AutoExpress has more details about the upcoming changes to the MINI. Here's an excerpt:
“It looks as though we're in for a real adventure in 2004! Exclusive images in the current issue of Auto Express magazine show the first glimpse of the forthcoming facelifted MINI, which promises to be even more fun than its cheeky predecessor when it's unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show next March.
Having been careful to pen a suitable 21st century successor to the original Mini, it seems parent company BMW has played it safe and left the styling virtually untouched for the next-generation model. But that doesn't mean there won't be significant refinements to the design.
A new front bumper has been fitted to direct more air to the engine, and the gaping inlet on the bonnet for the supercharger reveals this car's identity as a Cooper S.
What's more, lower side skirts help give the hatchback a more aggressive stance. Engineers and test drivers are concentrating on correcting the MINI's few faults and adding even more spice to the car's lively handling. This prototype has a test rig on the tailgate that lets experts feel the effect of different rear downforce rates by making fine adjustments to the roof spoiler.
One of our main complaints about the current MINI is the firm ride, so the unforgiving 18-inch wheels fitted to this model are testing the ability of a new suspension set-up. They also make the car look sportier in flagship S guise.
The current MINI is a top seller in the UK, and the Cooper S Works edition scooped the prestigious Auto Ex-press Greatest Drives 2003 award, so there are high hopes that the revised version will capitalise on that success.
Company insiders have already hinted that a mighty 300bhp edition could be in the pipeline as a supercar-baiting flagship prepared by the officially endorsed tuning firm, John Cooper Works in West Sussex. Details of changes to trim levels and prices remain a secret, but the retro-style cabin is expected to feature a number of revisions.
Redesigned front seats will provide more lateral support, while the recline and fold mechanism will be easier to use. The dials on the dash are set to make way for chronometer-type gauges similar to those in the Lexus IS200.”
Wow. This looks to be a real improvement over the current car – more so than just a simple facelift. If MINI can pull off the elimination of some of the current cars faults while increasing performance and the quality of the interior they would have done a spectacular job of a mid-life model refresh. That being said the current form of the MINI was finished in 2000 so they have had almost four years to contemplate these improvements.