MF Exclusive: Since the beginning of the decade, BMW has been studying additional MINI model configurations and how they would fit within the brand. The first (and most obvious choice) was the convertible that debuted in 2004. Next will be the return of the Clubman moniker (but in classic Traveller form) as an extended three door MINI.

While these first two additional models could be considered playing it safe, the third will be anything but. We’ve heard rumors as early as last January of an additional MINI model that will stretch the MINI brand and grow the potential buying pool. In the past, rumors have ranged from an AWD MINI with more space and aggressive looks to a MINI roadster based on the BMW 1 Series built somewhere outside of England.

Now, with the Clubman’s development winding down and the R57 next generation MINI convertible getting closer to a late 2008 introduction, BMW is looking ahead to the next and most un-MINI-like addition to the range. And its the current, internal only name, of the proposed vehicle that should give us some clues as to its final design: the Colorado.

Our sources are telling us that BMW is currently looking at making the Colorado (almost surely to be tagged internally as the R58 when finalized) an all-wheel drive vehicle that sits higher and can be used for light off-roading without sacrificing much of the typical MINI performance.

However with MINIs continuing to sell well globally, there is a lack of space to take on this proposed new model at the Oxford plant in the UK. And with BMW’s German facilities at full capacity, our sources tell us that there are two choices currently on the table: BMW’s extremely versatile plant in Spartanburg South Carolina or Magna Steyr, the Austrian company that BMW outsources X3 production to.

Another issue is engineering and design. This may come as a shocker, but BMW is considering not basing the Colorado on the current MINI platform. Instead it could use a new small BMW platform intended for a small SUV based on the 1 Series. If BMW goes down this path, expect the Colorado/R58 to usher in a new and potentially exciting time for the brand, where more is possible than just a simple two-door hatch. You can also expect quite an uproar from some MINI faithful (as evidenced surely by comments below).

It may be worth reiterating that the Colorado name is purely an internal name at the moment and not meant for producion. Especially with Chevy currently using the name for it’s small truck in the US market. Instead our money is on the classic Moke name.

We’ll have more on the Colorado in the coming months.