MINI has announced that the launch date for the F56-generation model will be 18 November, 107 years after Sir Alec Issigonis was born in Smyrna, or Turkish Izmir as it’s now known. The company is playing up the significance of this date by passing on a world reveal at next month’s Frankfurt Motor Show, instead favouring a concurrent launch at both the Tokyo and Los Angeles Motor Shows.
The new car, which replaces the current R56 in the showrooms from early next year, features styling cues, which will be previewed in the MINI Vision concept (above). Although MINI has yet to confirm much about the technical make-up of the British-built hatchback, its launch follows a large investment at the company’s Cowley factory – although production will also be topped up in Holland.
You’ve already seen how the F56 looks, thanks both to the Vision concept and the series of long-lens scoop images that surfaced in June. The overall shape of the MINI will change little, other than it being more aerodynamic, but the detailing will be brought up to date with many of the features that we first saw unveiled in the Rocketman concept, and further defined in the Vision. It brings the MINI up to date, without – hopefully – losing the character of the current car, which was set back in 2001 with the launch of the original R50.
The new car will be powered by a sweet-revving 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, which will also find its way into the BMW 1-Series range at a later date – and it will also be underpinned by the same UKL1 platform, meaning BMW’s entry-level model and MINI will both be front-wheel drive. How the purists on both sides of the fence will take that is anyone’s guess – but this sea change in BMW’s thinking is necessary in order to maintain its future profitability.
As well as the move to three-cylinder petrol power, another change in philosophy will be the dropping of the central speedometer, which most MINI owners don’t use anyway. The circular central instrumentation will be reserved for sat-nav, in-car entertainment, and other driver systems.
Our understanding is that the F56 will be priced from around £14,000. That means we’ll be seeing the end – at launch anyway – of the First model, with the range starting where the One currently resides. The Cooper is a bit more expensive, costing around £15,000, but comes with more equipment as standard, with the Cooper S, which will probably retain the current 1.6-litre turbo, coming in at around £18,000. The diesel Cooper D could cost around £16,000.
Model expansion will be the name of the game, with the F56 spawning a five-door version, followed by the Clubman (and presumably Clubvan) version, with Paceman, Countryman, roadster and possibly a crossover Mini-MPV following on from that. What we’re hoping to see at AROnline, though, is a smaller-sized entry-level MINI, perhaps in the spirit of the Rocketman, rather than ever-larger versions, such as the Paceman and Countryman.