End of Days of Classic Mini
The Classic Mini, produced from 1959 to 2000, meant to become a British Car Icon but during the last decades of its history the sales were too slow. During the 80’s the sales started to drop due to the arrive of Metro, another model from Austin Rover, the company that also produced Mini that time, together with numerous vehicles, which were more modern and practical.
During the ’90s the pressure for Rover, the company that produced Mini that time, was higher than ever to make radical changes to Mini, as it was too hard for the A-Series Engine to pass the forthcoming EC emissions regulation, also the drive-by noise ratings and was too expensive to be produced. Passive safety was also a concern for the buyers of the Mini, although EuroNCAP crash tests and airbags came a few years later. Finally, the production of the Mini would be considered as exceptionally intensive and it practically was hand-build, which wasn’t so efficient, as new production methods appeared in the meantime.
After several rebrands, merges and sales of the brands that produced the Mini, the car, within the Rover Group and under the ownership from British Aerospace (BAe), was sold together with the rest of the group to BMW Group in 1994. BMW recognized the potential of the Mini, envisioning that it could turn to a new Brand of its own. The development of the New Mini started one year later, and after 41 years production, the production line of the Classic Mini stopped permanently in 2000.
A New Era Begins
As soon as BMW acquired the Mini within the Rover Group, the company started to work on a small city car project. The development was conducted between 1995 and 2001 by both Rover Group and BMW. The Design Team from Rover Group intended an economical small car creating the Spiritual and Spiritual Too concepts.
The BMW Team came across a different concept, with a small sporting car, created from BMW’s advanced studio in California, as a project named E50. The leader of this design team would be Frank Stephenson.
The BMW decided to proceed with the E50 concept and developed it until 1996, when it was given to Rover Group for finalisation and therefore it became R50 (R standing for Rover Group). During 2000, as BMW divested itself of Rover Group, it was decided to retain the project of the New Mini and to moved the planned production site from Rover’s Longbridge plant to BMW’s Oxford plant. The final full-sized clay mock-up was build in 2001 by the design team and during the presentation to the board the model was accepted for production. The size of the new car would be much larger than the original Mini, measuring 142in long by 76in wide by 55in high and also much heavier reaching the 2,293lb.
According to Alex Moulton, the engineer of the suspension system of the first Mini, the New MINI:
‘It’s enormous – the original Mini was the best packaged car of all time – this is an example of how not to do it… it’s huge on the outside and weighs the same as an Austin Maxi. The crash protection has been taken too far. I mean, what do you want, an armoured car? It is an irrelevance in so far as it has no part in the Mini story.’
The Mini becomes MINI
The official launch of MINI was in Paris Motor Show in 2000 with the full production of the car started in the autumn of 2001 at the Oxford plant. Although the cars was under the BMW Group during the development and the production, the new Brand MINI (with all capital letters) was introduced during the launch of the car, as BMW was not willing to sell a front-wheel drive car of that size under the BMW brand.
As soon as the MINI was on sale in July 2001, the BMW decided to go for a trendy, forward-looking, youthful image of the car. The design of the showrooms was full of accessories for the new car and scale as toys, proves this approach. The target group was the young people, or the people that wanted to look young, and a playful mood from the ’60s emerged.
The entry-level prices started from £10,000 and the standard featured included power-assisted steering, four-wheel-disc brakes, four airbags, anti-lock brakes, central locking, electric window lifts and a factory implemented security system. Despite that fact, both the air-conditioning and the leather trim were optional.
As for the driving behaviour, according to the Autocar Magazine after testing the MINI Cooper in May 2001 would say:
‘Far more interesting than the engine is the MINI’s chassis, especially its ability to involve you in the action and even let you alter your cornering line using both throttle and steering. Yes, there’s a hint of lift-off oversteer in extremis, but mostly there’s so much grip that the only slip you’re likely to encounter will be mild and at the front axle if you push really hard through a tight corner. This is a car you aim through corners confident that you’re going to clip a blade of grass.’
The Product Range
Two Marks of MINIs have been launched since 2001. The Mark I appeared between 2001 and 2006, while the Mark II exist from then until now. After the launch of MINI Mark II several new models were introduced. All the major models will be presented in a chronological order.
2001 – 2006
MINI One / MINI One/D / MINI Cooper / MINI Cooper ‘S’ (Mark I)
All of them were basically the same model with different engines. MINI One was the standard version with engine option 1.4L Tritec I4 and 1.6L Tritec I4. MINI One/D came with a 1.4L 1ND-TV diesel engine. MINI Cooper and Cooper ‘S’ continued the legend of the Cooper name for faster cars and they were equipped with a 1.6L Tritec I4 and a 1.6L Tritec supercharged I4 engines accordingly. The most obvious visible differences between the models were the distinctive scoop cut into the bonnet of the Cooper ‘S’ version and the twin exhausts in centre of the rear valance. The non-‘S’ Cooper had a single exhaust and more use of chrome in parts than MINI One. Finally, MINI One D didn’t have any visible exhaust pipes.
