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Rumor: MINI Working on a Small City Car

P90096908_Rocketman

Ever since MINI Design head Gert Hildebrand and Exterior Design head Marcus Syring dreamt up the idea of the Rocketman while waiting for a delayed flight at a New York airport, there’s been a powerful movement within the company to get it built. While the initial design study was seen as a major success, ultimately it died on the vine due to BMW not wanting to invest in a city car version of the forthcoming UKL platform. More specifically BMW didn’t believe the sales volume would ever make up the initial investment unless they sold the car for the same price as the F56 – which to many would be unacceptable.

But lucky for us that didn’t stop the enthusiasm inside MINI for making a city car.

P90096899_Rocketman

Fueled by industry and demographic trends and a massively positive reaction to the concept, MINI has continued to investigate ways to move forward with the Rocketman by partnering with another automaker. The first and most obvious choice was Toyota who’s small car platform would fit the technical requirements well. But rumors suggested that BMW engineers didm’t didn’t confident they could get a MINI level of performance out of the chassis and reportedly decided to wait.

That wait could be nearing an end. According to sources in Germany MINI is working through an internal proposal of a vehicle smaller than the current F56 two door hatch. The smaller model, similar in size to the Rocketman concept is being conceived as both a three and five door hatch and will likely be based on partnering with another automaker. Who that automaker is we don’t know but once again it would make sense for Toyota to be involved. BMW and Toyota have recently become technical partners in several ventures around hybrid and hydrogen technology not to mention that they are designed at least one sports car together for a release later this decade.

toyota-iq

Given that type of collaboration it wouldn’t be out of bounds for BMW to have direct input into the next generation Toyota Aygo (16″ shorter than the current F56) or even the iQ (which is a full 33″ shorter). That direct input would be directed towards making sure resulting MINI feel as gokart like as possible and accommodate either a 1.5L three cylinder MINI engine or something even smaller co-developed with Toyota.

Why is MINI so eager to produce something smaller than the F56? The brand is born out of a less is more philosophy and a few internally at MINI are concerned that the current product range doesn’t make that point clear enough. A small city car could serve as both a price leader and a halo vehicle that better exemplifies the brand ethos than the current hatch.

According to sources we expect a sneak peek at this new small MINI in concept form late this year or early next.

Written By: Gabe

  • http://www.alphabetcityblog.com/ Jeff

    Personally wouldn’t buy one, but it’s a good idea to return the Mini to its roots. I’m sure it’d be popular (depending on price) and I’m sure there’d even be some people who’d consider this more of a spiritual successor to the original Mini than the current HT is.

    I never fit very well in these city cars (I’m 6’4″), and I do like to have a real back seat and at least some cargo space. The current HT is perfect for me. But a city car seems like it’s more what Mini’s supposed to be all about.

  • RakSiam

    As one who has complained that the ever-growing MINI is pushing me away, I think this is awesome. Bigger than the iQ is fine, but not too much bigger. The very fact that the iQ is almost 3 feet shorter than the F56 is somewhat shocking!

  • http://twitter.com/matthewwanderer Matthew

    “The brand is born out of a less is more philosophy and a few internally at MINI are concerned that the current product range doesn’t make that point clear enough.”

    Worried about the brand? Those MINI employees or executive need to be duly heckled by the brand-dilution-denyers.

  • Guest

    Yes, yes, YES!

  • ulrichd

    Yes, please build it. Love the Rocketman concept, just please keep the person who designed the F56 tail lights away from the car.

    • jbkone

      “please keep the person who designed the F56 tail lights away from the car.”

      THIS!!

  • Nick

    Only problem is if they build it it won’t look like this.

    • otter

      Your skepticism is understandable; but, what if it did look like the Rocketman concept, had tossable handling and some enthusiastic gettyup and go? I know that for me, I would need to be looking for a new place of residence with a two car garage.

      • TurbochargedChili

        If they do build it, I hope they don’t carry over that horrendous fish mouth and rear end that looks like a mix of a Nissan Micra and Volvo. That one exhaust pipe looks stupid too

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          The “fish mouth” won’t survive the LCI from what I’m hearing.

