MINI not so mini? Blame the photographer!

Richard Aucock

MINI isn’t mini anymore – you don’t have to hunt on forums for long to find this grumble.

MINI isn't as big as you think?

Indeed not: the current hatchback is 3699mm, which is far larger than the original. Just as, well, a Ford Mondeo is 4788mm long, whilst the first Cortina was 4274mm (and 300mm narrower!).

It’s also true to say the fact Mini was frozen in a 1959 mould for 50 years, rather than developed and progressed along with its peers, accentuates this impression of big bones.

However, MINI designer Gert Hildebrand explains part of it actually IS an impression. ‘Our cars always look bigger in photos, due to their rounded shapes.’

The bulbous lines and details of MINI appear disproportionate in shots. ‘This is why we always try to get relativity in images – another car, a person, and so on.’

French makers love getting beach ball-wielding people in images for traditional reasons. MINI does too, but it seems the reasoning is a bit more purposeful.

There are other tricks to make it look smaller too, though. ‘Wheel-to-body relation is important. This is why we have 5 Series sized wheels on a MINI! Big wheels make a bigger car look smaller. The wheel is an important factor.

‘Front overhang is also important – for the MINI, it should be as short as possible. It’s much more expensive to package mechanical components here, but the MINI’s front overhang proportions are unique and have to be retained.

‘Besides,’ adds Hildebrand, ‘it also has benefits for the chassis guys.’ It’s not often designers and engineers find themselves united, but the need to retain mini-ness seems to have achieved that here (even if there may still be a division over wheel size).

Certainly, it’s a better solution than only selling MINIs in black. Or, Gok Wan, does this only make people slimmer?

MINI theory on two nation future

Marina and the Ford Escort

Advice from Ford’s Walter Hayes

Keith Adams


  1. ‘Our cars always look bigger in photos, due to their rounded shapes.’ Utter rot! Compare a MINI with a truly small car like a Toyota Aygo and you’ll see just how bloated and ridiculously large the MINI now is. It’s easily 50% bigger than a BMC Mini and yet still has a lousy boot!

  2. I read somewhere once that the track and wheelbase are the same as a Mk1 Range Rover (?). I’m not a huge fan of the new MINI but I think its target market has always been geared towards fashion rather than practicality so having a decent boot or leg room in the back is low on its list of priorities.

    The first BMW MINI and the Clubman were OK but the Countryman is horrid and it will be only a matter of time before the bubble bursts unless BMW do some thing new with the brand.

    A trendy van version or a true lightweight city car like the Aygo would sell well and keep those valuable jobs in Oxford secure. All cars are fat now – I sat behind a mint early 70s BMW CSL in North Wales last weekend and it looked so sexy and slender compared to the rest of the stuff on the road.

  3. I must admit I used to think the BMW MINI was huge and, obviously, it is when compared to the original (which I drive) but then any other modern Supermini is too.

    It wasn’t until a friend had a MK1 BMW MINI as a company car, though, that I realised they’re actually smaller than many. My friend’s Mum had a MY01 Ford Fiesta at the time and the MINI was actually shorter and lower although marginally wider.

    I think the wide track and low height makes the MK1 BMW MINIs look a lot bigger than they are – if you ever see one parked next to a comparable modern car they aren’t that big. By comparable I mean something like a Clio, Fiesta, Corsa etc. Obviously there are smaller cars out there, just like when the original Mini was launched there were smaller cars too.

    I think, though, that the MK2 BMW MINI does look bloated – it’s not really any bigger, but the pedestrian friendly design just makes it look like it needs to go on a diet tbh.

    Before 1959, there wasn’t even a category called ‘mini’ – the Mini invented it. However, the Fiesta etc. were bigger and more well spec’d than the Mini so became ‘Superminis.’ I think people need to realise the modern MINI is in the Supermini segment not the ‘mini’ or city car segment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.