PARIS – How big can you get and still be a Mini? The auto maker famous for thinking small seems to be testing those waters with the introduction of the Mini Crossover Concept.
It is the first Mini variant ever measuring more than 4 m (13 ft.) in length, plus it has all-wheel-drive, four doors and four seats.
The concept is a predictably funky people mover that is very distinctive yet breaks from the traditional Mini design vocabulary in areas such as interior materials.
The door arrangement also is unusual. The front passenger side features a conventional door arrangement, but on the other side, a hinged door leads to the driver’s seat while a sliding door gives access to the rear. And there is no B-pillar on the driver’s side.
Believed to be based on theAG X1 platform, its unique cream and aqua 2-tone paint job had some observers comparing it more with a ‘57 Chevy than a typical cross/utility vehicle. Even so, BMW says the vehicle is expected to go into production in the near future.
Features include four individually adjustable, single seats and a full range of storage compartments. The roof is made of a durable fabric and it can be opened from front to back or vice-versa.
Inside, a multifunctional rail connects the front and back areas of the vehicle. It can be used to attach adjustable cupholders, storage units and entertainment consoles that can be exchanged between the front and rear of the vehicle, saysmanagement board member, Ian Robertson.
The instrument panel houses what Robertson calls the Mini “center globe,” which is a concept for what looks like a future iDrive system. It is a central control unit with a touch-screen interface that integrates navigation, telecommunications and entertainment functions and uses sophisticated laser-projection technology.
The globe’s 3D structure allows the driver to consult the navigation system while a front-seat passenger can surf the Internet.
Designers also deliberately used a variety of interior trim materials not seen in a Mini before, Robertson says, including wood, porcelain, glass and aluminum.
Around the instrument panel, genuine wood trim extends across the entire width of the car. The armrests on the doors and inlays in the footwells are made of lime wood.
Hardened aquamarine-colored glass inlays highlight the door linings and surround the air vents.
And, like the door-closing handles on the front passenger side, the interior center rail system is made of matte-finished aluminum.
Mini also is one of very few auto makers that has some good sales news to report. In the U.S., Mini’s biggest market, deliveries increased more than 25% during the past nine months, Robertson says. The new Mini Clubman, accounting for about 20% of total sales, has been a key driver of growth worldwide, he adds.
Through September, the auto maker delivered 180,000 Minis globally – a 9% increase compared with last year.
“We are confident that there is further potential for extending the Mini family and the Mini Crossover concept is proof of this,” Robertson says.