        • TurbochargedChili

          Really? That’s great news. I hope they open up the exhaust more and bring back the growl that the previous models had in S and JCW trim. I also missed the turbocharger noise and the engine just didn’t have a very great sound either. The biggest issue with the B48 engine though, was it’s lack of top end grunt. It also never really pushed me back in the seat at low revs. It just felt like a step back in terms of overall enjoyment. The 1.5 was a definite improvement over the previous base engine. I wouldn’t mind if they just shoved the 3-cylinder under the hood of S and JCW models (of course in a higher state of tune) for the LCI models. It sounded better than the B48, felt more refined, and was just more enjoyable. I can only imagine what 200HP, and 221lb-ft, free flowing exhaust, and less engine noise isolation would do for an S with that engine. It would be lighter over the front axle, and it would sound so unique.

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          The JCW version will fix some if these issues.

        • TurbochargedChili

          I just hate that I would have to go up from an S to a JCW to get the same level of enjoyment that I have with my current car. For $29K, I got a pretty much loaded S manual. It has Pano sunroof, auto a/c, sport pack w/ 17″ black web spoke, and other goodies like H/K stereo. I couldn’t get a JCW for under $30K – even in its most basic form. The price pits it against other cars that are going to be much more powerful, roomy, and more fun to drive. The JCW will still get buy without an LSD, which really limits it’s performance. It’s unfortunate that this is how they’ve progressed forward with the S model. I’m bummed.

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          Just to follow-up here. I’ve driven both obviously and have a different opinion. I love the Prince engine and have been waving that flag for seven years now. In my opinion the new 2.0 is thoroughly better.

          Now with that out of the way the extra .4L has it’s positives and negatives. In town MPG being one of the latters. Ability to rev quickly – they’re both about as fast but given the extra mass you’d expect the 2.0L to be a bit slower. I don’t think that’s the case but it’s been a few months since I’ve driven them back to back.

          In all it’s superior engine in almost every scenario. The issues you have with it are as much about the automotive time we live in then the product itself. If the market wanted a 2.0L that spit fire and made babies cry MINI would have happily obliged with this engine. The issue is that, while you and I love to make babies cry, that’s actually considered a bit barbaric by the rest of society.

          And so when I say the JCW will right some of these I’m not saying that MINI couldn’t have done it with the Cooper S. They simply are trying to give the market what it wants while making the JCW power plant more JCW than ever before.

          Think about it this way. MINI widened the gap between the Cooper and Cooper S in overall driving experience. MINI will do the same with the Cooper S and the JCW.

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

          It’s true. Gabe loves to make babies cry.

        • TurbochargedChili

          I just don’t get why they would’ve abandoned the things that made the car so popular in the first place. MINI has had one of the highest customer retention rates of any brand. This current F56 will be the MINI that I do not buy. I’ll definitely be moving on to another brand.

        • lawrothegreat

          The B48 offers several improvements over the existing 1.6 litre. The engine note has more character, even in the quieter ‘green’ mode. In sport mode the stock exhaust sounds ‘naughty’ – hearing loud pops when lifting off the throttle at 60mph is an experience I never had in a stock R56. Down changing into second at 40mph (and having the rev match work perfectly) accompanied by a long series of exhaust gurgles again is not an experience I ever had in an R56. The turbocharger is louder and makes some great sounds (mine could be broken of course!). The car pulls harder between 2000rpm and 4000rpm – with DTC on the car can spin the front wheels in second gear in the dry in a straight line. Fuel economy is improved (between 10 and 20% better for me). The engine’s drawback is that below 2000rpm it takes a fraction longer to spool up, but that is part of its character – I’m not sure how maximum torque is produced at 1250rpm. As maximum power is produced from 4700rpm then it won’t have the same high end feel as the JCW or GP, but it doesn’t feel as breathless as the R56 stock MCS above 5500rpm. Of course this is all my opinion. :-)

        • TurbochargedChili

          I’m not sure what car you drove before, because anyone that’s driven both models will tell you the F56 is a lot quieter (engine, turbo, and exhaust) than the R56. Not sure what year model you had, but the N18 (2011+) models had very loud pops. It almost sounds like a gun shot. Several magazines have said the same thing I’ve said about its lack of zip. Automobile, Autocar, Car, etc… You must’ve had a flawed R56. The N18 engine pulled strongly to redline, and from 1000RPM. I can hear a lot of blow off noise, and spool. I wouldn’t call lag at low rpm, a character of the B48. It’s a flaw.

