Sud­denly, there’s a lot more to the Mini

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - Fred­eric Manby fred­

IT has taken 10 years for BMW to have fun with its Mini mod­els.

The Con­vert­ible, in 2004, and the Club­man es­tate, in 2007, were just pre­cur­sors for the Coun­try­man, the first pro­duc­tion Mini with four doors. It will gen­uinely seat four large adults and it will go on sale this au­tumn, from £16,000. When equipped with 4x4 trans­mis­sion and more agres­sive bumpers, it is akin to a Mini Range Rover.

The ra­tio­nale at Mini’s Ox­ford HQ is that there comes a time when Mini own­ers need more space. The Coun­try­man is that car. Com­mon sense also in­forms them that the range needs to evolve, as other man­u­fac­tur­ers nib­ble at the de­mand for chic qual­ity cars, viz the Citroën DS3: next up is the Audi A1. For the moment, Mini is strong, with UK sales and sec­ond-hand val­ues beat­ing mar­ket trends.

So, to the fu­ture and next year there will be a twoseater Mini Coupé and, in 2011, comes a drop­head Road­ster ver­sion. They are lighter and lower than the hatch, slightly shorter but the same width.

The Coupé’s roof trails into a capped rear spoiler and the back sec­tion opens up for load­ing ac­cess. It looks hot and quick.

The Road­ster has a con­ven­tional fab­ric roof. To save weight and cost, it has to be low­ered or raised man­u­ally in a “one-handed op­er­a­tion that takes but a few sec­onds,” says the com­pany.

This has yet to be tested and thus open to dis­pute. Many own­ers may have liked the op­tion of elec­tric as­sis­tance. Cer­tainly there is no sign that Mini buy­ers are short of cash.

The Road­ster should be even more sta­ble and ag­ile than a Mini hatch­back but to be safe, a spring-up alu­minium bar erects in a split sec­ond if the car loses its com­po­sure.

En­gines and prices have yet to be con­firmed but the newly en­gi­neered 1.6 petrol en­gines will fea­ture. These are be­ing fit­ted to the cur­rent Mini range and the Coun­try­man. These moves see the drop­ping of the 1.4 petrol mo­tor.

The cheap­est Mini is now the First, with 75 horse power, at £11,160. It records 0-62mph in 13.2 sec­onds 52.3mpg and 127g/km of CO2. Those fig­ures are matched by the lat­est Mini One, with 98bhp, from £13,620. Tax-dodgers can pay an ad­di­tional £300 for the Min­i­mal­ism with stop-start and other eco twirls. It emits 119g/km and records 52.3mpg.

The Ox­ford fac­tory makes more than 200,000 Minis a year, of which 80 per cent, worth £2bn, are ex­ported. The Coun­try­man, how­ever, is be­ing made in Graz, Aus­tria, by Steyr.

MINI MARVELS: The Road­ster, and, inset, the Coupé.

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