It’s almost hard to believe but MINI’s product onslaught will continue unabated after the Countryman, Coupe and Roadster launches over the next 18 months. What’s next? If you believe L’ Automobile and Auto Express it will be a shortened version of the current MINI hatch meant to go toe to toe with city cars such as the smart by 2012.

The car’s key attribute will be not only size (and less weight) but also efficiency. We expect the highly anticipated 1.5 liter 3 cylinder engine to make it’s MINI debut in the new city car. With every ounce of technology at the disposal of BMW we expect this 3 cylinder to get around 48 mpg on the highway in the US cycle.

But will it every come to the US? We expect it ultimately will thanks to the aggressive EPA averages each automaker must achieve in the coming years.

The car has several working titles and code-names. However the one we keep hearing over and over is “MIN-i”. There’s a chance it may change but don’t be surprised if we see that name in the future.

It’s worth noting that our sources are telling us the L’Automobile image (above) is quite a bit more realistic than the Auto Express image see here.

For those reading MF over the past years this news isn’t entirely new. We’ve reported on MINI working on asecret city car for a number of years. But until just this year the project was shrouded in strict secrecy. It’s only now that product plans are underway that we’re starting to hear more details.

Look for further news in the coming months.