MINI provides us with our first look at the electric version of its next MINI Hatch 3dr, which will have a petrol sibling built in Oxford
This is our first official look at the next-generation MINI, which will arrive in 2023. It will be smaller than the current generation model and built with both electric and petrol power – the battery powered version made in China, and internal combustion versions built at the firm’s British base in Oxford.
It’s still almost two years from hitting roads in production form, but these images provide us with a close up look at one of the electric MINI prototypes that our spy photographers caught winter weather testing much earlier in 2021.
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It’s difficult to accurately gauge MINI’s claim of shrunk exterior dimensions – we need to see the newcomer alongside the current car to get a good understanding of just how much smaller this new car is. Tiny front and rear overhangs give us a clue as to the new and efficient packaging within the smaller body, and while most exterior details are off show, we’ve previewed the newcomer, peeling back the wraps in our exclusive image above.
The electric version of the next mini will be built on a platform developed between BMW and Chinese SUV maker Great Wall. The petrol variant that will be built in Oxford will have the same design and dimensions, but it’ll be based on BMW Group underpinnings – likely an updated version of the current car’s UKL platform, called FAAR. This version of the car will spawn variants beyond the three-door hatch, as MINI has now confirmed that the next-generation MINI Convertible will also be built in Oxford from 2025.
Prior to these images, MINI had been public with its plans for the next-gen MINI Hatch. The brand’s boss, Bernd Körber, first told Auto Express of his desire for a smaller MINI hatch at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show. His vision will reverse a significant growth in size since the introduction of the first BMW MINI in 2001 and return the brand to its roots as a purveyor of small, functional vehicles.
Speaking with Auto Express in 2020, Körber explained: “When I say small, I mean I want to make a small three-door hatch again. Today there are some restrictions for pedestrian safety, but we would like to, in terms of design and exterior, make the three-door hatch as small as possible.”
Expectations of a shift to city car-sized proportions were unrealistic, with the new car instead straddling the line between city runabouts and small hatchbacks, and providing direct competition for Fiat’s recently reinvented 500.
Some of the features on this development vehicle are placeholder items to hide the final design of the vehicle. The real headlights are still hidden under the disguise, for instance. The tail-lights aren’t the real deal, either, and this prototype is missing some trim, such as its side skirts and radiator grille.
There are some interesting design features hiding in the new MINI’s shape, though. The windscreen, for instance, is far more steeply raked than the current model’s, which will provide better aerodynamics and boost the efficiency of the electric powertrain. Also, while the new MINI will be smaller overall, its wheelbase could well be the same as its predecessor’s. The front wheels appear to be the same distance ahead of the driver as the current car’s, but there’s a shorter overhang up front.
Inside it will be all-change with a sweeping screen sitting on top of the dashboard, incorporating the instruments and infotainment system into one flush unit.
MINI has also hinted that a high performance John Cooper Works (JCW) version of the new car will remain on the cards, even if it goes fully electric. Körber suggested: “We have to go and define JCW in an electrified context and era. But that’s possible, there’s no problem, no contradiction.”
MINI’s pure-electric future
MINI has already taken the first steps to becoming an all-electric brand. The company’s plan is “80 per cent” complete, according to the company’s chief, Bernd Körber, with this new hatchback playing a key role in the brand’s rethink.
Following the three-door hatch will be a completely new model from MINI: an electric-only crossover, which is due in 2024. The newcomer is tasked with capitalising on growing consumer appetite for fully electric crossovers, as well as helping MINI gain a stronger foothold in China.
As for the Countryman, Körber explained that MINI’s current largest model will get even bigger for its next generation. “I would say in terms of dimensions, we talk half a segment increase for the Countryman, so in the direction of [BMW] X1 size but with the MINI proportions,” he explained.
It’ll be offered with a choice of petrol, diesel or pure-electric powertrains but, unlike the hatch and crossover, it’ll be based on a single BMW Group-sourced platform.
The brand will also introduce a ‘new vehicle concept’ alongside the Countryman, which could manifest as a small MPV inspired by the Urbanaut concept.
Click here for our list of the best small electric cars on sale right now…
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