News : New MINI – a growing legend…

Keith Adams

MINI Evolution (1)

MINI has produced a series of interesting images which, by way of introduction, put the new F56 alongside the previous three generations of cars to wear the Mini nameplate. There’s plenty of discussion about the growth of the MINI by AROnline readers and, when the four cars are placed side-by-side, it’s all too clear to see that the Issigonis original is absolutely tiny – even when compared with its immediate successor, the R50, launched in 2001.

Clearly the big jump in size between the Mini (1959) and the MINI (2001) can be accounted for by the leaps in technology in the 42 years that separate them – as well as the fact that the Rover-designed and BMW-packaged 2001 car had also grown to take into account the likely evolution of the Mini Cooper that would have happened had BMC and BL continued to develop and replace the car during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

The car world moved on – in 1959, the Mini was not alone in enjoying such modest dimensions – the obvious rival was the Fiat 500, as well as a host of Bubblecar rivals that the BMC car promptly blew out of the water. However, when the last Mini rolled off the line in 2000, it was a tiny anachronism that had no similarly-sized four-seater rivals, aside from the Japanese market Kei cars – and even those were considerably longer at 3.40m in length. That’s not to say that Rover hadn’t considered going tiny again when it got down to seriously replacing the Mini in the early 1990s, but the Spiritual concept was passed over and the rest, as they say, is history.

MINI Evolution (2)

The differences between the 2001 (R50) and 2006 (R56) cars are most interesting. The vital statistics below paint a picture of a car that changed very little in terms of dimensions, as well as in terms of styling. Place the two cars side-by-side and casual observers might struggle to tell them apart. Indeed, that was most definitely intentional from BMW.

Yet, the 2006 MINI shares no external parts with the 2001 car, aside from its windscreen and roof pressing. The additional 7cm in length must be put down to the additional bulk at the front end for the sake of pedestrian safety – because, in every other dimension, the two cars are almost identical. The R56 was a very important car for MINI, even if the changes looked subtle. It was a cheaper car to build and was designed by BMW – as opposed to Rover – to confirm with the German company’s production methods. Consider it a German facsimile of a British original…

For 2013, the MINI has taken a much greater evolutionary step, despite the me-too styling of the new car. It’s longer – again, with much of the additional bulk being taken up by the demands of pedestrian safety. The new drivetrain is compact, but needs more crash room than the outgoing four-cylinder. A longer wheelbase is a welcome development for the MINI, as any rear seat passenger in an R50 or R56 will tell you, while the larger boot will also come in useful.

But is the MINI still a mini after all these years?

In absolute terms, the MINI is still a short car although it’s no longer the tiddler in comparison with its rivals that it used to be. The Fiat 500 (3546mm), Ford Ka (3620mm) and Vauxhall Adam (3698mm) are all usefully shorter. Okay, so the Audi A1 and Citroen DS3 are both nearer 4m in length, but the point is made. Does that matter any more, though?

Those who care about the heritage of the marque would say yes, but the cold hard truth is that the MINI’s sales will provide the real answer once the full range is on sale. That said, it’s worth remembering that BMW’s development chief Klaus Draeger warned in 2010 during a company event that MINI should be careful to protect its brand image and not build too many large cars. More than ever, we’re now waiting for a new smaller MINI to enter the range below the F56.

Here are some vital statistics:

Mini Coopers (1961-2013)
1961 2001 2006 2013
Wheelbase (mm)
2038 2467 2467 2495
Length (mm) 3048 3626 3699 3821
Width (mm) 1397 1688 1683 1727
Height (mm) 1346 1416 1407 1414
Kerb weight (kg) 584 1050 1065 1085

MINI Evolution (3)

Keith Adams


  1. Why don’t they just bring out a bus-sized one and be done with it.

    Oh wait, they have.

    I’m sure it’s a decent enough car but, like the other BMW versions, it’s no Mini. The clue’s in the name.

  2. #2 – The reason the cars have gotten bigger these days is because now we expect them not to kill us if we happen to have a bump in them.

  3. Sorry but I really struggle to see the difference in the new MINI and the version before it.Bit disapointed to be honest.I am not saying it´s bad or anything but not a great leap forward either.

  4. @3 there are plenty of smaller cars than the Mini available. Maybe not many that are shorter but plenty which are less long and wide. They represent far greater engineering ability than this overblown cartoon of a car.