2004 – 2008
MINI Convertible (Mark I)
The convertible version of the MINI Mark I was introduced at International Geneva Motor Show in 2004. It was a soft-top version of the hatchback and used the same engines. It came also as in Cooper and Cooper ‘S’ versions. It was excluded from the Driving Standards Agency, as a examining vehicle, due to poor visibility backwards
2007 – Present
MINI One / MINI First / Mini Cooper / MINI Cooper ‘S’ (Mark II)
The Mark II of MINI looks familiar to the Mark I but it features several changes. Firstly, it is 2.4in longer to meet new safety requirement. Also the headlights are positioned to the front quarter panels, whereas in the Mark I model they were part of the bonnet. The C-Pillars are not encased in glass and their shape improve aerodynamics. An engine start button also has replaced the conventional ignition key and more Diesel engines are available. MINI First was added in July 2009 with an lower output 1.6L engine of 55kW. The engines that are used until today are the 1.4L Prince I4 engine for the One, the 1.6L Prince/BMW N16 I4 engine for the Cooper, the 1.6L Prince turbo I4 engine for Cooper ‘S’, the 1.6L Peugeot DV6 diesel I4 engine for the Cooper D and One D and finally the 2.0 L BMW N47 diesel I4 (Cooper ‘S’D)
2007 – Present
The MINI Clubman is an estate version of the hatchback MINI Mark II but It is 9.4in longer with longer wheelbase, increasing the leg room for the rear seats and providing 9.2 cubic feet of space. The access to this spaces is via the bi-parting rear doors (marketed as Splitdoor). There also feature a pair of bi-parting side doors (marketed as Clubdoor) on the right side of the car. The engines (both petrol and diesel) and the variations of Cooper and Cooper ‘S’ are the same as the hatchback model.
2009 – Present
MINI Convertible (Mark II)
The MINI Convertible is based on the hatchback model. It comes as a soft-top and the engines available are the same as One, Cooper, Cooper D, Cooper ‘S’, Cooper ‘S’ D.
2010 – Present
MINI Countryman is a compact crossover SUV and it is the first 5-door model under the MINI Brand. It comes both in two- and four-wheel drive (marketed as ALL4) and uses the same engines as the hatchback model. It also has longer wheelbase and higher ground clearance than the MINI Clubman. With total length of 161in and kerb weight 2,789 lb it is the largest and the heavies MINI in production. This fact made Dan Neil to say: “With the Countryman, tiny sharks have been jumped.”, meaning that this model is irrelevant with the ethos of MINI.
2011 – Present
MINI Coupé is the first two-seater MINI. It is based on the MINI Convertible but with only two seats, with bigger baggage space (9.9 cubic ft). The windscreen is angled rearwards by 13 degrees more than in the convertible version and the roof, made from aluminium, is 1.1in lower than the hatchback version. The rear spoiler rises at speed above 50mph. The engines used are the same as Cooper, Cooper ‘S’ and Cooper ‘S’ D (Diesel).
2012 – Today
The MINI Roadster is the convertible version of MINI Coupé. It comes with a soft top roof and the engines used are the same as in Cooper, Cooper ‘S’ and Cooper ‘S’ D (Diesel).
2013 – Present
The MINI Paceman is the 3-door version of the MINI Countryman. It remains a compact SUV available both as two- and four-wheel drive with the same length as MINI Countryman at 161in. The engines are the same as in Cooper, Cooper D, Cooper ‘S’ and Cooper ‘S’ D.
2013 – Present
MINI Clubvan is the commercial version of MINI Clubman, for use as a van with more style. It still features the Clubdoor and the Splitdoor and comes with the MINI One, the MINI Cooper and MINI Cooper D engines.
- Robson, G. (2005) New Mini. 2nd edn. Somerset: Haynes Publishing Comments: A book for the development of MINI and information about the models and the market approach
- Paternie, P. (2002) MINI, St. Paul: Motorbooks Comments: Interesting details about the development of MINI
- Adams, K. (2011) The cars : MINI development history [online] available from http://www.aronline.co.uk/blogs/cars/mini-bmw/mini-2/the-cars-mini-development-history/ [21 October 2013] Comments: Information about the development of the new MINI.
- Michalas, A. (2001) Paris Motorshow 2000: Roundup [online] available from http://www.fantasycars.com/1/News/Paris_Roundup/paris_roundup.html [22 October 2013] Comments: Pictures and comments on the first launch of the MINI in Paris Motor Show in 2000
- Neil, D. (2011) What Part of ‘Mini’ Did You Not Grasp, BMW? [online] available from http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748704615504576172832123217962 [22 October 2013] Comments: Negative comments for MINI Countryman.
- BBC News (2000) End of the Mini [online] available from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/955500.stm [22 October 2013] Comments: Information about the end of production of Classic Mini.
- Gardham, D. (2005) Driving test examiners fail the new Mini convertible [online] available from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1486584/Driving-test-examiners-fail-the-new-Mini-convertible.html [22 October 2013] Comments: MINI Convertible Mark I is excluded from driving tests due to poor visibility backwards.
- Autoevolution (2013) MINI Cooper Cabrio 2004 – Present [online] available from http://www.autoevolution.com/engine/mini-cooper-cabrio-2005-16.html [22 October 2013] Comments: Details for the MINI Convertible Mark I
- MiniWorld, Interview from Alex Moulton [online] available from http://www.mgfcar.de/hydragas/moulton.htm [22 October 2013] Comments: An interview from Alex Moulton, and the negative comments about the New MINI.
- Serious Wheels, John Filiss (2013) Serious Wheels [online] available from http://www.seriouswheels.com/ [22 October 2013] Comments: Excellent pictorial material from many of the MINI versions and models.
- Wikipedia (2013) Mini Hatch [online] available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini_Hatch [22 October 2013] Comments: Information about the MINI Hatch Mark I and Mark II
- Wikipedia (2013) Mini Coupé [online] available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini_Coup%C3%A9 [22 October 2013] Comments: Information about the MINI Coupé
- Wikipedia (2013) Mini Countryman [online] available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini_Countryman [22 October 2013] Comments: Information about the MINI Countryman
- Wikipedia (2013) Mini Clubman [online] available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini_Clubman [22 October 2013] Comments: Information about the MINI Clubman
- Wikipedia (2013) Mini Paceman [online] available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini_Paceman [22 October 2013] Comments: Information about the MINI Paceman
- Wikipedia (2013) Mini marque [online] available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini_%28marque%29 [22 October 2013] Comments: Information about the MINI Brand