The next-generation MINI is getting closer to its late-2013 launch and heavily disguised Cooper S (above) and Cooper (below) models have been spied in Germany. These are likely to be pre-production models, which started rolling down the line in April.
Longer and wider than the current R56 MINI, the new model will be the first to have a conventional instrument cluster; forever consigning the large centrally-mounted speedometer to the history books.
The Cooper S and JCW models will still use a turbocharged 1.6 litre engine, but lower-spec F56 MINIs will use three cylinder units developed by BMW.
MINI is continuing its global march from niche player to relative volume seller with word that a production facility in China is now on the cards. The Shenyang Plant is expected to commence production in 2015 and is slated to build MINIs and front-wheel drive BMWs destined for Asian markets.
At the moment Countrymans are built by Magna Styer in Austria and NedCar in the Netherlands is signed up to build F56 MINIs as well.
We rather liked it when all MINIs came from Oxford and they had stupidly sized speedos in the middle of the dash and were genuinely different to their competition. Now we’re alert, and maybe even alarmed, at the way BMW is slowly stripping away some of the character traits that made a MINI a MINI.
Please, BMW, don’t dilute the MINI brand down so much that it becomes just another BMW product.