2019 MINI Preview: The Electric MINI, 300 hp JCWs and Model Refreshes

mini digital display

2019 will be a year dominated by the highly anticipated all electric MINI. But that’s not all the brand has planned for the 2019 calendar year. There are some subtle and not so subtle changes coming to the entire line-up you’ll want to know about.

The 2020 MINI Electric. Think i3 drivetrain shoehorned into the current F56 chassis.
electric mini

The 2020 MINI Electric. Think i3 drivetrain shoehorned into the current F56 chassis.

Electric MINI

Using the i3’s drivetrain, BMW has fast-tracked development of the electric MINI to save on costs and get it to the market quickly. The downside of this strategy is that BMW is essentially fitting a square peg in a round hole by making a ICE chassis accommodate an electric drivetrain and batteries.

MINI Brand boss Peter Schwarzenbauer has spoken openly about the engineering challenges of electrifying the current MINI. Specifically BMW has found it difficult to fit the requisite number of battery cells into the current chassis for an acceptable range. What that range will be is unknown but the current i3 range is only 117 miles on a full change. However the rumored 120 a-h version is expected to see over 200 miles. Could MINI slot that many batteries in the F56 chassis? And even if it does could the heavier steel chassis of the MINI get near what the carbon fiber i3 gets in terms of range? We’ll know shortly.

The look will be toned down dramatically from the concept car (seen above). Instead, the final production car’s design will mix the updated look of the 2018 Mini models with aerodynamic features of the concept.

The Electric MINI will be launched in the second half of the year with sales beginning late in the year.

MINI Hardtop, Four Door & Convertible

2019 hardtop, four door and convertible models all have been revised earlier in 2018 as 2019 models. Those refinements were considered the lightest model refresh in MINI’s history – especially in the US. Part of that blame lies with the WLTP regulations that Europe has imposed as an answer to diesel-gate. It’s required automakers to reengineer powertrains to adhere to higher emission standards. That took a lot of engineers, time and ultimately investment – all things BMW had earmarked for revising the engine range to produce more power. With that gone, MINI only had the DCT as its new drivetrain element. However the cost of homologating that for worldwide markets was also impacted by WLPT costs. The DCT will eventually come the US market sometime likely next year. Our guess would be either for March of July production.

Those changes should hold over the hardtop until it’s redesigned in 2021. The four door should follow six months later. The convertible is currently rumored to be axed entirely but its surprising sales success might have BMW rethinking that strategy.

electric mini

Clubman & Countryman

The Clubman will see its own light LCI later this fall. New headlights and rear Union Jack inspired taillights will be the major additions along with other minor trim updates. MINI’s biggest seller, the Countryman will see a similar LCI in 2020.

The big news is the 300 hp JCW variant (B48A20T1) which we’ve seen testing for several years now. We expect this model to arrive next year as an automatic only. How MINI will position it is yet to be determined. Will it replace the JCW Clubman and JCW Countryman or be marketed as a even faster model? BMW M does with its “Competition” models so there is precedent.

The current Countryman is scheduled to be replaced by an entirely new Countryman in 2024. For the Clubman things are bit more hazy. Sales were strong initially but since then the market has shifted strongly (and sadly) to crossovers. We believe MINI will rethink the Clubman concept ahead of a full redesign in 2023

JCW GP

JCW GP

The heavily rumored JCW GP is on track to be introduced shortly after the all electric MINI. Based on sources we believe we’ll see the GP in the spring of 2020. While it’s likely to be toned down from the concept, we’d expect MINI to up the ante a bit with power. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see that 300 hp All4 drivetrain in a GP? It could mean it would be auto only but it would certainly change the narrative that MINIs are underpowered.

  • Eddie Cosme

    Why do things have to be toned down? I like the look of the concepts.

    • Officially it’s because MINI doesn’t believe an electric MINI needs to scream electric. I believe that it’s more related to cost.

      • Eddie Cosme

        I always get excited by concepts from manufacturers and then tend to be slightly disappointed when the production model arrives. I agree screaming electric isn’t necessary, but keep some of what makes them look cool and unique.

  • MVJCW

    How much could it possibly cost to fix the way the front end looks?

    • Speck

      I agree with this one – I left the Mini brand because of the front end. I just couldn’t get past it. I stop by MF every so often hoping to see some hint that they’ll move back to a more elegant solution. miss the Mini of early 2000’s

      • There are two issues the way I see it. 1 – The overall length of the front end. 2 – The design of the lower portion of the bumper that protrudes (visually reinforcing the overall length).

        The second issue should be relatively easy to fix and I’m frankly shocked that MINI didn’t do it in the LCI. I’m assuming cost was a factor. The first issue is a massive one that every automaker that designs small front wheel drive cars is dealing with. The pedestrian safety standards have dictated a certain amount of volume between the hard points of the car (chassis, engine etc) and the outer bumper. This is intended to allow for deformation and energy absorption in case of a pedestrian impact.

        The effect of these standards have been to either blunt the nose of cars and/or elongate the front overhang. So stringent are these rules that a MINI designer once told me that one of the EU regulations actually defines the angle that left and right corner should have in order to meet these regulations.

        The good news is that MINI’s new head of design has called out the front overhang as something he wants to work on and reduce. How he does this will likely be down to re-packaging mechanicals – something that will require an entirely new chassis. That isn’t coming until 2020/2021.

        • Nick Dawson

          First of the all-new fourth generation MINI range not due to go on sale until 2023.

        • Not saying you’re wrong but that’s been contradicted by several sources recently. How sure are you of that?

