Tata Pixel : The real successor to Sir Alec Issigonis’ original Mini?
Autocar’s Editor, Chas Hallett, recently reported on a conversation with the BMW Group’s Head of Sales and Marketing, Ian Robertson, about the prospects of the MINI Rocketman Concept, which was revealed at the Geneva Motor Show, reaching production.
Robertson gave ‘clear indications that the MINI Rocketman could make production and gives hints towards other future MINIs.’ He said: ‘We are good at looking at history and interpreting a future for it’ and pointed out that most MINI concept cars do eventually end up in the showroom.
However, that surely begs this question: are the BMW Group ‘good at looking at history and interpreting a future for it’? Alternatively, and more specifically, can the Rocketman Concept justifiably be described as a ‘mini-MINI’? Well, given that any production version’s dimensions are likely to be pretty close to those of the concept’s which are L: 3419mm, W: 1907mm and H: 1398mm or about 304mm shorter than the current MINI Hatch, that seems to be a legitimate claim.
Sir Alec Issigonis might, though, have disagreed with such an assertion – his original 1959 Mini measured just 3.05m (a tad over ten feet) in length or around 365mm shorter still than the MINI Rocketman Concept. Ironically, there was another new concept car on display at the Geneva Motor Show which has a near to 3.0m footprint just like the Issigonis-designed Mini’s: the Tata Pixel.
Tata Motors Limited has a long history of exhibiting concept cars at the Geneva Motor Show but the Pixel will, in retrospect, probably come to be regarded as the most innovative and significant yet. The Pixel shares the Tata Nano’s platform and so has a rear engine – ‘the best package for a city car’ according to the company’s British-born Head of Advanced and Product Engineering, Dr. Tim Leverton – and can accommodate four adults. Indeed, Tata Motors makes the bold claim that the Pixel ‘is the most package efficient four-seater in the world.’
The design, which was done at Tata Motors’ Design Centre in Italy, incorporates two scissor doors and a large glass area which includes a panoramic roof. The Pixel has a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder turbodiesel engine, low-resistance tyres, stop-start technology and what the company refers to as ‘intelligent battery charging.’ The Pixel returns a claimed 83mpg and produces CO2 emissions of just 89g/km.
Many Automotive Industry pundits seem to think that the Pixel’s most innovative engineering feature will turn out to be the car’s ‘Zero Turn’ toroidal traction-drive Infinitely Variable Transmission (IVT), which assists rotation of the outer rear wheel forwards and the inner rear wheel backwards, while the front wheels turn at acute angles so giving the Pixel a turning circle radius of just 2.6 metres. This IVT has been developed by UK-based supplier Torotrak plc. AROnline readers can see how ‘Zero Turn’ works by watching the video clip below – the fun starts at about 1min 30secs!
The Pixel’s interior features My Tata Connect which integrates the driver’s smartphone with the car’s infotainment systems so enabling owners to control their mobile and use apps to access their music collection or navigation on the move.
AROnline’s research suggests that the final, market-ready Pixel should arrive in European showrooms during 2012 and be available in either two-door, short-wheelbase or four-door, long-wheelbase form – the scissor doors, though, are unlikely to survive into production. Interestingly, that rear-engined two-door, short-wheelbase or four-door, long-wheelbase format has echoes of the Oliver Le Grice-designed Mini Spiritual and Spiritual Too Concepts which were exhibited at the Geneva Motor Show back in 1997…
Anyway, to conclude, here are two questions for readers to consider:- 1) given BMW Group Board Member Ian Robertson’s remark about the company being ‘good at looking at history and interpreting a future for it,’ which do you think more accurately captures the spirit of the original Mini – the MINI Rocketman Concept or the Tata Pixel Concept? 2) which of those two concepts do you reckon Sir Alec Issigonis would have favoured?
[Editor’s Note: Incidentally, each member of Autocar’s Editorial Team has selected a ‘Star of the Show’ in this week’s post-Geneva issue – Editor Hallett picked the Pixel…]