    People also ignore the fact that with smaller cars there is less to crash into. Quite important but not something they take into account during crash safety tests.

  5. Despite a few millimeters difference, the new MINI does look noticeably larger,is it the customer that’s getting bigger rather than crash protection?

    Its not a radical departure as promised, may as well been a facelift rather than a ground-up car.

    The rear lamp clusters appear over-sized and out of place to me.

    Quality seems to have moved up a notch or two.

  6. @ 2 and 3

    I can appreciate some growth in size in the interests of safety but we want a bigger Mini, something in the same spirit. The MINI has left the original design brief way behind.

    @ 5 Yes, these larger, difficult to see out of & judge the extremities of modern cars must result in more bumps in a congested environment. The fact they are larger on the same size roads must also result in more collisions.
    A great aspect of my ZR is the visibility – especially over the shoulder when changing lanes.

  7. Interesting to see them all together. The original is as good as the latest is bad. Horrible, horrible, horrible. Certainly not a true reflection of the name Mini. Mind, the same could be said for the “Mini Metro” !

  8. Lots of good positive feedback and support for our lads at Swindon and Cowley then! Lots of appreciation that a company has managed to update a car that will continue to be the most distinctive shape in the car park.
    Lots of appreciation for the fact it will continue to sell in significant numbers to people who appreciate ‘out of the box’ thinking.
    I am no Beemer fan (although I was pre- Bangle), but they are far too smart to make a mistake with this car. It will sell to those who want one – and those who don’t shouldn’t give a toss!

  9. @11, Maybe people expected a little bit more surprise and delight than same but different. Can people not be left a little deflated when the media was awash with “MINI revolution”?

    The car will sell in droves of course, some of its touches are superb, like the HUD and grown up speedo/rev counter binnacle.

    A little early for the somewhat emotive statement of support for “the lads” at Cowley and Swindon.

  10. The extra width of the new car is noticeable and slightly surprising.

    The increase in front overhang is really noticeable when you look at R50, clearly pedestrian impact laws are having a major effect, and a negative one in terms of styling, with all cars having the front overhang of the Peugeot 407!

  11. Those who deride the MINI for being large.

    The reasoning is that if the Mini had continually been developed, it would be this.

    Imagine the Metro as the original Mini replacement. It’s contemporaries – Renault 5, Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Nova – as the Clio, Fiesta and Corsa are now a lot bigger. The Fiesta in particular is Escort sized.

    Yes there is a case for smaller variants – as per the Twingo and Ka – the Paceman concept was along these lines. However the slow sales of these, and the likes of the iQ, have put a halt to production plans.

  12. I wonder if the next variant will actually meet the target of twice as heavy as the original!!!
    I understand the increase in size tho’. They clearly want a difference in size between this car and the one they will eventually slot below it that must meets the required crash test regulations.
    My only beef with that, is they will try and make this smaller Mini in Austria, Holland or Hungary unless British apathy is generally replaced with self pride, confidence and government support, which is quite often the problem.

  13. Reading thru the comments about the latest posts from Keith, I can see that nothing has changed… Sigh.

    Having an opinion is ok.
    But that doesn’t make it a fact.
    Even if this is repeated again and again and again.
    You people start to sound like a broken record.
    But hey, that’s my opinion, so you can take that just as serious as I take you.

    @Keith; are these new engines again made in conjunction with PSA, are they made with somebody else, or is this a solo effort of BMW?

  14. Strange how in the side by side photo viewed from the front, the R56 looks taller than the R50 & F56 yet is shorter.

    It also looks wider than the R50 even though it is narrower, albeit by only 5mm.

    Did BMW really photograph these cars side by side or did they take four individual shots & stitch them together (badly)?

  15. @21
    Apparently I’m not allowed to have an opinion which differs from yours so rather than ‘change’ it as you say, I’ll not bother.

  16. @22
    Nope didn’t think I said that. “The plants at which the MINI won’t be built at in a few years’ time no doubt” is more of a sarcy comment at the state of the economy and the motives behind big business, not the latest newsflash from my crystal ball.

  17. I like it. The shape is very distinctive and has worn well. A friend of mine has a 11 year old MINI One and it still looks fresh and very presentable. I don’t think you could say that about very many other cars of that age.
    Having just got back from the Far East it was great to see many MINIs as well as JLR products on the road. They are such a great advertisement for Britain.

