Some people will be (rightly) offended by the new MINI’s launch in November, which is themed around a 107th birthday celebration for Sir Alec Issigonis – father of the original Mini introduced in 1959.
BMW’s MINI has moved so far away from the original concept that it deserves a different name – which is why we choose to write it capitalised. And while it retains the same agile and excitable character as the original, it’s now been ‘engineered in’ and therefore feels somewhat contrived.
BMW aren’t too worried though. Earlier today MINI reported its best July figures ever, with 23,515 deliveries worldwide – that’s 6.4% up on the previous year with a whopping 65.2% growth in China (where 2,300 cars were delivered).
Year-to-date sales are slightly down (-1.0%) compared to last year as some of MINI’s traditional western markets fall out of love with the seemingly endless release of variants. The U.S. grew by just 1.6% in July, remaining MINI’s largest market with a little under 6,000 cars.
So, “Happy Birthday Sir Alec”, there’s a new, new MINI in town and BMW will celebrate its premiere on 18 November 2013 with a party at the MINI Plant in Oxford. During the same week it will also be unveiled in Los Angeles and Tokyo – first at the Tokyo Motor Show followed just hours later by the Los Angeles Motor Show in California.
The world premiere will pay tribute to Issigonis’ original concept – a transversely mounted engine, front wheel drive, wheels set in all four corners and a floorplan which delivers plenty of cabin space for passengers and luggage on a small footprint, and also exceptional driving agility.
The new, new MINI, which was shown in nearly undisguised form with the VISION Concept, adopts even more of its BMW heritage featuring an iDrive-style controller and chunky BMW multi-function steering wheel (at least in the test mules).
There are plenty of classic Mini design cues shown in the VISION concept including a hexagonal radiator grille and separation of the roof, glasshouse and body, but if you asked a Gen Y customer, I doubt they’d be able to distinguish between the true classic Mini features and the characteristics perpetuated by BMW’s marketing machine.
The third-generation MINI represents a second chance for BMW to reflect the key principles laid down by Issigonis.
While modern safety standards preclude anything so basic, it will be interesting to see how the driving experience has evolved and whether Sir Alec would even recognise it from the revolutionary compact car that he spawned.