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Eenie Mini Miney Moe

June 14, 2010

Back around the end of April, I came to two realizations.

Realization 1: My next car will be another Mini.

Over the past several months I’ve tossed some other makes into the consideration set, but spending a few days with a very nice, very precise, absolutely soulless BMW 328i rammed home what I love about my Clubman, and about Mini in general. There’s a certain…character to the cars. It’s the scrappy eagerness that brings a smile to your face every time you see a twisty road. It’s the taut and communicative steering, the pie plate speedometer, the quirky interior and eleventy million build combinations. Hell, it’s even the racing stripes. How many other cars can pull off racing stripes without looking ridiculous?

Realization 2: My concerns of needing more space are overblown.

When Jamie was pregnant with Lola, I started to have all these fears of needing more space. Space for two car seats, room in the back for a stroller large enough to accomodate the two kids, and so on. I actually started casting my eye toward – gasp – mid-size SUVs. Then I came back to my senses. I don’t plan on replacing the Clubman until 2012 at the absolute earliest, and by then Nolan will be four, and Lola will be two. They’ll both still be in car seats, but forward-facing ones, the kind that would be workable in a regular Mini Cooper, much less a Clubman. If I need to carry both kids and any large amount of stuff, I’ll just do what I do now – take Jamie’s car.

Basically, cargo space doesn’t matter. As long as my next ride has four seats so I can drive both kids around in a pinch, I’m good.

These two realizations scoured all thoughts of Ford Edges and Subaru Foresters from my mind. As solid as they are, my next car will be another Mini.

But which one?

At first, I figured I’d be looking at a Countryman, the new Mini crossover that hits our shores in early 2011. But over the past few weeks, revelations about Mini’s upcoming models have been breaking left and right. And several forthcoming models have pinged my WANT meter pretty hard.

Here’s an aggregated look at what’s coming, for those who don’t follow Mini news as closely as I do (i.e. pretty much everyone).

2011 Mini Countryman

2011 Mini Countryman S

The flood of new models kicks off early next year (or this fall if you live in Europe) with Mini’s first crossover, the four-door Countryman. Though it’s the biggest Mini yet, it remains remarkably compact, about the size of a Volkswagen GTI or a Kia Soul. Early first drive impressions hint that it delivers about 85% of the Mini driving experience, and that it’s hands-down the best-handling small crossover ever built. And apparently the top-of-the-line All4 all-wheel drive model brings another first to Mini – the ability to pull off four-wheel power slides.

Another fun tidbit – Mini has partnered with motorsports legend Prodrive to develop a World Rally Championship version of the Countryman, which could spell some very exciting things for the inevitable John Cooper Works high-performance model.

2011/12 Mini Coupe

Mini Coupe Concept

Following hot on the Countryman’s heels, the Mini Coupe will launch in August of 2011. Mini is planning to market the Coupe as its most focused, performance-oriented model, and as such it is expected that it will only be available in S and JCW trims.

Though the concept basically lifts the nose off the current R56 Mini, the production Coupe is expected to sport a unique design that differentiates it from the Cooper and Clubman.

2012 Mini Roadster

Mini Roadster Concept

The Coupe’s open-air sibling, the Roadster, will be launching in the spring of 2012, just in time for the warm weather convertible sales thrive on. As with the Coupe, the Roadster will be harder core and more performance oriented than its four-seat platform mates, and will also sport a unique design to set it apart from the R57 convertible.

Next-generation Mini Cooper

Toward the end of 2013, Mini will launch its third-generation Cooper as a 2014 model. While a lot of details about the next Mini remain tightly under wraps, one major change has already been revealed – the switchover to a turbocharged 3-cylinder engine. Thanks to the inexorable march of progress, this new powerplant is expected to be significantly lighter, more efficient, and as or more powerful than the current 4-cylinder. The John Cooper Works trim is expected to retain a 4-cylinder engine, and move into a position similar to that of BMW’s M models.

Next-generation Clubman

AutoCar Rendering

The latest rumors have the Clubman moving to the larger R60 Countryman platform and sprouting four full doors. Beyond that, nothing is known at this point.

20?? Mini “Spacebox”

At present, Mini is a one-platform brand. The Cooper, Clubman, and convertible all share the same basic underpinnings. With the launch of the Countryman, Mini will grow to a two-platform brand. And since platforms are expensive, Mini is planning to stretch the new R60 platform in several different ways. The first, obviously, is the Countryman. The second is the next-generation Clubman.

The third is a people-mover concept that will be geared toward maximizing interior space. Dubbed the “Spacebox”, this concept’s exact form is something of a mystery, and could range from a tall wagon-type design to a full-fledge minivan with sliding doors. Honestly, I hope for the latter. If anyone can make the minivan seem anything like cool again, it’s Mini.

20?? Mini Beachcomber/Moke

Auto Express Rendering

The fourth R60 variant will be a production version of the Beachcomber concept that presaged the Countryman earlier this year. Turns out reception to the ruggedized, open-air concept was so overwhelmingly positive that Mini decided to build it, albeit with real doors that could actually pass side impact regulations. The roof, on the other hand, remains an open question. The concept’s roof was completely open to the sky. The final production version will no doubt be toned down, but could implement everything from a large sunroof to t-tops to a retractable canvas center section.

Choices, Choices

At this point, I have no idea what I’ll do when it comes time to replace the Clubman. Not until some more information starts leaking out, at least. I like the Countryman and I totally dig the Auto Express rendering of what a production Beachcomber might look like. I really want to see what comes of the JCW Countryman. I’m extremely interested in the third-gen Cooper, but it seems forever and a half away. Same with the next-gen Clubman (which MotoringFile has due in 2015/16).

Who knows? Maybe I’ll end up holding on to the Clubman way longer than any car I’ve ever owned…or maybe I’ll go for a JCW Clubman while  the getting is good (assuming I can ever convince the wife to let me own a manual…).

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 15, 2010 6:09 am

    Great post and I totally back you up on your position, duh.

    Two quick things I’ve heard/read: 1) Word on the street is that the next version of the Clubman will have 4 proper doors (not to mention the double barn doors in the back). 2) The latest on the “SpaceBox” is that it could in actuality be a variant of Countryman—something like a Countryman Plus with seating for 6 in the US and 7 in Europe. It’s being compared somewhat to a Mazda5 But once again, who knows!

    Though I love the aesthetics of the Clubman—from time to time I do miss the shorter wheelbase.

  2. Doogs permalink*
    June 15, 2010 6:24 am

    Yeah I’m in wait-and-see on the next-gen Clubman and whatever the Spacebox/Countryman Plus/MINIvan ends up being.

    And I agree about the wheelbase. Right now the Clubman is just about the right size for what I need…but I do miss the hatch. Maybe in a few years…

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