  18. @17, They are PSA/BMW engines and seem ok in three cylinder guise in a few 208’s on our fleet. In fact I thought they was four pots when I first heard them!

  19. You might have thought the first MINI was too far removed from Issigonis principles, ultimately too big. However, compared to this third MINI it looks rather dainty and in terms of styling closer to Mini than I thought. The increasingly wedge profile is making it less Mini like.

    I don’t dislike MINI by any means but would I want one massively? No, not really….

  20. I don’t like any of the new MINIs one little bit — but that’s not the point. There are plenty of people who do.

  21. Developing and producing ‘cheap tiny’ cars need greater annual volumes to be profitable to gain economy of scale and a low wage economy workforce for the factory… was always part of the reason BL/Rover could never replace the Mini and why Nissan have recently moved Micra production to India and the Peugeot 107/Citroën C1/Toyota Aygo are made in eastern europe. Even the MINI (which created the new premium small car sector to make it possible to build a small car in UK) needs more volumes than 300,000 world sales per year, hence why the new platform will be built in Netherlands and also underpin other small BMW fwd models…….500,000 per annum is the long term planned target.
    BMW will build a Mini MINI (Rocketman) only when it is profitable to do so and probably somewhere like China or India.

    In the meantime we should be proud of MINI’s success and that most will be built in Oxford…….as an engineer I recommend you take a look round the Oxford factory if you get a chance.

  22. Personally, I wish they would build every version of the MINI here, Build another plant somewhere, only the government are not interested in helping out.

  23. @Mark

    When we were originally looking for a MINI, I was surprised at how decade old cars still looked new!
    Though I used Keith’s buyers guide and had a fair few with notchy gearboxes and creaking rears.

    Other than that, decade old cars that still look fairly fresh?
    Toyota Celica mk7
    Volvo S80/S60

  24. @23, I was referring to the style of some of the reactions, not to the style of the MINI.
    And I never said, you and everyone else are not entitled to have an opinion.
    Just don’t try to be a Jehovah’s witness about and try to change mine and others and mark us who like it in the process. There is a difference.

  25. I wondered, because neither PSA, nor BMW had -until the introduction of the latest incarceration of the MINI- a 1.5L 3-cylinder or a 2.0 4-pot transverse engine.

  26. Why not Google it, right?
    According to

    “Enter the F56. The B37 and B38 3 and 4 cylinders were developed by BMW with the MINI in mind from the beginning. How did MINI make it financially viable? BMW believes in the MINI brand so much that they’ve decided to change course and develop a front wheel drive architecture that will not only underpin all MINIs, but also small BMW models moving forward. This will allow MINI to remain profitable while taking advantage of more BMW technology. When I asked MINI representatives if they were concerned about MINIs being too much like small BMWs, they turned the tables. Since the chassis and drivetrain is intended first and foremost for MINI, they consider the small BMW models to be along for the ride. Therefore the question should really be, how will those small BMWs drive and perform like BMWs? This could also be taken as a shot across the bow for all those naysayers who think that MINI has gotten too BMW-like over the years.

    – Cooper: 134bhp (up from 121)
    – Cooper S: 189bhp (up from 184)

    – Cooper: 162lb-ft [220Nm] (up from 114; a 30% increase)
    – Cooper S: 207lb-ft [281Nm] (up from 191)”

  27. And, though still a x-flow, the new 4-pot’s intake is now at the front of the car and the turbo is positioned close to the firewall “underneath” the head, instead of the other way around with the PSA/BMW Prince-engine.

  28. I definitely used to be in the camp of Bini haters. however now I find them quite pleasant cars. I still detest the dash design – way too retro and I hate central mounted speedos.

    The size used to be an issue but as mentioned, modern cars have just continued to grow. My Mondeo 3 is almost as long as an 800!

    If people buy this instead of the Audi A1, then the roads would be more pleasant and will keep the people in Oxford working.

    Also, I liked the look of the Paceman and I liked it (though I did think it looked a bit jacked up suspension wise).

    Now my question is, does the F56 have a nicer designed dash?

