MINI is Exploring New Body Styles and A More Modern Approach for Future Models

In a fairly big about face, we’re now hearing that MINI is exploring new body styles for future models. Perhaps even more interesting, MINI also intends on being more bold with future designs and will even be working to reduce that massive front overhang.

The news comes directly from the brand’s new design director Oliver Heilmer who sat down with Autocar for a brief interview this week.

Currently on his plate is MINI’s first mass market elelctric car which is currently in the process of finished. The F56 based electric MINI hatch which will include some distinctive color treatments and wheels but will retain most of the F56 look.

After that Heilmer’s team will shift to the next generation MINI where quite a lot is on the table. The team intends to investigate new models beyond the five so-called ‘superheroes’ that make-up today’s range. The first of those cars should come to market around 2021 in the form of the iconic MINI hatch. What follows that could be totally up in the air.

According to Autocar, Heilmer believes it is vital to explore other options: “I’m not saying it’s wrong, but it’s good to ask if it’s going to last.”

Interestingly Heilmer was on the team (along with Frank Stephenson) that helped produce the virtual body variations displayed at several MINI press events over the years. For this exploration, Heilmer plans to use the same thought process that created the original 1959 Mini.

From Autocar:

“The first Mini was built out of a need. I would like to understand what the needs in the next five to six years will be. We want to look at customers who are 13, 14, 15 years old now. What is their aesthetic approach? It’s obviously influenced by smartphones. But if we understand it right, we can bring this into the future.”

According to the interview Heilmer doesn’t plan to abandon Mini’s distinctive design features, such as the floating roof and wheel-at each-corner stance. Although he agrees these can be “limiting and challenging”, he said: “I love to deal with that challenge. You need to be experimental but can’t lose what it is.”

What of that front overhang? Apparently Heilmer is no fan and will try to reduce it as much as possible.

In the eater term his team is finalizing the F56 based MINI electric hatch and making adjustments to the aerodynamic sills and air curtains seen on the concept. “We’ve got to see if it works. It doesn’t work on all cars,” he added.

While he wouldn’t admit that the GP has been approved (our sources say it has) he did mention that the GP runs a much wider track than a stock MINI and that they’re testing the fertile vane wing extensions to see how realistic they are.

So to some it up a fresh approach to MINI design (with new body styles), less of a front overhang and a GP that could be almost as aggressive as the concept. MINI’s new design boss sounds like our kind of guy.

What do you think? What body styles would you like MINI to explore? Which if any could the brand afford to lose? Let us know below.

  • John T. Feret

    Convertible electric, please! I’d prefer a hybrid with a small displacement gas engine to charge the battery until they improve battery tech to the point where you can drive over 500 miles without a charge, but know how that adds a LOT of weight.

  • SS56

    “We want to look at customers who are 13, 14, 15 years old now.”

    I don’t understand this statement at all. Twentysomethings are not buying Minis. Forty and fifty somethings are so they need to look at late 20 and 30 year olds for future buyers.

    For me I’d want a real wagon. Take a clubman and stretch it 24 inches and also offer hp north of 300. Something the size of an old Subaru Legacy wagon.

    • Outside of the US the average age of MINI buyers is much lower than the US.

      On the wagon topic – BMW already makes that. It’s the 330i xDrive. With the sport package it’s an incredible vehicle that won’t be offered in the US much longer (sadly).

      • SS56

        This is true but if well optioned Msport, tech, etc you are looking at $55,000. I’d like Mini’s style and lower price.

        Then again I’d take a manual, wagon version of a V-8 Camaro but then I’m in a very very small minority that would.

      • r_k_w
        Outside of the US the average age of MINI buyers is much lower than the US.

        Because lower price models (MINI One, etc) are sold outside the US.

      • Amy McKenna

        Not 100% correct. The Australian and New Zealand markets are also dominated by the 40 – 50 year olds.

        • Reuben Herries

          MINI is sold as a luxury car, premium. And that market is not where the younger generation operate. More poor thinking by the non-car people running things

  • Mr Remi

    I love the idea of design fit for function. Yes, please.

    Reducing the front overhang would be terrific. Am delighted to hear that issue named directly.

    Looking long term, I can’t wait for electric engine technology to become a dominant part of the MINI lineup.

    The disappearance of engine noise played through the sound system and manual transmission options can’t come soon enough, IMO.

    • ulrichd

      Yes, yes, yes on the front overhang issue. The side view proportions of the F56 are horrid. Part of the problem is the underlying X1 chassis. If BMW has to modify it for the MINI, there go the cost savings.

      • Eric

        Design already fits (safety) function 😉

        • ulrichd

          Design is visual problem solving. The F56’s overhang/nose is out of proportion. Solve the problem with good design, keeping safety in mind.

