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Herald Sun - Motoring - - Welcome - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER

IT has Union Jack-shaped tail­lights and uses the finest Bri­tish ma­te­ri­als, yet the new­est Mini model is all about Italy.

It’s a two-seater that’s a po­ten­tial ri­val to the Mazda MX-5 and it was shaped at Tour­ing Su­per­leg­gera to show how the Mini brand can be taken in a new di­rec­tion.

The Mini Su­per­leg­gera Vi­sion was un­veiled at the Con­corso d’Ele­ganza Villa d’Este, where the world’s costli­est clas­sics com­pete for brag­ging rights each year.

Iron­i­cally, the up-mar­ket Mini was un­veiled in the same month as a work­ing-class Mini Ute that was cre­ated by the com­pany’s ap­pren­tices. The big dif­fer­ences be­tween the Su­per­leg­gera and other Mini show cars are the drop-top lay­out and a two-seater cabin.

The body also has fewer ties to the pro­duc­tion cars, which hints — as with other so-called “Vi­sion” con­cepts from the BMW Group, which owns the brand — that there could be more to come on the Mini front.

The theme for the un­veil­ing was “Mod­ern Bri­tish­ness” but there has al­ready been a back­lash in the UK from people who say BMW Group should not be im­pos­ing its Ger­man goals on the brand.

Even so, de­sign boss Adrian van Hooy­donk is talk­ing big and says the car is “an el­e­gant au­to­mo­bile, which in­ter­prets a Bri­tish road­ster un­der the in­flu­ence of Ital­ian style and hand crafts­man­ship”.

But there is a hid­den twist un­der the good-look­ing pan­els — the car is elec­tri­cally pow­ered. And, even more than the Su­per­leg­gera body­work, that pro­vides a gen­uine hint as to where Mini could be head­ing and how BMW Group in­tends to spin-off its bat­tery-pow­ered work on the i3 city car.

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