        • lawrothegreat

          I loved my R56 MCS when I bought it in 2007. I thought the engine was absolutely fantastic – fuel economy, emissions and performance with it leaving other competitors sporting 2.0 NA engines in the shade. My one, which was a 175hp version, put down a healthy 191hp/211 Ibft on a rolling road, and this representative of others tested at the time. I agree that torque was available from literally tickover but delivery was ‘linear’ and power fed in progressively and died down before redline, unlike the JCW. I never drove the 184hp version but I doubt it was that different, but it could have been an entirely different experience. My F56 delivers a sudden thump of torque as a consequence of taking milliseconds longer to spool and it’s fantastic. It’s putting such a smile on my face every time so yes I would call that character.

        • lawrothegreat

          I don’t think specific output is that important – power, torque, emissions, economy, weight and character and how they relate to one another is important.

        • TurbochargedChili

          As I’ve said, the new car is lacking character. It’s engine dulls the experience. I do think hp/l is important. There’s no reason for a 2.0L turbocharged engine in 2014 to be only putting out 94.5HP/L, when the previous model from almost 10 years ago had 110.65/L (N14), and 113.25/L (N18). BMW could’ve used the 1.5L B38 in the S and easily trumped the previous models power, while having 60 less LBS over the front axle – all the while giving it a unique character, sound, and better economy.

        • lawrothegreat

          BMW could have used the 1.5 litre – it is capable of 200-220hp, but headroom wouldn’t have been there for aftermarket tuning. It’s also worth noting that even in the i8 application it’s producing less power than the forthcoming JCW promises and it would never have made economic sense for BMW to use the 1.5 in the S and the 2.0 in the JCW. And I don’t think specific output does matter, it’s all the other specifications that do. It’s almost amusing because in other market segments customers are complaining about engine capacities being reduced.

        • lawrothegreat

          I agree. I’ve put 2,000 miles on an F56 MCS manual now and it is a better engine. I’ve previously put 70,000 miles on an R56 MCS so I like to think that I know what I’m talking about. The F56 is quieter in ‘green’ mode and is louder and sportier in ‘sport’ mode. The exhaust pops are louder and feel more natural and the turbocharger makes a great set of sounds too. The car pulls more strongly from lower revs and fuel economy is better. The drawbacks for me is that below 2,000rpm it feels as though it takes a little longer to spool and the gear ratio in first gear on the manual is too short (little over 30mph).

        • TurbochargedChili

          The only difference between sport and green mode is the throttle calibration, and the “enhanced” sound that the audio system plays. It also sprays extra fuel in sport as the exhaust gases are exiting creating the popping noises. Besides that, there is no valve actuated system altering the engine’s noises or the exhaust noise. When I started the F56 I couldn’t believe how boring it sounded. It was like any other four cylinder engine. Google BMW 328i M-performance exhaust, and that is what this MCS should’ve sounded like.

        • Kurtster

          Really? I couldn’t find anything more fun to drive with FWD than the JCW in its price range. For me, roomy isn’t a plus. I have no kids, no dogs, nothing to haul and my friends all have cars so for me, smaller is better. The Ford Focus was just plasticky and cheap inside and the Sync system is the worst entertainment system I’ve seen in a modern car. The TT was the only thing close I could find that would be as fun to drive, but at $10k more I couldn’t justify that. The Golf? Too boxy and looks too much like my sister’s old 1972 VW Rabbit.

        • TurbochargedChili

          I don’t think you’ve been looking at modern Golf GTI’s. If anything is boxy, it’s a MINI. It’s very square in shape. The MkVII GTI offers more peformance, a true LSD, cheaper price tag when similarly equipped, and for the occasion you do need to throw something in the boot, it’s got plenty of space. Look, I bought a MINI Cooper S over the MkVI GTI, but I wouldn’t pick the F56 over the MkVII GTI. NO way in hell.

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          I’ll say it again. Having driven both, I would. The new GTI is great and I’ve recommended them to a few people already (who don’t live near MINI service centers). But the new MINI is a more immediate car in the way it handles and thus a bit more engaging to me.

