looks to have caught the next generation MINI undergoing cold weather testing in northern Finland. In the photos (including the one above also from Autoelegraaf) we can now clearly see a new, larger grille, slightly longer front overhang, and taller bonnet housing what are most likely the new 1.6L engines detailed on MotoringFile last month. While this is still purely a prototype I would guess the overall form seen here is very close to what will eventually be seen on the final car. You can check out more (including a few larger photos) here… if you read Dutch. Or you can check out our very own translation (Thanks Mike!):

BMW has with the MINI, for the moment, a real sales-topper. The current MINI is built in the English Oxford at around 180,000 units per year, and they are going like the proverbial ‘warm sandwiches’ over the counter [i think we could safely translate as ‘hotcakes’ in english 😉 mike]. But there must always be followers, and BMW is busy with that as well. We snapped the MINI-follower [next MINI], that will probably make its debut in 2007, in the high northern parts of the Finnish Lapland, nearby Ivalo.

What do you do as a BMW tech, when just next to the hotel where you are messing around with all your new prototypes lands a whole procession of curious journalists? Well, then you’re not too happy, and our encounter with the BMW delegation had a somewhat grim tone. We were in the neighborhood by chance, because the Volvo XC90 V8 was able to be ridden on snow and ice, but when you then see so many new BMW’s and MINI’s (there were also 3-series, 6-series, Z4’s, and 5-series models in the BMW group), then your curiosity is of course piqued. Moreover, it’s our opinion of the MINI photographed here that it’s merely a prototype with a modified front portion. The new 1.6 liter motor, developed together with PSA, was under the hood (at the same time there was also a Citroen C3 with the same motor being tested), and it was very clear to see that this car has a higher grill than the current MINI and that the headlights no longer sit connected to the hood, but simply are on the main vehicle body.

After taking a few photos from our end, the BMW members got a bit too fed up, and we were rather curtly accused of ‘impoliteness’. At which point one of the gentlemen kindly let us know that he could be “auch unhofflich” [German meaning “also impolite” a threat by BMW member, note it should actually be spelled unhoflich [mike]. Whether that was intended as a threat we will leave up to you, but the fact remains that the BMW folks are going to have a big problem of a non-technical nature: lots of curious journalist eyes, because the Volvo-happening with the XC90 V8 is lasting a whole month and we won’t be the only ones showing an interest in the new MINI.