      • Nick Dawson

        The F56 of course, uses the UKL1 platform, shared with the F57 Convertible and F55 4-door. The X1 uses the longer and wider UKL2 platform shared with 2-Series Active Tourer and a Grand Tourer, the F60 Countryman, F54 Clubman, the soon to be launched X2, and later next year the all new 1-Series Hatchback, and in China the forthcoming 1-Series 4-door Sedan.

        The engine mass under the bonnet (hood) of the F56 is what causes damage when it comes into contact with pedestrians, and so the extra length in the frontal overhang of the F55/56/57 provides a ‘soft’ airspace designed to absorb the impact. Overcoming that is an engineering challenge.

        The MINI Cooper E, on the other hand, has no frontal engine mass, only a rear electric motor. Technically, it should be possible to reduce the frontal overhang on the E without sacrificing pedestrian safety.

        • Greg

          So it’s gonna be RWD?

        • Nick Dawson

          Well spotted. BMW has publicly stated that the development cost for the MINI E is in the “tens of thousands”, which is a tiny budget, so the assumption is that the already tried and tested E technology will be lifted from the i3, but with the benefit of the next generation Samsung 125-Ah “low-height pack” battery cells

    • You want the manual transmission option to disappear altogether???

      • Mr Remi

        Yes, I can’t wait for manual transmission to disappear.

        Modern technology makes manual transmission the antithesis of fit for function.

        Once upon a time the die-hards clamoured that the horse and buggy was far more engaging a driver experience then those new fangled automobiles.

        • That’s unfortunate. Do you dislike driving engagement or do you not care for MINI to offer choices for people who like added driver engagement when behind the wheel? Choice is good.

        • Mr Remi

          I love driver engagement. I just don’t believe driving will be less engaging in 10 years because there are no manual transmissions left. It will just change.

          (That said, if it’s all autonomous vehicles in the future, then I suppose driver engagement will be something we tell our grandchildren about and they wrinkle their noses at.)

          I love that MINI provides options. But choice is expensive.

          IMO, when the die-hard’s clamour for access to obsolete tech, it slows down progress. Plenty of antiques out there for those who are into that sort of thing.

          (And I recognize that I’m probably in the extreme minority on this topic when it comes to this site’s visitors.)

  • Greg

    -Floating roof with actual all-around view (streamline those pillars to take up less of the view angles) -Drop the double doors for the trunk of the Clubman, or make them have no frame in the middle so that the rear view is less obstructed -LEDs everywhere, they’re cheap now, no need for anything incandescent anymore, they’re also easier to integrate into any kind of crazy design -Electric city car as short as the R50 -Electric wagon with ALL4 longer than Clubman, Clubman is Golf length, make a variant Golf Sportwagen length -Less overhang of course -Autopilot, because Tesla’s can, and they’re gonna eat your electric lunch if you don’t. I will buy a car that has autopilot as soon as I can, because I love driving, and there is a whole lot of driving that isn’t fun, that robots can do when I’m bored.

  • and will even be working to reduce that massive front overhang

    How exactly? We’ve been told many times pedestrian crash regulations were the reason for the increased overhang.

    • Re-arranging hardpoints internally will help. Or using different materials etc.

  • Nick Dawson

    The R58 Coupe, R59 Roadster and R61 Paceman were all commercial flops, and BMW will be very wary of making the same mistakes. No one was more critical of the Paceman than I was but, nonetheless, a properly designed F61 Paceman with its own unique identity would be a very attractive proposition.

    I say that, because earlier this month, spy shots of a virtually undisguised BMW X2 were revealed by CAR magazine – see attached. The X2 is based on the same UKL2 platform that also underpins the X1, 2-Series AT, Clubman and Countryman.

    Essentially, a new Paceman would need four doors, a more sporting profile but retaining the same ride height and high seating position of the Countryman, and offer a Hybrid version. Such cars are now the new Sports Cars, and the world seemingly can’t get enough of them.https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f905b29fa74e35bc144834ee8f96feb1fb6fdd95a46bc9b899f33d9261269056.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/74c1644556530d914d9de94034e7cf487caa464c168f948c03b6cba9063a8572.jpg

    • A four door F61 Paceman was on the drawing board but MIJI didn’t think there was enough space between the Clubman and the Countryman.

      • Nick Dawson

        Yes I know, but that was part of the ‘Superhero’ culture, and before the ‘Regime’ change. The F54 Clubman got off to a flying start, but has tailed-off since the launch of the F60 Countryman.

        The biggest drawback with the Clubman is that it is so darned low, and one has to get down into it. Hoping in and out of a Golf or Focus, for example, is so much more comfortable.

        • Greg

          I find getting in and out to be more comfortable when the actual opening height is bigger not the absolute height of the seat. The way that the opening is smaller on the 5-door hatch than the regular hatch because the seat is higher, is way more uncomfortable than the low seating height of the regular hatch.

  • Ashley Wilson

    That Gran Turismo shooting brake concept looks amaaaaaazing.