        • TurbochargedChili

          There’s nothing exciting about the F56. You can pick your MCS and I’ll pick a GTI. Let’s meet at a track, and I’ll show you how much better the MkVII is than the MCS around a track, on the freeway, in the city, and anywhere else you may be going.

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          And I would say there’s nothing exciting about the GTI. Furthermore I would hope it would be faster on the track given the extra power.

        • TurbochargedChili

          I’m sorry 258lb-ft, limited slip diffs, adjustable dampers that actually change the damping rates, 210/220hp, razor sharp steering, high quality interior materials, standard touchscreen, and an optional DSG transmission aren’t exciting.

        • lawrothegreat

          It’s worth noting that when Autocar road tested the F56 MCS in the UK recently, one week apart from the new Golf R, in gear acceleration times between the two were practically identical between the 1500-4500rpm range. Being a 4WD the Golf was quicker off the line and clearly had the power advantage at higher engine speeds (an extra 100hp) but the F56 is deceptively capable – the “real world” 0-60, 30-70 and 0-100mph times were quicker than when they tested the JCW coupe. The F56 has the same 30-70mph tested time as the Golf GTi performance pack DSG – 5.9s. The F56 also has noticeably more front end grip than the previous two generations when thrown into a corner so it’s not all bad, there are lots of positives! :-)

        • TurbochargedChili

          Where are you getting these numbers? The only review of the Golf R that I see on Autocar lists around a 4-second 30-70mph run (and that’s not a top gear pull), whereas the MINI review lists a 8 sec top gear 30-70 pull. It’s worth noting that the MINI revs around 3000RPM @ 70, whereas the Golf R is in the low-mid 2000’s, so of course the gearing has more to do with top gear pull speed than anything. Based on your argument, the MINI is faster than the Vauxhall VXR V8 they tested that posted slower top gear pull numbers.

        • lawrothegreat

          I’m getting these numbers from actual Autocar (UK) magazine issues. The F56 MCS road test was in the 2 April 2014 issue. I haven’t compared the Golf R against the F56 in the 30-70mph run because clearly the Golf will be noticeably faster as it will be redlining in 2nd gear with 100hp more. The point I’m making is that mid range pull is very good for a 190hp car. The latest Golf GTi is a nice car, of course, but 37lb ft more in performance pack guise (the F56 overboosts in almost every situation) and 167kg more weight (as tested) doesn’t make it much faster than the F56 (0.7s to 100mph) with Autocar’s road testing. A real LSD would make some difference of course.

        • TurbochargedChili

          I’m not sure where you are getting these numbers. I’ve searched Autocar, and can’t find them. The GTI is faster to 60 by almost a second, it’s quarter mile times are also significantly quicker, and it will hold a line better on a track, back road, etc… My biggest issue with this newest MINI is that it costs as much as a GTI, while offering less power, torque, comfort, sharpness, LSD, dampers that change more than +/-10%, and it looks terrible. Before, the compromises were more than made up for by its jewel of an engine, it’s drive focused chassis, and it’s properly tuned exhaust. It made all the right noises, without being overly loud like an Abarth. Now, MINI has tried to move upmarket, without it being super successful on any category. Looks? No. Power? No. Ideal mix of comfort and performance? No. Interior space? No. Great sounding engine and exhaust? Nope. It just doesn’t do anything that excites me. Look at any of the MINI forums. You will see a lot of unhappy people that don’t like it anywhere nearly as much as the previous two cars. It may have decent reviews by the press, but they aren’t the ones buying the cars. I’ll be interested to see how well this car does. When a GTI, Focus ST, and MCS comparo happens, I will be excited to see what car wins, and why. I bought my MCS over a MK6 GTI, but wouldn’t over a Mk7

        • lawrothegreat

          Autocar, it’s a physical magazine, not just a website. They don’t publish many figures online because they won’t make money out of that. Their road testing is the most comprehensive I’ve seen. Full LED adaptive headlights (that are fantastic), heads up display, self parking, variable damper control that does make a difference (very noticeable on undulating road surfaces), live tyre pressure readings, a fun interior, nimble and precise handling, tons of grip, excellent mid range punch, brilliant rev matching, make no mistake this is a fun car. And it has better fuel economy – I’ve achieved more than 60mpg (UK gallons, that’s 50mpg US). The Golf GTi is a nice car, of course, but so is the F56 MCS and more importantly it’s fun to own and drive and that’s what matters.

