New baby, Mini more to come
The Mini just got longer, luxurious and all-wheel drive. And that’s not the end of it, writes PAUL GOVER
SOMEWHERE inside this modified Mini is a new allwheel-drive wagon. It’s the next stretch on the born-again British baby as BMW Group looks to extend the reach of the Mini beyond today’s basic hatch, stretched Clubman and the forthcoming second-generation Cabrio.
Anyone who expected Mini to pump out another high-rider SUV will get a shock from the Crossover Concept, which makes its global debut at the Paris Motor Show next month.
For a start, it is more like a street crawler than a bush basher. It is loaded with luxuries. And it sits surprisingly close to the ground.
Look closer and you see everything from a five-door body with a hinged door on one side and a slider on the other, and even a fuel filler that has been repositioned to the right-hand side — a shortcoming on the Clubman, which has its extra back door out in the traffic in Australia.
But Australian Mini boss Justin Hocevar says there is much more.
‘‘It’s a completely new platform. It will be a bespoke platform, not sourced from any other BMW group product,’’ he says.
‘‘They are developing a new platform for the Mini family, so where they go with that is to be determined. There are fairly ambitious growth plans for the Mini brand going forward.’’
The arrival of the Crossover Concept is not a surprise, even if the fancy finishing is a shock. And it’s likely there will be at least a couple more — Mini did four takes on the Clubman for various motor shows — before the production car.
‘‘We said more than 12 months ago that we would be looking to introduce another model variant. This concept is in line with that direction. This concept vehicle is an early iteration to test the market. They are gunning for a launch in 2010 to 2011,’’ Hocevar says.
The all-wheel-drive Mini wagon will follow the Cabrio, which will reappear in the range next year and close the gap between Europe and Australia.
‘‘With the Cabrio we’ll align our production with Europe and the only difference then will be the shipping times. So we’ll be only about a month behind them on production, with a three to four-month gap for shipping,’’ he says.
He says the forthcoming SUV — though Mini will have another tag— is part of a plan to lure more middleaged buyers.
‘‘I think we have an average age of 42, but we don’t have many 42 year-olds in our owner group. We have a spike of younger people, then a gap when they have other priorities, before another group of older buyers,’’ he says.
‘‘We’d like to keep more people in the family and attract more people to the brand.’’
The detail on the Crossover Concept includes the first Mini body longer than 4m, though still only 1.6m high, as well as a folding roof cover and a transport case to fit on to the outside of the rear door.
Mini variations: the Mini Crossover Concept has a five-door body with a hinged door on one side and a slider on the other.