There are occasions in life when something happens in the outside world and I think, "Damn. I wish Dad was here so we could talk about this."
In the past 13 years, that's happened every time Mini
unveils a new model. And that's been quite often in the 12 years since the car was reintroduced – it has expanded to include seven different models, which is a testament to how quickly the updated Mini caught on. My Dad, who passed away in 1996, loved the brand. His first car was a Mini, and he'd race it in illegal rallies around the Irish countryside in his 20s, before he emigrated to the US and tried to (mostly) stay on the right side of the law.
Mini released photos and specs for the third-generation "original" hardtop car today. The company had to slap in the term "original" in there to differentiate it from the Convertible, longer-wheelbase Clubman
three-door crossover, Coupe
. Coming out with that many nameplates in 13 years is unprecedented growth for a company that's essentially brand-new in North America.
"Every year Mini convinces more and more people to consider small."
"Every year Mini convinces more and more people to consider small," Jim McDowell, vice president of Mini USA, told Autoblog
. The brand thinks there's room enough for one more Mini model, McDowell said, which he promises will be "as radical in this decade as the original was in 1959."
But the new Mini hardtop isn't a radical departure from the older version. It's the same height as the recent model, has the same bulldog stance and wide front grille. But the nose is a little boxier, the headlights look like big, buggy eyes, and the car seems larger overall and carries more heft. The new design shows how the brand is maturing, the company said in a press release, and shows what Mini can do to maximize interior space, safety features, interior finishes, and keeping a sporty ride.
The new Mini, which hits the market in March 2014, will be available with two new engines. The Mini Cooper has a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine making 134 horsepower with maximum torque of 162 pound-feet, and the Mini Cooper S has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with 189 horsepower and max torque of 207 lb-ft. Both engines use Mini's TwinPower turbo technology, and direct-injection. The company promises that increased engine efficiency, enhanced aerodynamics and a lighter car will result in better fuel economy figures, although it hasn't release those numbers yet.
"Both engines use Mini's TwinPower turbo technology, and direct-injection."
The interior, which is a huge part of Mini's identity, has been updated as well. The car keeps a lot of its circular gauges, but the layout has been tweaked a bit to make it more user-friendly. Mini owners will either love or hate the fact that the window controls have been moved from the centre of the car to the door panels, where they sit for most other car models.
It's tricky to update an iconic car like the Mini. Few other models, except cars like the Porsche 911
and Volkswagen Beetle
, have to work the balance between making a car that's modern but doesn't abandon or alienate its core buyers.
"We don't change our cars just for newness sake," McDowell said. "We change to make it better. Our designers understand that there's a very definite Mini design vocabulary, and as long as they work within that vocabulary, there is a lot they can do."
Mini isn't releasing North American pricing right now, but European pricing is already set. The Mini Cooper will start at 17,900 euros (CAD$25,230), and the Cooper S will start at 23,800 euros (CAD$33,545).