We’ve been talking a lot about the upcoming all electric MINI offerings (the Cooper, Aceman and Countryman EV) but MINI isn’t letting go of internal combustion engines (ICE) yet. In an unprecedented move there will be two next generation MINI Coopers (hatches) built on opposite ends of the planet on two different platforms. This move will allow MINI to offer innovative electric offerings while still selling to the traditional ICE market for as long as possible.
A revised F56 MINI will form the basis of the “new” ICE MINI Cooper and will be built at the Oxford plant. We use the word “new” carefully because this will be an extensively revised F56 and not just a refresh focused mostly on design but the actual structure of the car.
Recently Autocar got their hands on some spy photos of the forthcoming revised F56 and what it shows is a heavily clad JCW model with some clues as to what to expect. For starters MINI looks to have slightly decreased the front over-hang. We’ve heard for years the brand had been toying with new crash materials that could pass pedestrian safety standards with less space needed. We also know that Oliver Heimler has gone as record several times that the current car’s front overhang is too large and not in fitting with the brand.
Massive Upgrade in Technology
Elsewhere we can clearly see a camera and sensor module integrated into the top of the grille allowing this next generation of F56 MINIs to make use of L1 and perhaps even L2 autonomy features seen on some BMWs. Currently MINI has only one vaguely autonomous feature – adaptive cruise. While helpful it really does one thing – follow the car in front. MINI’s aim is to introduce this technology as an option meant primarily for highway purposes and likely only on automatic equipped MINIs.
BMW’s current Active Driving Assistant Pro (optional on most mid-sized to larger BMWs) allows for Level 2+ below 81 MPH for 2023 models. That means you can take your hands off the wheel entirely as long as your eyes are on the road. The car will stop, go, turn and even change lanes on command. When that hits MINI models is yet to be seen but there’s no question it will eventually come.
But perhaps the most pressing reason for MINI to upgrade the Cooper’s camera system is newly introduced EU safety legislation that goes into affect in 2024. More specifically MINI needs to comply with the intelligent speed assistance (ISA) requirement that has the ability to limit cars speed in urban environments. Yes you read that right.
Yes that is a massive circular screen and it will be present on all next generation MINIs. What you see above is the screen sitting camouflaged plastic enclosure. The final version will allow the screen to float similar to what we saw a few months ago on the upcoming 2024 MINI electric hatch.
Beyond the massive screen there’s a lot to take in here. The switches and knobs (which are actually marked) are also identical to what we saw in the electric hatch leak meaning that MINI is moving to a consistent user experience across all models no matter where they’re produced or what platform they’re on. The automatic transmission gear lever is now going to be on the dash and next to it the return of a twist to start rather than a button. From there MINI will have it’s “experiences” toggle (more to come on that) and volume knob.
How much of a refresh?
Most don’t realize that the 2007 R56 was a major refresh of the previous generation R50/R53 chassis. Will we see similar radical refresh of the F56? Likely not for two reasons. MINI is intending to keep the current engine line-up and refine them to meet tightening emissions standards. So no new engines but likely different tunes. MINI also doesn’t need to fix any significant issues like they did on the R50 which was never engineered to BMW quality standards. While this will be a heavy refresh, we believe that the changes we’ll see on this refresh/next generation F56 will be focused on design and technology with important tweaks to performance.
The petrol powered range will use an evolution of the current B48 engine range with mild-hybrid added to decrease CO2 and add performance. As we detailed in our recent preview of the next generation MINI Countryman, every petrol powered engine is a revision of an existing one. So things will look familiar but we believe numbers might rise slightly. The 1.5 three cylinder could use a more powerful BMW tune that would see it rise to 137 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque. Then there’s a series of 2.0 four cylinder that could also use various BMW tunes; 170 hp and 206 ft-lbs and 218 hp and 265 ft-lbs.
Most petrol engines will get a 48 volt mild hybrid system and will be mated to a revised 7-speed dual clutch with an all new gear selector design. The manual transmission’s days may be numbered but we believe it will stick around in a couple trim levels on the new F56 through the end of the decade.
When Will the Refreshed Next Generation MINI Cooper Launch?
With the test mules progressing quickly, we believe we’ll see the refreshed F56 (likely not to be called the F56) sometime in late 2023 or early 2024. We’d expect a tiered launch starting with the Cooper and Cooper S, followed by a JCW model. This will all happen in the shadow of the entirely new and all electric MINI Cooper built in China and meant primarily for Asia and Europe. We’ll have more on that car and MINI’s plan to get it to the US soon.