  29. As a Mini owner of two years I am so pleased the MINI dash has been retained (at least in essence) – it so brilliant!
    I see a lot of comments about the MINI not being a mini anymore. Perhaps we should recognise that ‘MINI’ is a brand name – it probably doesn’t have to refer to the characteristics of the car anymore. After all, do we all expect the Polo to be ‘mint shaped’ or the ‘Galaxy’ to have no definition? Were we all disappointed that the Cavalier didn’t wear a large hat with a feather or that the Fiat Panda didn’t actually have a face?

  30. @31 Francis. I agree, Not that I agree with the Munich Propaganda that they cant build the over designed Rocketman in this country if they simplified it and kept it upmarket but it would need government support. British factory’s like the Nissan plant are incredibly efficient. No support from the government and Munich blag = no mini Mini in this country.

  31. looking at the new,,,, new mini , they are complicated cars as a lot of new cars are ,I wonder what will happen to them when they are 10 years or less old on the second hand market . those expensive extras that cost a lot that need fixing ,the gadgits you con live with out , a second hand older car needs to cost little to fix , those dpf and other thing people will avoid those cars .

  32. the easy way to make the hole mini in this country is to tax indian made parts to a point that they are not profitable to import ,

  33. @40, Just stick to MINI petrol models, if you think you have seen DPF problems on diesel cars wait till after Sept 2014 with E6 regs.

  34. Is it not odd that some moaned that the original mini should have been pensioned off way before it was and now we get those who say it is too that or it too this.

    Cars are bigger then in the past accept that fact an move on. Or purchase a Beetle ;-))

  35. Not quite as charming to look at as the R56, which to my mind looks appropriately utilitarian in silhouette. But I suppose we have the rampaging success of that ghastly A1 to thank for the mini’s slick new ‘urban-elite’ look. I do wonder whether anyone will ever buy a 1-series again though- unless that takes a leap upmarket as well??

    On the plus side, I hope my R55 clubman will become a bit of a cult classic now that it’s not getting directly replaced in 2015. Indeed, if you think the BINI detractors are vocal now, just wait until we see the F54 Clubman arrive- a 5dr hatch-cum-estate car about the same size as a countryman….

  36. I absolutely agree with those that say the car has got bigger – so called mini-cars and small family saloons/hatches have. Interestingly, at the NEC there was a PC Cresta and a MK 4 Zephyr Estate. Have you seen the size of those things? I had a PC in the early 70’s and even I had forgotten they they were so big! I think it was CAR Magazine who said the advantage to the MK 4 Ford was you could land a light plane on the bonnet.
    It may be just flawed perception but even the big Beemers and Mercs of today don’t look that big. They look more sort of Rover 3ltr size.

  37. The MINI to me is like Daniel O’Donnell. Obviously successful but will you ever find me driving one while singing along to the other? Never.
    If I were in the market for a small car then It’d be the FIAT 500, far more in keeping with it’s name sake, but they’ve jumped on the MINI bandwagon and brought out the awful looking 500L. It should’ve had a new name as it looks nothing like the 500.

  38. @46
    Hardly in keeping with its namesake…the Fiat 500 is the same increase in size as the MINI was over the original classic version,….it does not have an air cooled engine in the rear as it was based on the Fiat Panda/Ford KA platform and it is not built in Italy but in Poland. It was however designed by Frank Stephenson who created the original R50 MINI for Rover/BMW. 🙂

  39. Well, I know which looks closer in size to the original, and it sure isn’t the MINI.

    Even customer clinics in a certain car magazine comment that the rear lights on the MINI look over proportioned or that BMW have not pushed the envelope enough.

  40. [URL=][IMG][/IMG][/URL]


    Classic and New 🙂

  41. Meaningless pictures took at some angle as to deceive the viewer.
    I have seen them in the flesh, my friend Angelo even imported his original 500 from Naples. Whilst the new 500 is noticeably smaller than the current model the new 500 is still truer in size than the current MINI is to the original mini.

    You can split hairs about engine locations on the 500 but where is the gearbox in sump on the new MINI?

    Face it, the forthcoming MINI is morthing into something ever bigger.

    Made me laugh that two MINIS/mini picture, when the real comparison is two keystrokes away on ARonline.

  42. If the new mini was the same size as the original not many would be sold, People want bigger and safer cars nowadays, BMW are catering for everyones needs, All the new cars you see are now much bigger than the originals, The clio,astra,fiat 500, micra,corsa etc. The new mini is still a small car compared to others on the road. And the mini is still by far the best money can buy at the moment.

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