News : MINI unveils the Superleggera at Villa d’Este

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

MINI Superleggera (1)

The MINI Superleggera Vision Concept has made its debut at the world-famous Concours d’Elegance at Villa d’Este – a classic car event that, during recent years, has become a popular venue for car manufacturers to unveil their latest supercars. MINI follows its parent company in choosing the high-brow Italian show to reveal its latest concept – a wacky-looking electric speedster.

The car has been built in association with Touring of Italy and, although at first sight this car looks like stylists’ fluff, it does rather back-up our view that MINI has ambitions to build a Mazda MX-5 rival and has done for a very long time. The arresting looking car was designed by Anders Warming – he who penned the current model and who told AROnline that his family enjoyed a series of BMC cars during his childhood – and incorporates the front-end architecture of the MINI hatch with a sharp-looking barchetta bodied roadster and cheeky little Jaguar D-type fin.

Despite that, it’s clearly not at all retro – confirmation that MINI’s retro design cues are slowly being replaced by post-modernism. We can’t help but be reminded of the 1997 MINI ACV30 Concept – which was similar in so many ways.

We don’t know much about what’s going on under the skin, but whatever EV drivertrain it’s packing, you can be sure that if a production version appears, it will undoubtedly be powered by higher-powered versions of MINI’s TwinPower three- and four-cylinder engines. The interior of the Vision is a lovely, minimalist affair, fashioned from aluminium and featuring a large, centrally mounted monitor. It’s clearly influenced by the orignal Mini. The Union Flag tail lamps and interior door grab handles may be a detail too far, though.

It will be interested to see how the Vision goes down with buying public, as well as Mini enthusiasts, but the press seems to like it, and it’s clearly another example of the new, longer MINI nose working with alternative body styles. It’s a thumb’s up from us… how about you?

MINI Superleggera (2)

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

48 Comments

  1. It looks like two different cars thrown together. I love the 1960s-style front end – is there a touch of Frogeye in there? – but the 1970s-style rear third and back end looks awful.

    Lovely idea, though; it just needs more work – and coherence.

  2. Everything the F’ed 56 isn’t – handsome, beautifully retro yet modern, elegant and extremely attractive.

    Yes please MINI!

    (Written by a current R59 Cooper S Roadster driver)

  3. Have to say that I really like that.

    Would like to see a production version of it. The MX5 has had the market to itself for too long.

  4. Gorgeous, but not a MINI… call it a Triumph Spitfire though and this thing would sell by the bucket load… especially with that fin and the union jack rear lights…

    MW

  5. Well, BMW knock it out of the park again.

    This is amazing, the MINI brand is going from strength to strength, and this concept is gorgeous.

  6. I’m probably the only person who doesn’t like this. And surely there must be laws against the misuse of the Union Jack.

  7. @16

    I never cared much for the MG Motor and MGR flag waving either.

    This concept actually reminded me of an older AROnline entry on the Mini-based BMC roadster concepts.

    http://www.aronline.co.uk/blogs/concepts/concepts-and-prototypes/sports-car-projects-ado34-35-and-36/

    The more BMW extends the MINI range, the more I think they missed a trick when they let go of the Austin and Morris brands back in 2000. This is a very nice concept, but it seems a bit strange that they’d brand it as a MINI. There’s a growing risk of the MINI brand being diluted with models that stray very far from the core model.

    It might have been better for BMW to sell the MINI as part of an Austin range, which could be extended without damaging the image of the MINI itself. Had they retained the rights to the old Austin-Healey model names, they could have even spun this to better appeal to both old enthusiasts and hipster retro-lovers.

  8. “Surely there must be laws against the misuse of the Union Jack”.

    That horse has already left the barn about 50 years ago.

    And don’t call me Shirley!

  9. @16

    They still own the Triumph “car” brand , so a new Spitfire could be nice.

    BMW makes motorcycles, for a similar clientele actually, it might be a bit of a conflict with Triumph Motorcycles UK.

    The original Spitfire sold 10,000-15,000 units a year back in the day when Triumph, MG , Fiat and Alfa were in exactly the same market.

    Nowadays this type of car is a niche product, 10,000-20,000 average units a year if they are lucky and steal a good percentage of MX5 sales.

    1990 and 91 were great sales years for the MX5 since then it’s been mostly mediocre. In 25 years 800,000 units.

    Have to give credit to the folks at Mazda for not cancelling this excellent car. If this were one of the major manufacturers the MX5 would be long gone.

  10. If it’s to echo the D-type shouldn’t the fin be behind the driver?

    However won’t the fin make it difficult to fit those period boot mounted luggage racks?

