9 Jul 2012

The 2013 MINI - or is it a MAXI?

My son is ten.  We play a silly game in the car called Mini punch.  Whenever he sees a MINI he punches me, although obviously not very hard.  He always wins because when I see a Mini and shout, "Mini punch!" his response is, "...not playing and anyway, it's not a Mini it's a Maxi.  It's too big to be a Mini."

And he's not really wrong.  The original Issigonis Mini was 3.05m.  The BMW MINI is 3.69m.  The original Maxi, on the other hand, was 4.04m.  So, in fact, the new MINI is more a Maxi than a Mini.  For our non-UK readers I have attached a photo of the Maxi but put it right at the bottom of the article for fear it's ugliness will prove infectious.

Confused yet?  My point is that the post 2001 MINI was and still is a brilliant exercise in retrosocial engineering.  Yes I just made that word up but you get the point.  The MINI is great and sells in huge volumes but it is it's own car.  It has as little to do with the original Mini than it does the unloved Maxi.

Sure the boot and back seats are tiny and when you lift the bonnet the wings come up too but otherwise the modern MINI really is a new car.

Trouble is the new MINI is about to get even bigger.  Those clever people at BMW will release the next generation MINI in 2013.  You can't really see from the spy shots but it is getting even bigger and that's because it will share many components, including the chassis, with the BMW 1 series.

Indeed in America the new 1 series will even share the MINI's front wheel drive layout.  BMW wisely consider the UK and European market to consider a front wheel drive BMW as sacrilegious.  Americans are deemed to consider quality and image over dynamics.

There will be more differences between the versions available either side of the Atlantic.  Europe will get an all new 3 cylinder, turbocharged power plant whilst our stateside cousins consider 3 cylinders to be just a little too itsy-bitsy - so they get the 4 cylinder.

Aside from the above all we really know about the new MINI is what we can see in the spy shots and they are never really a reliable source of material.  But on looks alone the new MINI will still feature tiny seats, no boot space and the shape is pretty much unchanged.  The headlights are slightly more goggle-eyed and the pillars appear to be narrower, which is good news for motorcyclists.

BMW are slowly pushing the MINI into VW Golf territory although the the two cars have always felt very different behind the wheel.  The Golf feels plush and spacious with dark, conservative design a soft, tactile interior and handling that prefers to iron out bumps in the road than scream round corners.  On the other hand MINIs feel cramped and have bright,  harsh metallic surfaces with sharp, almost manic handling.  Boy racer versus gentleman's club.

But the real reason BMW are happy to let the MINI grow and enter the Golf market is that they have a new model lined up to replace the old, old MINI - the Rocketman.  First revealed at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show as a concept they have been keeping the rumour mill alive with new images.  The Rocketman will be 3.35 metres long.  Closer to the original Mini than the 2001 MINI.

No need to be confused then.  The original Mini at 3.05 metres will be replaced by the 3.35 metre Rocketman and the new MINI at 3.8something metres will be the new MAXI.

Or maybe not.

See below for the original Maxi.  We've kept it a good distance from the rest of the text to protect the rest of the article from it's hideousness.