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GENEVA – The most genuine element of the Mini Rocketman concept car unveiled at the show here is its size: 131 ins. (333 cm) long, which falls somewhere between the modern Mini’s 146 ins. (370 cm) and the original version’s 120 ins. (305 cm).

“Our cities are growing and the room to maneuver is shrinking,” Ian Robertson, director-marketing and sales for BMW Group, says in introducing the car. “As we say at Mini, ‘It’s bigger inside than outside.’”

But smaller is not necessarily a mantra at Mini. Robertson notes the 4-door Mini Countryman has sold 23,000 units since last October, pushing the marque to its best year ever, with 234,000 total sales in 2010. He now predicts a new record for 2011.

Still, the brand is forced to protect its franchise as the prestige leader among small cars and may be looking at producing a mini Mini to compete against the growing number of city cars, especially in Europe, most of them electric.

Two small French auto makers, Mia and Bolloré, are displaying their small electric city cars at the show. The Rocketman uses a carbon spaceframe construction for light weight, as does the electric BMW i3 coming in 2013. The concept employs a hybrid powertrain with fuel economy of 78 mpg (3 L/100 km), BMW says.

The Rocketman also features three seats in the interior, with room for a tiny fourth seat. Design elements include double-hinged doors that allow easier access in tight spaces and a drawer pulled out of the back for luggage space.

“We know where Mini comes from,” says Mini’s new chief designer Andreas Warming, and “how it can go in the future.”