Just a few months ago the MINI Brand has announced the third generation of MINI. This generation sets new standards to the development of the Brand in total, as it carries out many changes. The major change is the new platform that will allow the BMW group to build several new models from as single platform.
The New MINI
The new MINI Mk III was announced in Plant Oxford in 18 November 2013. The new hatchback is larger than its ancestor while it retains the iconic image of Mini with a fresher look. It is longer by 98mm, wider by 44mm and taller by 7mm than the MINI Mk II, but it has also a 28mm longer wheelbase with increased track width.
Despite the fact that the exterior dimensions are bigger, the new MINI comes with a new range of engines that have become smaller and more efficient. The base engine is a new 1.5 litre three-cylinder engine using petrol and producing 136 bhp. The engine range also includes a 2.0 litre four-cylinder petrol engine, producing 192 bhp and used for Cooper S, and a 1.5 three-cylinder diesel engine producing 116bhp. According to the BMW Group, the new engines consume less fuel and produce fewer emissions by up to 27% compared to the previous generation engines.
The increased size has also increased the safety of the vehicle in total, as more passive safety measures can now be implemented. New features also include LED daytime running lights as standard, while all-LED headlamps are available as an option. In the interior the increased outside size has allowed the materials to become more premium, with softer plastics covering more areas. The central circular speedometer has been replaced with a central screen that facilitates the communication between the driver and the car. Also, new high quality BMW equipment can now be implemented on the car, such as the iDrive system, that allows the driver to control the main functions of the vehicle while remaining focused on driving.
The new MINI Mk III will be available on the market in spring 2014, while the production of the MINI Mk II has already been stopped in order to start the production of the new MINI.
The New Platform
The introduction of the MINI Mk III also launches a new platform created from the BMW Group for the compact front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive cars. The new platform is named UKL 1 and it is expected to allow the BMW Group to produce more than 900,000 cars per year.
The UKL 1 platform follows the typically modern modular architecture and it is expected to come with three different wheelbases and at least two different seat heights. This will create a framework for a very wide range of compact cars, starting from 3.80m and reaching about 4.40m in length. So the new platform will be universal for both BMW and MINI small cars that follow Front-Wheel and All-Wheel Drive.
The new MINI Hatchback 2014 is the first model implementing this new platform, while the rest of the MINI car range, i.e. the convertible and the Clubman will be upgraded to the UKL 1 platform in the coming years. Also, the next generation of MINI Countryman is expected to be based on the stretched version of the UKL 1 Platform.
The benefit of working with one platform for the whole range of models will also benefit the BMW, as new; front-wheel models will be produced using the new platform. In 2016 the next generation of BMW X1 is expected to be launched using this platform, while in 2014 the Active Tourer will be the first front-wheel drive BMW, featuring a three-cylinder engine, which will use the UKL 1 for the BMW brand. This is an excellent example of using the same platform across different brands within an automotive group.
Finally, according to the BMW Group’s Board Member Ian Robertson, more than 9 new cars will be produced based on the UKL 1 architecture, for both BMW and MINI, aiming towards growing the market share in the small and compact premium car segment. Some of the new cars are shown in the following picture.
Widening the range
After the launch of the 3-door hatchback MINI a 5-door version is planned for production next year. This is due to the demand of more useful and practical cars with compact size. The 5-door MINI Hatchback will have a slightly longer wheelbase and it is expected that it will also be equipped with the 2.0 litre petrol engine for Cooper ‘S’ version.
The 5-door MINI Hatch will not be a competitor of MINI Clubman, as the two cars aim to different target groups. Furthermore, the 5-door car will not come in contrary with the MINI Countryman, because the later is focus on customers with off-road desires.
BMW Group also considers proceeding to the production of a smaller MINI, as long as the newer MINI models become larger after each generation. The larger size of the rest of the MINI leaves an open window for a smaller one to cover the customer needs for a super compact car.
After the unveil of the MINI Rocketman, a small-sized MINI concept car in 2011 Geneva Motor Show, and the positive perception from the people, the BMW groups has put the production of a small-sized car on hold. This is because the newest UKL 1 platform, despite its modularity and flexibility in production planning, can only be scaled up from the size of a hatchback to cars with larger size. So a new platform is needed in order to allow the BMW Group to proceed with the production of the smaller MINI. This fact, in conjunction with the fact that the development of a platform solely for one model is prohibitive due to the cost, the only feasible solution is to proceed with a partnership with another company.
The final word
The future of the MINI Brand seems bright. The next generation of the Hatchback will be on market in a few months, utilizing plenty of new features. Furthermore, the UKL 1 is a promising new platform that can be used in plenty of small and compact cars, for both BMW and MINI brands. Finally, while there is a lot of consideration widening the range of the MINI products, a brand new 5-door hatchback will be available in the market soon. Despite that fact, the plans for a smaller MINI are still on hold, as a partnership is needed for the required smaller platform.
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