When the first new Mini landed on U.S. shores for the 2001 model year, it was an instant hit. Mini didn't mess with success too much in the second generation that would roll out seven years later; it made the car a little larger, more luxurious, and more powerful. But the car largely stuck to the same formula, and no one worried.
Now, in the face of new legislation all over the world, from pedestrian safety to fuel economy, the Mini is being forced to change, adding new engine designs, keen styling, and even some pragmatism that the current car sorely lacks. But will it alienate the rabid Mini fans that have roamed the U.S. for more than a decade?
Who It's For
Unsurprisingly, it's for Mini fans. But you knew that. But BMW, Mini's parent company, also wants to expand its appeal. The Mini has always been an expensive car for BMW to produce, so it's sharing costs with some upcoming small BMWs that will switch to front-wheel drive as well.
BMW is taking out some of the quirks of the previous car--the new Mini will have real cupholders instead of two indents that kinda resemble cupholders, for instance. It will also have its speedometer moved from the center of the dashboard--an homage to the 1959 original--to right behind the steering wheel. Yes, this will miff Mini traditionalists, but Mini traditionalists aren't as hardcore as Porsche enthusiasts. And even those nutjobs got over it when Porsche switched from air-cooled engines to water-cooled in 1998.
Mini is debuting an all-new, fractionally larger body style with a longer nose for pedestrian safety. Additionally, the 2015 Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper S will have:
- A base turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine with 134 horsepower.
- A 189-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder for the Mini Cooper S. Remember, the same engine makes 240 horsepower in the BMW 328i.
- An available adjustable suspension, a first for Mini.
- A lighter weight despite a bigger footprint that should put it closer to the 2001 model's girth.
- New and updated MiniConnected technology.
What We Think
Let's face it: Based on what we've seen, the new car looks better than the one it replaces, despite its longer front overhang and larger overall dimensions. It looks a bit like the Rocketman concept from a few years back and shows that there's still plenty of life left in the evolution of a design that was first introduced to the world in 1959.
This car should be cheaper to produce, and more importantly, it should be better in every way than the outgoing Mini. Eventually, its platform will spur the next-generation Mini Countryman and whatever other offshoots it wants to come up with next. While not especially Mini anymore and losing some of its quirkiness for the sake of scoring better in J.D. Power surveys, we think Mini has made a worthy successor for its iconic hatchback and can't wait to drive it.
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