I will try my best to provide detailed info on various cars and what is like to live with them, I have already produced a few for Jaguar-car-forums, I will do my best to be unbiased, but it will be hard for some cars. I will re-produce press releases and copy from other motoring news.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

UPDATED - TMW - BMW MINI, has it been watered down beyond recognition ?

Back in 1959 a small car that was to revolutionise motoring for generations to come, The Alec Issigonis designed Austin/Morris Mini, a small car with revolutionary rubber cone suspension and uber efficient engine layout that allowed 80% of the floor pan to be utilised for its passengers and luggage, and was thee car to be seen in, in the 1960’s, a number of variants followed with badge engineered models from Wolseley and Riley, and failed replacements in the shape of the Clubman and in 1980 the Mini Metro, however, the Mini kept selling and saw off its supposed replacement, the Clubman, and the Mini Metro, which itself-lasted for nearly 20 years and sold just short of 1.5 million.

As time wore on, Mini’s parent company decided that a replacement must be sought as the Mini was not going to pass various emissions and safety legislation that was imminent, so it was then that a number of concepts were designed and built, the first of which was the ACV30, the Spiritual and Spiritual 2.



With a number of the ACV30 design cues carried on to the eventual new BMW MINI, all three were hailed as great concepts, but none would ever make production, so work continued to design a concept that would make it to the production lines and in 2001 the first new MINI was produced at Plant Oxford, UK, and it was an instant hit, with the majority of work carried out by Rover Group, before BMW unceremoniously dumped the once great company to fend for itself, MINI was near enough debt free once production began.


BMW was soon to look at diversifying the brand into other niche markets, and it was from here that many believed the brand was being watered down, the fact that the new MINI was already far far larger than the original Issigonis Mini, thus gaining the Maxi name amongst die hard Mini fanatics, and later all BMW MINI’s became BINI’s, but BMW seemed to care little for the heritage of Mini and continued with its plan of expansion.

At launch the MINI came in ‘One, Cooper and Cooper S’ trim levels with imported engines from Chrysler and Toyota, however by 2006 BMW announced that new engines would be supplied by its own production facility in the UK, but before this in 2005 BMW launched its first offshoot, the MINI Convertible, with a fully electric retractable roof and a boot reminiscent of the original Mini, it drops down with hinges on the outside, again this became an instant hit, in all markets.


By 2006 the MINI hatch was about to be re-launched as the MINI Hatch Mk2 , it looked the same as the Mk1, however every panel had been changed in some way and a 60mm increase in length was made to allow for more stringent safety legislation, the first models were the Cooper and Cooper S, followed shortly afterwards by the MINI One in 2007 along with the first diesel powered car, the Mk2 built on the sales success of the first generation car and continued with additional models throughout the Mk2 gestation, the success of the MINI can be attributed to the many thousands of differing versions that can be specified, with differing graphics and wheels, options and colours, it is possible to never see another MINI the same as yours, and this was the key to the success of the MINI.


From 2008 it became a busy time for Brand MINI, with new models and replaced cars being issued at a very fast rate, the first of which was in 2008, The MINI Clubman, a square backed double rear door estate style car, in the style of the original Mini Traveller, and a weird “clubdoor” on the right hand side of the car, which meant that right hand drive markets would have this door open into the traffic, this was universally panned, but the car was liked by the public, and it became a steady seller for MINI, with an extra near ten inches of extra length, the Clubman is a great load lugger.


It was then, in 2009, that the Mk2 MINI convertible was launched, again, it looked little different from the Mk1 but was significantly improved over its predecessor and with an ‘open’o’meter’ device which registers how long the roof has been opened during vehicle usage, a weird option, and not one that inspires you to go and buy the car, if anything it raises an eyebrow and a thought of, “bit weird”, but again it sold and continues to sell, as the Mk2 is still in production, and along with all the models it continues to have tweaks and changes each year to meet new legislation and consumer demands.


In 2010, a new model was to be launched to the world that would cause the biggest upset amongst the Mini fandom,  it was the biggest, and some say ugliest MINI ever, the Countryman, a five door, SUV, with four wheel drive known as ALL4,  the Countryman’s excessive size and weight along with the four wheel drive system gives it extremely poor fuel economy, and with the standard run flat tyres gives it a ride so hard it jars the body to extremes on really rough roads, but this model offers more room and that’s what was missing from the brand, a proper family car, and it has become very successful, so much so I have one, and it is the worst car I have ever owned, and I am looking actively for something different.


So, we currently have four distinct models in the MINI range, all offering something different with a design language that follows all four cars, so you have to think, is the brand being diluted or maximised, at this point I think that it is being maximised, as it is offering something for all, without making the brand look desperate, however the worst is yet to come.

2012 saw what was to be the two of the most controversial cars in the MINI brand to date, the Coupe and Roadster, neither would win a beauty contest, and both only offered two seated motoring, so if you have a family or are more than two, then these cars are not for you, the stunted dimensions of the car give it a weird look, and the tiny rear and side windows on the coupe, give it a look only a mother would love, and even then, she would cover it up, these two are seldom seen on UK roads, so that should tell you something, maybe UK buyers have some sense of taste after all.



Also in 2012, saw the first commercial vehicle, the MINI Clubvan, and as the name suggests it is based on the Clubman, with a flat load area, as the rear seats have been removed, it has a decent enough load area, however its sales base is unknown, this MINI is at a reasonable price for those price conscious buyers, and with the VAT reclaimable for businesses, it has a price point to attract, but once you start to add the options, which, after all, is what MINI is all about, it becomes quite expensive, and who would buy one of these, no one I know, and to date, I have yet to see one being used in a working capacity, but I am sure that someone, somewhere has one and loves it dearly.


Lastly, comes the Paceman, a car that really is unsure of its origins and what it is supposed to be, a coupe version of the Countryman, is it supposed to be a two door family car, a coupe sport car, a two door SUV, what, you tell me as I have no idea, it is a car too far in my opinion, I feel that BMW have watered the brand by this point making it unrecogniseable from the 1950's origins,  the coupe and roadster started the downward spiral, the Clubvan and Paceman conclude it, a once famous brand has now become so far removed from what it was originally intended to be back in 1959, so much so that I believe it should have been called something different.

The only chink of light from the recent mash up of models was the stillborn MINI Rocketman, a strange name for a strange car, but hang on, this is what MINI is, what it stands for, and how it should be, a small, wheel in each corner, cheap to run and cheap to own car for the masses, and what did BMW do, they cancelled it, the one true car that should have carried the MINI moniker and been a true successor to the Issigonis masterpiece.
So, what do you think, has the brand been spoiled by the addition of such cars like the coupe, roadster and clubvan, or has it been brought back from the death and given a second chance, was the Rockman a missed opportunity, has the Britishness been washed out of the brand, or is doing nothing more than the original Mini did all those years before, please feel free to leave comments, it would interesting to hear others thoughts on my report, whatever they may be.

 09/08/2013 UPDATE - Just after I produced this report images appeared of what was alleged to be the next generation MINI the Mk3, called the MINI Vision, it takes some of the styling cues from the Rocketman concept and delivers a better looking, more all rounded car.

Alleged again to be bigger in most area's, the tag MINI still causes smirks amongst the Issigonis car's fans, but it cant be denied that without the money that BMW have pumped into Plant Oxford and the MINI brand, there would be no MINI brand left.

If the car above is indeed the third generation MINI, then it shows that BMW are committed to the brand and the legacy, however, how long can you continue the same retro look in a car, I cant see this styling from the MK1-MK3 lasting nearly 50 years like the original, but with BMW, you never know.

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