. I don’t remember where I read this last year, but in the top 10 reasons driving (no pun intended) the choice of a given car for buyers, safety came last. So, if MINI doesn’t score five stars it’s not great but it wouldn’t be the end of the world for them either. I’m confident they’ll get there anyways :)

  • ulrichd

    Don’t forget the addtl. weight from those huge tail lights :)

    • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

      Helps with weight distribution 😉

    • MJCW

      ….And the ugly lower lip

      • r.burns

        I find it beautiful, keep, so maybe, keep your personal thoughts for you

        • Alexandre

          Pretty sure comments are for expressing personal thoughts – always in a civilized manner obviously.

  • JeffH

    Thank the government, with its competing goals of protecting idiot drivers from each other (adds more weight) and increasing fuel economy (should be reducing weight). It’s hard to achieve both.


    The picture that occopanies this article is the very first one I’ve seen that I can say the car looks great!

  • CV

    So does this mean that US-market cars will be safer than their European counterparts? If so, it would be ironic if European drivers were wishing they could get the American version.

    • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

      It’s strange that in these regards the US-standards are tougher than the EU standards. It’s usually the other way ’round.

  • glangford

    It would have seemed more logical to just have the A and B pillar strengthening to be universal.

    • EHans

      Yup. It doesn’t make sense to me to make two types of b-pillars. I would think much of the added cost of the new US required b-pillars would be offset by the engineering of two different types, as well as having to produce them both on the same line. I’d wager that will be one within a few months or by the next model year.