        • Nick Dawson

          Well, CAR Magazine this month, is reporting that it has been working its sources in Beijing to spill the beans on the rumored standalone pure MINI EV, which BMW and China’s GWM have agreed to co-develop – and which is said to be about the same size as the concept Rocketman.

          In the same article, CAR reckons that the current MINI 2/4 Door Hardtop will be replaced in 2021/22, the Countryman in 2023 and the Clubman in 2024, and that all will use the next-generation UKL architecture.

          This, however, is at odds with Georg Kacher’s sources, reported last January, that BMW has ruled out using the next generation UKL architecture on cost grounds, and that the fourth generation MINI will be all-electric and underpinned by the all-electric platform being co-developed by BMW and GWM.

          If I had to lay bets right now, I would choose Georg Kacher’s sources as likely being the most accurate. https://www.automobilemag.com/news/bmw-regroups-again/

        • Michael Lehnert

          Current BMW c-suite thinking (praying) is that mainstream adoption of EVs in developed economies outside China will not occur prior to 2022, and that they can therefore stretch the lifecycle of the “F56 era” MINIs plus BMW cars on UKL1/2 out for as long as economically possible. There is no firm decision on how long this stretch will have to last, but to announce now that especially the F56 will have its lifecycle extended beyond the original expiry date would not bode well with financial markets at a time when capitalization is key to keep R&D activities going. By now, one should read any such “sources” as seeds by corporate comms rather than factual statements. Georg Kacher contradicts most of his January ‘AutoMag’ piece hyperlinked elsewhere here in his August print-only column for Munich’s newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. Besides, while his flamboyant impresario style got a new lease of life since he started syndication in English, most of Kacher’s “forecasts” were proven incorrect by the course of time. Just read through his 40 years of back catalogue. Critical analysis is not his “métier”, but he’s great fun to read and dream.

          Aside from product decisions, there are also location issues, chiefly relating to the current threat for the international viability of Spartanburg (US) and Oxford (or rather: Hams Hall and Swindon). BMW’s unusally swift decision last month to build a new US$1.2bn plant in Debrecen (HU/EU) is a contingency measure to mediate risk. Debrecen is designed to operate with the new Konvergenz-Plattform that would ideally replace UKL and CLAR by 2023 – depending how quickly R&D can deliver on this. VW Group chose the same approach (and race against “Tesla/China time”) with the PPE/PPC converged platforms replacing their modular toolkits, giving up on brand-distinct underpinnings across the Group (including Porsche).

          Re-designing the MINI F56 front end without ditching UKL is indeed not economically viable. Oliver Hellmer’s comment about re-designing the front end “in the future” should be read in the context of deciding on lifecycle timeframes and new platform readiness. Also: he knows well that VW Group was able to design the smaller VW up!, Škoda Citigo and Seat Mii cars – and electrify them – without resorting to talk about EU regulations about side-angularity impact zones. The startled “blow job” facial expression of the F56 front is an internal BMW design issue, not one of regulations “forcing the hand” of designers.

          Like most Europe-based OEMs, BMW realizes they have lost their R&D lead in battery tech and electric propulsion solutions to Chinese corporations, and even key mid and senior leadership talent to Chinese start-ups. The EU’s European Battery Alliance is an attempt to counter this strategic threat, and we will see how this pans out.

          In the Great Wall and BMW coop, it would be good not to assume that the roles are that BMW brings in all the automotive expertise, and Great Wall is the cheap-labour supplicant and joint-venture pre-requisite. Like most Chinese OEMs, Great Wall is a pretty serious player that is improving at an astounding pace. The R&D starting points (and I do mean ‘starting point’) for the MINI METRO lines are the Great Wall ORA R1, which was designed at GW’s Yokohama Design Centre in Japan, and its bigger iQ5. We are looking at a 37 kWh battery and 120 kW motor to start with, and see where we go. Funnily enough, architecture mock-ups for the new ORA dealership network sites – launching across China in Q3/2019 – even feature MINI-shaped small cars in the showrooms.

  • Jamez

    I can’t see why they’re not able to continue with the MINI-e’s styling to match the concept. The grille and wheels have been approved (wheels sighted on a mule). The front bumper lines match up and could be a fascia replacement, the side skirts I suppose are the most difficult part. It’s pretty clear the mirrors and boot won’t match the concept.

    Either way, I hope to get mine silver with body matching arches, solid roof with the yellow & white gradient.

    Join the journey to the first MINI-e in Canada at: http://www.facebook.com/groups/MINIelectric

  • Steven Strain

    You know would be great in addition to the normal battery is if they just had like a big plug-in portable battery, maybe like the size of a briefcase that you can remove and charge, maybe you can get two of them and swap them so you always have a full charged one. So if I need that extra range I can just put that in the trunk and plug it in to augment the installed batteries? I wonder if anyone has done this?

    • b-

      Why? Range anxiety is why. People don’t have range anxiety in an IC automobile because gas stations are EVERYWHERE but what happens if you need to make an unexpected detour? If you didn’t charge your suitcase battery or you forgot to lug it into the car. As it stands with IC cars it is said you shouldn’t drive around with extra weight in your car as it makes it less efficient, why add a suitcase battery to your car daily for a bit of extra range when they can build a car with enough range for the average person.

      • Steven Strain

        It could be sold as an accessory item, not for everybody.

        Like a brick battery for a phone.

        It could be a workaround for this Mini, as mentioned it probably will be suboptimal as it really was never designed to be electric originally.

        Also, if you can’t find a charging station on road trip, it might be easier to be able to take a briefcase battery into the hotel room with and plug it into the wall?