We hear: the inside track on what's going on at Mini, CAR+ May 2016

Published: 10 May 2016

► Two of Mini's 'five superheroes' are AWOL
► Rumours: Roomba, Superleggera or MiniMini
► Long shots: Coolbox or Traveller 

What’s going on at Mini? The brand has lost its way, and is struggling to reboot the sat-nav for direction. Take the proposed Toyota small car alliance, due to be signed last October. It’s still pending, which suggests BMW wants to keep going it alone, despite its patchy record of building small cars at a profit. 

The current range uses the UKL architecture, but BMW’s demands for its fwd variants means a cost, weight, size and complexity burden. The Mini five-door is selling well, the Clubman sold only 5000 in the final few months of 2015. The Cabrio is imminent, and the Countryman XL follows this autumn, giving Mini its first plug-in hybrid. Then what?

Mini has been banging on about a range of ‘five superheroes’, but what are the other two, if you pair hatch and cabrio? Not thecoupe, roadster or Paceman – these Mk2 flops won’t be replaced. 

There are plenty of ideas, and these are the front runners: Roomba (a van bordering on 2-series Gran Tourer), Superleggera (above – a roadster with an i8 drivetrain turned through 180 degrees) and MiniMini (like the Rocketman concept, left). Sadly, Superleggera would bust the budget, and UKL is too wide for the mini city car.

Longer shots are Coolbox (a hip four-door notchback), Traveller (a compact crossover), a tailor-made electric vehicle (a bespoke city BEV or Roomba derivative) and a five-door crossover coupe, smaller/cheaper than the Countryman.

The only concrete decision so far is to extend the life cycle of F56 (the current three-door Mini) by a year until late 2021, which will be almost four years after the mid-cycle changeover in 2018. This will see the introduction of the overdue dual-clutch ‘box and BMW’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine to replace the top-end 1.6-litres.

In 2015, Mini sold 338,000 cars, up 10%, largely thanks to the five-door’s success. But the production capacity is in excess of 400,000 units, which makes you wonder why BMW took space at Volvo’s former Dutch facility, which needs 100,000 vehicles a year to turn a profit. Another reason to unmask those superheroes pronto…

Read more from the May 2016 issue of CAR magazine

By Phil McNamara

Editor-in-chief of CAR magazine