        • TurbochargedChili

          I know Autocar is a physical magazine. I don’t have a copy laying around to look at. Usually, they post the full article online. You may find the new MINI fun to drive, but I and many others don’t. I don’t find it appealing to the eyes, or from behind the wheel. Where most cars make a huge leap forward in performance from model to model, this car went back. It only has 7 more HP from an engine almost 1/2L bigger, it weighs over a hundred lbs more, it doesn’t have much engine or exhaust noise, and it’s lost the knife sharp suspension tuning that the previous models had. If MINI had made a car that was as comfortable as a GTI, but still handled as well or better than before, while increasing power to GTI levels, I wouldn’t have such an issue. They just kinda put the F56 in between being comfortable and fun to drive. I prefer my car to either lean all the way to performance, or like a GTI – be comfortable while having a suspension that can eliminate all body roll, and soak up every imperfection. They didn’t eliminate the bump steer as I had hoped either. I’m glad you like it, I would hope you did as you bought one, but the MINI faithful that crave the raw emotion that this BMW MINI brand was built on will be unhappy. It’s not so special anymore – for good or bad. Obviously, a lot of other people agree with me. There’s several other posts that pretty much say exactly what I’ve said. Maybe we just have two different ideas of what makes a car special and successful. You may be one of the people that thinks the F30 3-Series is fine, and is an improvement on the E90, but the enthusiast group disagrees.

        • lawrothegreat

          Huge amounts of autocar road test data are never published online, only some basic figures. You can buy your Golf, I’ll stick with my MINI, we can both be happy and all will be well with the world. :-)

        • TurbochargedChili

          You’re lucky that you live in the UK. Not many retailers here sell Autocar magazines, so the only source is online. Like I said, glad you like the F56, I don’t. I will definitely be buying a MkVII GTI the next time I am in the mood for a new car. I might even cough up the extra money and go for the Golf R.

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

          I’d pay money to watch that.

        • TurbochargedChili

          Name the place and time, bring the cars, and I’ll be there!

        • -b

          I don’t know, you have seen the fish mouth of the F56.

        • AMS

          That’s the best news I’ve heard all week, though given the likely demise of the Roadster, I should probably be paying more attention to rumors of a renewed Z2 project. Or the Mazda derived Alfa (or Fiat, depending who you ask) two seater.

  • F56Blues

    Yeah since the Smart, and iQ sell so well. Lmao. MINI just needs to work on making the F56 what it should’ve been from the get go. It’s no longer an exciting little ride with gobs of character. The engine in the S isn’t nearly as good as the N18, and i no longer daydream of my next MINI. Pretty sad.

    • r.burns

      The F56 S is more efficient in all areas than the R56 S, but you still think your beloved N18 is better …in your dreams actually ;)

      • ulrichd

        You understand that there are other countries in the world where really small cars do sell. I would not expect the US to be the biggest market for the Rocketman. Sales of the Smart here are low because it really is an uninspiring car and the transmission is horrible.

        • TurbochargedChili

          In some countries a car this small will sell better than in the US, but it will never sell in numbers as large as the supermini class – especially since BMW will want more $ for this, just because it’s smaller… Which in BMW’s mind = less for more $.

        • ulrichd

          It’s still a premium product, so yes, I would expect it to cost more than similar sized superminis.

        • TurbochargedChili

          No, I’m talking about the “rocketman” if it makes it to production, will most likely cost more than an F56, just because in BMW land, less size, and features = more $. Like the reason a M235i costs more than a 335i, and a 4-series costs more than a 3-series, eventhough it has less doors, and less space. Why an X6 costs more than an X5, even though it’s just a chopped up X5, with less storage space, and passenger space. Why a Paceman costs more than a Countryman. Get the idea?

      • Jackson Harris

        Wrong. The B48 engine is LESS efficient in the city, where most people do their driving. It also doesn’t sound anywhere as good as the N18 or N14 engine, and it relies on piping artificial sounds through the stereo to try and boost it’s lacking sound. Not what I would call exciting! It also has been knocked by Autocar, and several other reputable media outlets for it’s less than inspiring power delivery, sound, and overall application. Sorry, I guess you’re an F56 owner and the F56 police.

