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Wednesday
Nov202013

Larger, Lighter, Faster MINI F56 Launches

Keith Adams, editor and creator of the fabulous website AROnline, was at the UK launch of the new Mini. I've written for Keith in the past, and asked if he would allow TVD to reprint his commentary about the launch. He graciously agreed. Here are his thoughts, funny spelling and all:

Keith Adams, Editor, AROnline

MINI has unveiled its all-new fourth generation hatchback in Cooper and Cooper S form, and is scheduled to go on sale early in 2014. The new car is available with two modular TwinPower Turbo Technology Valvetronic petrol engines in 1.5-litre three-cylinder and 2.0-litre four-cylinder forms, and a three-cylinder 1.5-litre diesel. The new car is longer, wider, faster and cleaner than before – and most importantly, it’s also lighter.

The new car, which was codenamed F56 during development, sits on the new UKL1 platform, which will also feature in a number of MINI and BMW variants – BMW hopes that its front-wheel drive output will be seriously boosted by the arrival of the new family. The F56 carries over many of the outgoing car’s styling features, such as its floating roof and hexagonal radiator grille (no longer split in two horizontally), but moves on in several key areas. The front overhang has been increased in length, and the windscreen now set a shallower angle, blending in to narrower side windows. At the rear, larger tail lights have grown to cut into the tailgate, Paceman style.

The flanks are much more sculpted than before, too, giving the new MINI a much more solid look. It’s most defining feature is probably the new headlamp design, which incorporates ring-style daytime running first shown on the Rocketman concept. Adaptive LED headlamps are also optionally available.

The MINI is increased in just about all dimensions – it’s 98mm longer, 44mm wider, 7mm higher and the wheelbase has been lengthened by 28mm. MINI claims the interior is more accommodating as a consequence, with increased legroom front and – more importantly – in the rear. Just as usefully, the boot is now 51 litres larger, with a total capacity of 211 litres, and the rear backrest now has a 60:40 split, rather than 50:50 as before. it’s also vastly more aerodynamic, with a coefficient of 0.28, compared wth the brick-like 0.35 of before.

The new engines are a major step forward from the existing four-cylinder power units. They’ll continue to be made at MINI’s factory at Hams Hall in Birmingham, but now come in two different cylinder formations. The entry-level Cooper model develops 136bhp from its new three-cylinder petrol, while the Cooper S is powered by a 192bhp four-cylinder. The new Cooper D is now a 116bhp three-cylinder – all models feature a six-speed manual transmission, with optional six-speed automatic.

They’re all fitted with MINIMALISM technology, that comes with start/stop function and optional GREEN mode. Performance and fuel consumption figures are very impressive – the Cooper D accelerates from 0–62mph in 9.2 seconds, and the maximum speed is 127mph. Combined fuel consumption is 80.7mpg, while CO2 emissions are now down to 92-95g/km, while passing the Euro6 standard. The petrol Cooper’s numbers are 7.9 seconds, 130mph, 62.7mpg and 105-107g/km – and the range-topping Cooper S’s numbers are 6.8 seconds, 147mph, 49.6mpg and 133-136g/km.

MINI promises that the F56 will be the best-handing and most agile model yet. As well as being lighter, the new MINI has a more rigid body and its suspension set-up has been substantially revised. The suspension components are made of high-strength steel – and the new multilink rear end is lighter and takes up less space than the old Z-axle. Steering is now by Servotronic and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) and Electronic Differential Lock Control (EDLC), are all standard. The MINI Cooper S also includes Performance Control; new spring and damper set-up with triple-path support bearings. Dynamic Damper Control optionally available for the first time in MINI.

New features and equipment include the MINI Head-Up Display, Emergency Call and the MINI Connected XL Journey Mate with Real Time Traffic Information, as well as a new display, which retains the look and feel of the old car, while dropping the centrally-mounted speedometer, which according to internal research, few owners actually used anyway. That oversized central speedo now houses an up to 8.8-inch screen which is integrated with the iDrive-like MINI Controller in the centre console.

Smartphone users will get all the toys now expected from a new car – so MINI Connected can with a SIM card, which can now be permanently installed in the car. This is used to establish phone connections required for the use of the optional functions Emergency Call and MINI Teleservices. MINI telematics is an interesting feature, where the car can now communicate with the dealer in order to send usage data about the car, thereby informing the garage of any impending problems. It can also be used to arrange a service.

There are new MINI Driving Modes allow an individual set-up involving not just the characteristic curve of the accelerator and steering but also engine acoustics, and in the MINI Cooper S – where the relevant features are fitted – ambient lighting, the shift times of the automatic transmission and the characteristics of Dynamic Damper Control, the latter system being optionally available for the first time. The modes SPORT and GREEN can be activated in addition to the standard MID mode. In conjunction with an automatic transmission, the efficiency-oriented GREEN mode also features a coasting function with decoupled drivetrain – freewheeling to classic Rover fans…

The new-MINI goes on sale early in 2014, and confirmed prices are £15,300 for the Cooper, £16,450 for the Cooper D, and the Cooper S £18,650. This is a 2% rise over the outgoing models, and it leaves a vacuum at the bottom of the range to be filled by the MINI One, which follows later in 2014.

Mini’s Past and Present

MINI has produced a series of interesting images, which by way of introduction, puts the new F56 alongside the previous three generations of cars to wear the Mini nameplate. There’s been plenty of discussion about the growth of the MINI, and when the four cars are placed side-by-side, it’s all to 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, ’80s and ’90s.

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. But in 2000, 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, they say, is history.

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. And 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. But 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. But a longer wheelbase is a welcome development for the MINI, as any rear seat passenger in an R50 or R56 will tell you. And 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. But it’s no longer the tiddler in comparison with its rivals that it used to be. The Ford Ka (3620mm) and Fiat 500 (3546mm), and Vauxhall Adam (3698mm) are all usefully shorter. Okay, so the Citroen DS3 and Audi A1 are both nearer 4m in length, but the point is made. But does that matter any more?

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. But 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.

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

 

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