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Mini has promised that it will stay true to the classic city-friendly two-box runabout formula, as epitomised by today’s Cooper three-door hatch, no matter how many SUVs and crossovers the brand introduces in the future.
Speaking to Australian journalists in Germany at the unveiling of the new Cooper Electric hatch, Mini boss Stephanie Wurst reiterated her belief that the brand’s BMW overlords will never abandon its simple, attainable, compact and fun-to-drive fundamentals.
“No, I don’t think so,” she said. “Maybe I am too classical, but my favourite car is a three-door hatch.
“It is the past and it is the future of Mini. And if you see the (new electric J01) Mini Cooper, you can see we put in a lot of effort in it, making it a very contemporary car.”
Wurst believes the new version is closer to the original 1959 Mini’s timeless design and engineering ethos than any previous efforts under BMW’s ownership of the brand, thanks to a concerted effort to modernise the packaging around electrification, sustainability and efficiency, all while holding on to its ‘fun-to-drive’ philosophy.
As a result of this, it has elevated the three-door hatch versions to the same rarefied status as the Porsche 911 – another 1960s legend that refuses to die.
“It is even closer to the iconic (original) Mini,” she said. “It uses less materials, it has cleaner lines, and the inside is much cleaner as well. That speaks more to the original I think. And it has less mixed materials, so when you dismantle it, it is much easier to recycle.
“At least during my shift, the iconic Mini is like the Porsche – will they ever stop the 911? I hope not. And so, I don’t think we would ever stop the three-door hatch.”
Speaking of 1960s icons, whether Wurst would consider taking the next step by reimagining that decade’s best-selling model in the UK – the original British Motor Corporation (BMC) Mini-based ADO16 1100 sedan that also proved a smash hit in Australia during that time – is not entirely out of the question, especially given the incredible success of the Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle.
“I think that’s possible, but it would have to be something that looks very Mini, despite its longer shape,” she said.
“And as we are getting closer to what BMW’s concepts are doing (namely four-door sedans as per the Munich show-stealing Neue Klasse Vision) … we would rather have our unique own concept rather than what BMW has. That’s my feeling that it needs to be more Mini.
“I’m not excluding it, but if we would have to launch that concept, it would have to [be] something specifically Mini that BMW does not have. Or other small sedans don’t have.”
Sold in two-door and four-door sedan as well as five-door hatchback guises under the Austin, Morris and MG nameplates, as well as long-forgotten Riley, Wolseley, Vanden Plas and Innocenti marques throughout the world, the 1100 was BMC’s family-car staple.
Along with striking Pininfarina-penned styling and front-wheel drive, it pioneered Hydrolastic fluid suspension, and was built in Sydney between 1964 and 1972 in 1100, 1300 and 1500 engine capacities.
“When you look into the past, and I’m saying that explicitly because I was in China this year, that (BMC heritage) differentiates us from any other brand,” Wurst explained.
“We can actually look into the past, and we probably own a lot of names that I’m not even aware of and a lot of concepts, and we can actually develop them in a sustainable model and maybe even in an electric way.”
Back at the second-generation BMW-era R56 Mini launch in 2006, then Chief Designer for Mini, Gert Hildebrand, revealed that his team continuously explored modernised versions of long-extinct Mini offshoots, including the 1100, due to its enduring design and affection it still elicits.
Would you love to see a reborn Morris 1100 EV? Let us know in the comments below.