        • r.burns

          Wrong : I own a R56 S happily completed with a 211hp JCW exhaust, because let’s be honest, the small 1.6L N14/N14 has got no motor sound… today I drive a R53 (with JCW exhaust) and hell that is a motor that has got a soul !!!

  • scamper

    I vote YES. Though I’m taking a break from MINI until they go electric, I’m still a fan from the sidelines. If I come back to MINI, this is the only model (save for a true 2-seater) I’d consider.

    By the way, look at the overhang on that iQ! Oh wait, there isn’t one.

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      Thanks to the engine being in the glovebox ;)

      • http://twitter.com/matthewwanderer Matthew

        A similar layout worked nicely in the Mini, didn’t it?

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          Not like the iQ – the 1.0L is litterally so far back that the passenger sits slightly behind the driver.

    • ulrichd

      “Fan from the sidelines” is a perfect way to describe how I feel about MINI today. Well put.

  • nervous

    I’d like to see a photoshop of that trick looking sunroof with a Mexican flag & a rework of the interior/exterior colors – replace all the blue with green… maybe I could better visualize it.

    • TurbochargedChili

      I’m pissed they got rid of the panoramic sunroof’s rear vent function. I liked the ability to have both vent so people in the rear had an actual working roof to look at and drool over. Lol

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godzilla Soundzilla

    They absolutely need to build a smaller MINI. I really hope this rumor turns into reality. I’d be very interested if they do make the Rocketman a reality. If they built one that was all electric and went 300 miles on a charge, I’d buy it straightway.

    • ulrichd

      I am not an expert but I assume a 300 mile range battery would take up the entire interior of the car.

      • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

        And a trailer.

      • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godzilla Soundzilla

        Obviously, I’m no expert on the size of battery packs. LOL! That must mean the Tesla Model S is largely battery and that they’ll have trouble making a smaller version of that as well. Interesting. I’d probably still buy a Rocketman even if gas-powered, especially if it could rival my JCW in performance but with a smaller footprint.

        • Adam5

          Just to give you an idea of the amount of batteries needed, the Tesla Model S has 7104 battery cells and weighs about 4750lbs. That’s nearly 1000lbs more than the current BMW 5 series at 3700lbs. Or in MINI terms, the 200 bhp MINI E had a 100 mile range supplied by 572lbs of batteries that took the place of the back seat. That’s like loading up the back of your JCW with 12 bags of mulch and a 30lb bag of fertilizer.

      • scamper

        The upcoming Volkswagen e-Golf (the one I have my eye on now) is rumored to have a range of ~115 miles. The Fiat 500e, a smaller car, has a ~87 mile range. These ranges will only get better (and batteries cheaper) as technology improves, and considering economies of scale.

        • Peter Delante

          I’m definitely considering a Golf over the new MINI after driving it today for the first time. My local dealership finally got one in with a manual transmission. I went over there on cloud 9, so excited to slide into the new cockpit and fire up the new 2.0L engine. When I arrived, it was a blazing red S, with black roof. Not sure about that blazing red. It’s a lot more orange than Chili Red. When I slid into the seats, I was confronted by the newly arranged cockpit. To me, I don’t know if I can rave about the ‘improvements’, but it’s definitely different. When I flipped the power switch, I was quite surprised with the noise it made. Instead of a nice low rumble that sounded menacing like my 2012 R56, it was a much more muffled sound. I shrugged that off, and continued to switch into 1st. One thing I was surprised about was the cheap plastic pedals. I can’t believe the S doesn’t have standard aluminum pedals like before. The clutch was much lighter and a little bit shorter. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I noticed how light the steering was. I looked at the screen, and the MA had already toggled over to sport. It felt highly boosted, and very light. As I pulled onto the freeway, I pushed it to the floor. I was caught off guard by the initial lag, and then slowly building boost. I didn’t hear much noise actually coming from in front of me, or from the exhaust pipes. As I went up the on ramp, I actually ended up downshifting, something I wouldn’t ever have done in my car, as 3rd gear always had enough gumption to pull me up to beyond legal speeds, but this new MINI felt restrained. It never had that feeling of my body being pushed back into the seat. One thing I did notice improved, was tire slap and suspension noise. The ride was much cushier. Once up to near 85mph, I shifted to 6th and cruised down the highway for a few exits. While it’s definitely got power, I didn’t notice any improvement. The car felt like a Speed3, in that over 5500RPM, it felt pointless to rev any higher. The engine had a weird nasal sound to it. As I exited off to come back the back way, I downshifted to 3rd, noticing the rev matching, and floored it again to merge with traffic. Again, further disappointment. I had to tell my MA buddy, that unfortunately, the driving experience was about a 3/10. The ride is better, but everything else around me felt slower. The brakes are so hard to push. I thought something could be wrong with the car. I really had to push very hard to get any stopping power. As I pulled back into the dealership, my heart sank. I had just driven my first MINI I didn’t instantly fall in love with. In fact, I was turned off by it. I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could look past the exterior, if it drove oh so good, but it didn’t. I left the dealership with tears in my heart. I officially have no interest in this car, or it’s successor models, unless they change a lot about the car. The new Golf R has my interest peaked. For similar money as a well equipped S, I could have all wheel drive, a piping hot engine, dual injection (no more direct injection carbon worries here), and a better looking vehicle than the F56. I was hoping so much to love this car, but I just couldn’t. I’m hurt.