    As others have written there are far worse mini variations.

    CP

  11. I generally don’t like BMW products but this looks desirable especially with that Tatra style fin.
    I remember seeing an MG sports car based on the Mini in a book called bmc Prototypes. Similar concept. The MG badge would suit this little car as the modern day Midget, (not that you’d be able to use that moniker in these PC times). Unfortunately, the MG badge has been utterly devalued in recent years.

    Interesting to see people talking about reviving the Austin Morris badges. The negative connotations of these mean that they remain toxic brands with no value. Triumph does have value, especially in the US but in the UK I can’t help thinking it would cost a lot of money to erase images of rusty Dolomites, unreliable TR7s and dull Acclaims.

  12. Oh dear – what are those rear lights all about? A hint at what the Union Flag might look like if Scotland does achieve independence?

  13. This is an excellent car and a brilliant opportunity for BMW to do something with the Triumph marque, and perhaps then develop the Triumph name in the same way that they have done so successfully with MINI.

  14. Would a production version of this car likely be targeted at people in the 55+ age group? Doubtful, so calling it a Triumph or an Austin would be a grave error. MINI is now well and truly established and has proven to be capable of brand stretch in just about every direction. Its a no brainer for those masters of vehicle marketing, BMW.

  15. BMW are masters of vehicle marketing, and for that reason they retained the rights to the Triumph marque when they let most of the others go.

    With the right marketing, they could easily develop “Triumph” into a family of extremely profitable, niche market cars appealing, for the most part, to the under 55’s who have little/no experience of Triumph’s unreliable side of the past. Are many of today’s MINI owners previous Mini customers? No, I don’t think so.

  16. They would have to effectively launch Triumph from nothing. No brand currency in todays market, no dealer network, no nothing. Why take on the risk associated with that, not to mention massive cost when MINI is a known quantity and widely respected by the sort of people likely to buy this car?

  17. This car is simply gorgeous. I initially thought it was a new Austin-Healey Sprite. Anders Warming is clearly a talented designer, thank goodness Chris “Bungle” Bangle didn’t spoil him.
    I agree with @ 18 Jaguarundi. BMW definitely missed a trick letting go of the Austin and Morris Marks. They could of had far greater flexibility and a broader range of vehicles.
    Anyway, that horse has bolted, so lets hope they put it into production and it’s produced in the UK and not Holland or Austria, which, for me, would dilute its British roadster appeal. Regrettably though, while there is still such tiresome complacency over the use of the union flag and British heritage, BMW wont have the pressure to do so and will continue slowly taking the brand abroad. Some of that is inevitable anyway in an international market. However BMW don’t steer the core of BMW products too far away from its home in Munich. True they reproduce in China and have a sub base in California but its home remains in Munich lets hope they keep that principle for Mini as they have done for Rolls Royce. One of its appeals is its Britishness.

  18. As Slarty said @32, “simply gorgeous”. At the moment, a projected petrol engined version of this is being provisionally pencilled in Chez Knowles to potentially replace our MINI Roadster Cooper S when the time comes. If MG wake up enough to make a proper sports car in the meantime, I might reconsider, but this little gem looks very promising.

  19. At last a MINI variant we can rejoice in- shame it took an Italian styling house to show those ham-fisted oafs at BMW that in order for a boutique car to be desirable, it has to be attractive- BMW has yet to produce any MINI that is remotely sexy.

    Ditch the dorsal fin and do something funky (but not kitsch) with the rear lights, and resist the temptation to plaster it in juvenile ‘go faster’ stickers and garish alloys, and it would be a very viable sales proposition indeed- almost regardless of what is under the bonnet.

    However, I can’t see this gorgeous concept being in the same showroom as it’s bloated Tonka-toy cousins- this thing is infinitely more classy.

  20. I do really like this, I can see this becoming a high spec Mini sub-brand, badged as a Mini Vitesse perhaps….

  21. @37, I’m not sure that’d happen sadly (good idea tho!)
    for the life of me I can’t remember who, but I’m sure somebody else owns the Spitfire name now 🙁

  22. A Mini Triumph? I can see that working in the advertising, calling it the Triumph, by Mini or something.

    Like others, this has to be the first Mini product I actually like and it would be something I would consider replacing my MGF with.

    With the new Alfa/Mazda MX-5 around the corner, the time is right for a Brit biased fight back.

    As for names of the past, who remembers rusty Triumph Dolomites? I am in my 40s and vaguely remember Dolomites and Toldedos, but make no connection with modern cars.

    I even like the Union flag rear lights thought I doubt they will make it into production.

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