2011 is the start of an all-out product offensive for MINI. With efficiency regulations going up around the world, and the need for more economies of scale, BMW intends to leverage the MINI brand by moving it into new areas and expanding currently offerings. While the heritage of performance won’t go away, MINI will focus on making their cars lighter and more economical along with offering more varieties meant to appeal to a larger market.
The R60 Countryman
This offensive starts at the Detroit Auto Show with the introduction of the Beachcomber concept. As we’ve reported on MF, the concept is a lightly disguised R60 Countryman with the final production version making it’s debut in early March. Sales in Europe are expected to start in the fall of 2010 with North American sales beginning in early 2011 (the same time BMW’s X1 debuts in the US).
The R56 Refresh
Also publicly debuting at Geneva will the long awaited and highly anticipated R56 refresh. As you likely have read previously on MF, MINI intends to use this refresh not only to update the exterior but also refine some interior design and materials. Yes, the radio controls and the heating and cooling interface will be refined and in some cases rethought. Additionally MINI will introduce some upgraded materials and subtle design changes meant to eliminate many of the complaints owners have had over the years. Or to put it another way, if you look at the top five complaints most MINI owners have, then you have an idea of what will be worked over in this refresh.
As we saw with the 2005 update to the R50/R53, MINI will also be introducing some new interior trim colors and potentially some dash options.
Outside things are a little more subtle. According to sources MINI will be updating the now signature xenon lights and refining the standard halogen units as well. The rear lights will get a mild nip and tuck but donâ€™t expect anything too major until the next generation. However more obviously will be the updated (and according to a couple sources) more aggressive front and rear facia on the Cooper S. The Cooper will see similar updates but weâ€™re told to expect a more classic look there. Also on the exterior look for new colors and new wheel designs to round out the changes.
The CoupÃ© and Roadster
The MINI CoupÃ© and Roadster are scheduled go into prototype production at Oxford this June with testing to be carried out throughout the remainder of 2010. MINI intends to debut the cars in early 2011 with Cooper and Cooper S models being available at launch and a JCW model following closely afterwards. We’ve also heard a few rumors that the CoupÃ© may form the basis of a special edition model in the years ahead. We’ll have more on that later.
The Four Door MINI (aka the MINI SpaceBox)
It’s difficult to even know what to call this next concept. We initially heard about it as MINI’s GTI fighter. A better description would be a R60 without the Crossover pretense. Yes this is the concept many here have been talking about and is internally known as the MINI SpaceBox. So serious are MINI about this project that we’ve also been told it’s taken on on official project code-number, R65.
In our minds this is the car that could expand the brand in ways that no other model (save for the standard hatchback) has up until now. If priced right, we could see this size and shape appealing to potential customers around the world better than almost anything MINI currently sells.
The 2013 MINI
Combine everything above and it won’t come close to the importance of what is next on the horizon at MINI. 2013 will mark the debut of the next generation MINI hatchback that will form the basis for almost every new model going forward. To coincide with the work currently underway on the car and to hint at future design and engineering directions, MINI will release a new concept. The car will feature not only a new look but also showcase the fruits of BMW’s joint venture with carbon fiber specialist SGL. That means look for the concept to include load of weight savings carbon fiber in major areas.
Yes the image above is a fake we outed last summer, but we believe it illustrates how seriously MINI may be moving the design language with this car. While past revisions have been quite subtle, the 2013 could be seen as an opportunity for MINI to progress the design form in new ways that we haven’t seen before.
The concept’s debut is still a moving target but we expect something in the later half of 2010.