  • minicooperracer

    The interior of this is a simple refined design and if you have driven the i3 you would notice how close the dash designs are actually. I have always been a fan on the concept however I just do not see them going this route mainly because enthusiasts want it but the sales would likely be slow just like Smart & iQ. Even if they do then I think the clamshell door while cool and the boot/drawer are creative, they would not make it to the car.

    I am not a fan of Ford or Nissan however both of them have designed ultra compact high output motors in the last two years. Nissan having a 400hp 1.5L engine that could fit on your lap shows that BMW/MINI could do same thing.

    I agree that MINI has moved away from its roots in some ways and in concept form I love this but would I want my favorite brand to lose a ton of money knowing the general population would not purchase it? Probably not….

  • KLF23

    If it was done right, a smaller Mini sized MINI would be the only new MINI I’d get. I’ve still got an R50 and I haven’t seen a better design from them since. They need to go smaller. I’m looking forward to seeing the concept, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

    I’d like a back to basics mini MINI – analogue gauges, no iDrive, minimal, focus on the driving. Keep it premium and give it character.

  • lavardera

    I’m thinking the Rocketman can’t even be – won’t it have to have the same overhangs as the other cars now? The overhangs will be as large as the wheelbase.

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      The pedestrian impact standards don’t dictate that there is an overhang. They dictate a certain amout if space between the front of the car and hard points such as the engine. This the Toyota iQ has very little overhang because the engine is in the cowl near the passenger. The Smart also has little overhang because the engine is behind the driver in the floor.

      • lavardera

        Yes, well, I get that. But the engine in the F56 did not end up in the passenger’s lap. Why do we think the Rocketman would?

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          Because BMW would find a suitable platform for a city car.

        • lavardera

          Look – I’m doubtful that we’d see a tiny overhang like this. If it was possible, the F56 could have a smaller overhang. But it does not. How do we suppose the same 1.5l engine in a smaller platform will suddenly have a space to be that does not create the front overhang? It does not really matter if its a toyota platform or a BMW platform – where is this space supposed to come from. And if its possible then why are we looking at such a big overhang on the F56?

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          You’re missing the point that’s being made. A modern city car platform is typically predicated by a reevaluation of engine placement due to these very rules. Thus the requirement for a new platform. Look and the difference between the Toyota Aygo and iQ for instance. If MINI going for a real city car something radical may be called for (like the iQ approach). If not we’ll see something like the Aygo (which in my mind makes less sense).

        • lavardera

          I understand that logic – new class of car, new space considerations, engineer it to fit, and reduce overhang.

          So, why does that same logic not apply to the F56. These rules were in place during the R56 production, before the design of the F56 platform. Why were they not able to engineer that compact car platform to reduce or eliminate the overhang? I understand the small growth in overhang for the R56 – they were working largely on top of the R50/53 platform. But if your line of thinking holds true, then the F56 should have been able to eliminate the overhang and bring the car back in line with the profile of the R50/53.

          Clearly that did not happen. Why would we expect that suddenly it will happen for an even smaller car?

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          Because that approach isn’t required to execute a car if that size…. Yet.

