Mini has recently unveiled a design concept for an all-electric Mini that is expected to reach production by 2019.
The BMW-owned brand will produce the hatchback out of its Oxford plant, 11 years after the Mini E was launched. Only 600 of them were produced.
The Mini Electric will make its public debut at the upcoming Frankfurt motor show with what BMW claims is a “powerful electric motor”.
The concept provides insight into how Mini’s design language could be reinvented as it enters the third decade as a BMW brand.
Mini’s exterior design boss, Christopher Weil, said the job of creating the Mini Electric concept started in January and lasted just six months. “The process was very quick,” he said. “Projects that run quickly are often both nicer to work on and more effective than those that take longer. The quicker we move, the more pure ideas can be.”
Weil also cautioned: “This is just a concept car — we are thinking about how an electric Mini could look. This is not the production car — we are just in the process of designing it, so it is too early to say [how it will inform the production car].”
The concept revealed has no interior as changes to that will be hidden for a further two years. Nevertheless, it is clear that the concept provides a look at a future design language for the Mini range. Some within the company believe that the current hatchback models have missed the mark as the current design may be look too much to the past.
The styling is subtle with the lower edge, both sides and the back marked by a matt black strip that consists of radiator-like cooling fins.
The Mini concept also gets an air extractor slot behind the front wheel like the BMW 8 Series concept and a heavily sculpted body compared to the previous generation R50 and R56 Minis with their nearly flat door skins. An intake and tiny spoiler in front of the rear wheel are unique. Weil referred to this as the “efficiency layer” and added: “The way you manage airflow is specific for every individual car, but the main aerodynamic principles are the same. It’s very good for the drag co-efficient when you have an opening behind the wheels so that the air can flow out, rather than just creating turbulence [inside the wheel wells].” He admitted that the unusual asymmetric wheel design is heavily influenced by 1980s car design.
By approaching the Mini Electric from the rear, it was evident how different the concept as a whole is from the current three-door hatch that is in production.
As Weil explained, while this 2019 concept is based on today’s car, some extremely subtle tweaks — especially the clever surfacing on the body — have transformed its stance into something closer to the original R50 model and certainly more sporting than the current Mini.
“We wanted to show something with a very reduced form language that takes out the detailing,” Weil said. “The upper of the body has been cleaned up a lot. We’ve played with very simple and powerful themes — there’s a cleanness to the car [that gives] it a more contemporary feel.
“The chrome details, which have really stood for Mini, like the waistline finishers, the headlamp and tail-light surrounds, and even the door handles — we took all
of these out. Even the Mini logo is very minimal. Then we reduced the door handles and rear-view mirrors to a more minimal appearance.”
Also gone are the Mini’s trademark black wheel arch spats.
“The new rear [hatchback] panel is bold and different and it gives a certain width
to the car,” says Weil. “We think it looks very substantial from behind, emphasising the width and the stance of the car.”
Weil says the glasshouse and roofline are the same as the current car’s and that the rear lights are similarly located, but that the wheels tracks are wider.
The rising belt line that gives the car a more wedged look is only about 7-10mm higher than the current-gen Mini.
So how much is the concept an indication of the next-generation Mini? All Weil would say is that “we are always looking at possibilities — we wanted to explore modernity and how a Mini could live without the chrome, and we believe it’s very successful”.
But even ignoring the bespoke electric vehicle detailing of this concept car, there’s clearly a crisper, sharper and much more modern fourth-generation Mini on the horizon.
The 2017 Frankfurt motor show will also mark the 20th anniversary of the public debut of BMW’s Mini.
A rolling mock-up was shown on the eve of the 1997 show, a stunt aimed at taking attention away from the Mercedes A-Class that also premiered in Frankfurt.
The R50 Mini’s styling had been chosen two years before at Rover’s Gaydon engineering centre, but
it would be another four years before the BMW Mini went on sale.
Also see: Mini Electric concept image gallery