BMW-owned MINI has been a massive, massive success story.
Purists may hate the gradual erosion of the word “MINI” with crossovers and coupes, but the bare facts are hard to ignore: Last year the company sold nearly 200,000 MINI hatchback and Clubman models, and over 100,000 Countryman and Paceman. And of the former, every single one was built right here in the UK, maintaining jobs and boosting the economy.
So love it or hate it, the launch of a new MINI model is important not just for the industry, but for an economy still in the midst of recession. Put more bluntly: Get over it, people.
Still, at least the rest of us can enjoy the fruits of MINI’s labour. If the Vision Concept you see here is any indication of the production car to follow – and there’s a fair chance of it – we’re in for a treat.
Yes, it still looks basically like a MINI, but once you’ve started trading on a famous name there’s a limit to how much you can change the design before it no longer looks like the product your badge implies. If there’s one thing you can really criticise MINI for, it’s the fact they’ve painted themselves into a corner as far as design is concerned.
The Vision still shows there’s potential, however – a few lines softened there, a few lights tweaked there, and you have a car that looks remarkably fresh despite its ancient design heritage.
Our favourite detail is the diagonal trim intersecting the wheel arch and windscreen. It’s a clear nod back to the old A-frame section of the classic Mini, though we don’t doubt the Vision’s ‘Organo metal’ section – a fibre composite – is less susceptible to rot than its historical forebear.
It’s a far more prominent feature than on existing Minis too, while the heavily curved windscreen itself now connects framelessly with the side glass and rear screen, for a true “floating roof” effect.
The proportions are certainly better than before, with large front and rear lights and a soft, contoured body giving a less slab-sided look than you’ll find on existing MINIs. MINI says it’s also more aerodynamic, so form meets function in the Vision.
Inside, some typical MINI cues return – note the huge round central display, for example – but a few neat details have also made their way in. Those door bins, for example, are designed to look like Union Jack flags, while flexible enough to accommodate magazines, drinks bottles and more. A ‘MINI click system’ lets drivers choose between different storage options and a ‘MINI Disco’ floor lights up as you drive along.
Some of the oddest features will no doubt disappear before production, but it’s the overall look that we’re interested in – and it’s hard to see that changing too much before the production car debuts.
That massive success story? We don’t see it changing any time soon.