        • ulrichd

          It’s also possible that as a concept study the car may not have been designed to meet the letter of the law when it comes to the latest safety standards. I hope I am wrong as I like the RM as it is.

        • lavardera

          I’d say the results beg that approach is required..

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          The results are sales over the model cycle so I would say we won’t know for another seven years. But given the fact that every other vehicle within this segment is following the same design philosophy I’d say it’s a safe bet.

        • lavardera

          I meant the design results. I don’t expect it to harm sales, but it is the loss of something that made the cars unique. The Golf and other small hatches have long had this deep front overhang – more so because they had the engine rotated into that space. If its solvable on the rocketman, then they could have solved it on the F56.

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          You’re going in circles.

        • BimmerFile_Michael

          Not necessarily true- the drive train requirements may be VERY different in these offerings.

          The other thing to consider is insurance costs and BMW as a group is big on the value of total cost of ownership- they are designing products to keep you safe and not to break the bank when it comes to insuring.

          The technology in the E60 5 series (aluminum bonded) was lost on future generations of cars because of the repair costs and in today’s market consumers look at insurance costs as part of the ownership- If a car is a bunch more to insure than another its sales will hurt.

          The closer the wheels are to the corners the more likely there will be additional damage in a lower speed crash and insurance companies factor that in. That and of course how it does in ratings, meeting the letter of the law etc.

          There is a LOT that must get balanced in a design… It is always a huge compromise and each generation there are even more variables to consider.

          With the use of CFRP and its added strength design will be afforded more influence in future models.

        • lavardera

          Not necessarily true? Aaaaand not necessarily false. But I’ll take your comments as Michael = 1 vote towards Rocketman with deep front overhang. You and Gabe seem to disagree.

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

          Front overhang is not the ONLY consideration that engineers have to take into account when designing THE car (and in this case, an entire platform). You of all people should know that design is always about compromise and prioritization given the work that you do. Even a city car concept, if MINI brings one to market, will not have front overhang as its primary engineering concern. It just won’t. They’ll work to minimize it as much as they can, which they also did on the F56, but in the end, there are other things that have to also be accounted for. Also keep in mind that the overhang on the F56 is really mostly empty space (which is the point of the regulation) and so the whole “wheels at the corners” concept behind Mini and MINI is still there in terms of actual center of mass. Some people don’t like the way it looks, and that’s a separate issue.

        • lavardera

          Nathan, I do understand that there are many factors that go into design of the car. And I know the mass of the car is still within the wheelbase. But given that wheels at four corners was such a strong identity of the marque I do expect that it would be a priority. Apparently it was not.

          Look. You can’t have it both ways. Either its reasonably possible to engineer the overhang down, or its not. If it is possible, as Gabe insists it will be for the Rocketman, then they failed on the F56 to address an obvious challenge. If its not possible to engineer out and the F56 overhang was inevitable, then I say we are likely to see the same situation on the Rocketman.

          Given the track record behind us I’m not sure why anybody would be so optimistic.

        • BimmerFile_Michael

          There may be no overhangs at all thanks to the use of electric hub motors and a rear mounted generator range extending form as this will be alternative propulsion driven. ;)

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

      Depends entirely on where the engine ends up.

  • piper

    The original “Rocketman” concept car is the way to go. The new design looks crumby; like any other Asian microcar. It’s uninspired and dreadfully generic. Don’t build it.

  • Grodie

    Anything would be better looking than the F56. Anders Warming should be beaten for what he did to the MINI.

  • Herr26

    A new Rocketman is not the only thing we are re-imagining. Later you will see a Vision that portrays thinking about the replacement for the MINI Coupe and Roadster. A singular vision that is no longer a MINI in its design form. But forms a direction that offers sportiness , beauty and tradition.


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MINI Model Cheat Sheet

1st Gen MINI
R50: One & MC Hatch
R52: All 1st Gen MINI Convt.
R53: MCS Hatch
2nd Gen MINI
R55: Clubman
R56: Hatch
R57: Convertible
R58: Coupe
R59: Roadster
R60: MINI Crossover
R61: MINI Crossover Coupe
3rd Gen MINI
F54: Clubman
F55: Five Door Hatch
F56: Hatch
F57: Convertible
F60: MINI Crossover
F58: Traveller

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