Commentary

New Mini Looks To Make A Maxi Splash

The Mini Cooper — the dream car for those in midlife crisis who, like David Kiley, are “not the Ferrari kind of bloke” (or lassie) — yesterday unwrapped pictures and details about its 2014 models in advance of its appearance at the Los Angeles Auto Show tomorrow. Aficionados are, quite literally, atwitter at #MiniCooper:

  • my future car … you shall be mine in march;
  • Meet my new car ;-)
  • After two months of waiting, I'm in love

“The third generation of the modern Mini Cooper has finally been revealed, with the launch coinciding with the 107th anniversary of the birth of Sir Alec Issigonis, the designer of the original Mini,” points out Viknesh Vijayenthiran in Motor Authority. “The car has been completely redesigned and debuts a new platform dubbed ‘UKL’ which will eventually underpin a handful of new models from Mini as well as some from parent company BMW.”

“The launch of the three-door hatchback took place at the Mini's production plant in Cowley, Oxford,” England, reports Reuters’ Rhys Jones. “‘It's a brand new car under the skin and it retains that go-kart feel to drive,’ said BMW board member Peter Schwarzenbauer, who was driven onto stage to the music of British band Blur in a Mini adorned with the Union Jack flag.”

The Independent’s Sean O’Grady waxes lyrical about what the original Mini, launched in 1959, meant to the Brits when it — and they — were young. “Socially, it transformed lives. Here was a ‘proper’ car that could take you on holiday, even abroad, as readily as to the shops. It promoted mobility; it was fun to drive; it liberated the young from parental supervision, shall we say; in ‘The Italian Job’ and the Monte Carlo rally it boosted national pride.”

But, as O’Grady points out, “commercially, it was a disaster.”

Not so, the BMW revival. “BMW is pouring £750 million into Mini production in the UK — a sum welcomed today by Prime Minister David Cameron, who described the Mini brand as a “classic British icon,” according to the Evening Telegraph.

“Mini is in good hands with BMW,” British transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said at the event yesterday, the Economic Timesreports. “The success of the Mini proves Britain's manufacturing sector is good enough to compete and win on the global stage.

All you really need to know about the new model is in miniusa.com’s copy about the new hardtop that features a “twin power turbo engine, adjustable driving modes and evolved cockpit stocked with new features” when it hits showrooms in March: “It’s faster. More efficient. And even more fun to drive.”

 “When Mini first rolled out the reborn Cooper in 2002, selling a small, fuel-efficient car — especially a pricey one selling itself on quirky styling — it might not have seemed like the best idea,” writes David Undercoffler in the Los Angeles Times. Gas was cheap and SUVs were ascendant.

“A 12-foot car was a really hard sell in the U.S,” says Mini’s North American VP, Jim McDowell. “We didn’t have much in the way of competition, except cars that were vastly larger.” But, points out Undercoffler, “with an offbeat design and colorful marketing, the Cooper motored on to immense popularity.”

As with each previous iterations, the Mini keeps getting slightly less Mini, as this photo amply illustrates. “The 2015 Mini Cooper grows in every measurable dimension. It's 4.5 inches longer, 1.7 inches wider and a smidge taller,” writes Jalopnik’s Travis Okulski. “Just because all new cars need to grow slightly, apparently.”

Is it getting too big for it’s suspension? “The whole point of the original Mini was to be small, but the car has consistently grown in size over the years,” writesRoad & Track’s Ben Lucareli. “It begs the question, do new cars always need to be larger?”

As Justin Berkowitz points out in Car and Driver, a lot has happened in the last decade or so.

“It was a simpler time in 2002, when Mini first launched in the United States,” he writes.” Gas was still less than two bucks a gallon, and Ontario-based Research In Motion was selling the first mainstream BlackBerry smartphone. Ten years later, gas is twice as expensive, and Canada is better known for crackhead mayors than Crackberry phones.”

Ah, the vagaries of politics. And hot products.

1 comment about "New Mini Looks To Make A Maxi Splash".
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  1. Susan Murphy from National Women's History Museum, November 19, 2013 at 11 a.m.

    Good piece Thom and perfect timing. I've been contemplating a Mini, but now think I'll wait until Spring. Thought my current convertible was the mid-life crisis car -- scary to think this could be my post mid-life crisis car!

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