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Mini JCW Paceman vs. BMW M135i in family faceoff

Mon, 15 Apr 2013 20:01:00 EST

Over the last year, we've had the chance to drive two of the most exciting hatchbacks in the BMW family - the BMW M135i and the Mini Paceman John Cooper Works - but Autocar has managed to get the two corporate cousins together for a head-to-head comparison. Just like our initial impressions of the Paceman JCW, Autocar has little to complain about this new 215-horsepower hatchback... until it begins to factor in the faster, better-mannered and similarly priced M135i.
Despite laying down an extra 100 hp and delivering a 0-60 time that is almost two seconds quicker, the M135i carries the same price tag of 29,535 pounds in the UK; US pricing for the Paceman starts at $36,200, while it still isn't even clear if the US will be getting the M135i. Even more surprising is the fact that the Paceman falls short of the M135i in regards to rear seat and cargo volume, and just barely squeaks out a win in the fuel economy department. Scroll down to watch the BMW versus Mini hot hatch battle.

Sorting through the rat's nest that is Mini's model history

Sat, 13 Apr 2013 15:01:00 EST

What do Austin, Morris, British Motor Corporation, British Motor Holdings, British Leyland, Rover Group, and BMW all have in common? Each company has had a hand in bringing the world a sprightly, fuel-efficient, front-wheel-drive fun box on wheels - the Mini.
The Sir Alec Issigonis-designed car has been sold under more brand names and with more model designations than most of us would guess. For seven generations of the classic Mini, from 1959 to 2000, the car carried a bewildering number of model names as well. (Note that's even before BMW took over the nameplate, and starting building cars styled as "MINI" rather than "Mini" in 2001.)
As is its want, Hemmings Daily has taken the time to break down the complex lineage of the car, with a kind of model etymology that makes for a pretty entertaining read. Click over to the site to give it a go; but check out our gallery of classic Mini pictures before you jump.

2014 Mini Cooper Clubvan

Mon, 08 Apr 2013 11:57:00 EST

A Premium Van For The Modern-Day Milkman
We first saw the Mini Clubvan at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2012, then in December again at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Based on a stock Mini Clubman, the Clubvan's dimensions are identical, while all side windows aft of the middle pillar are blocked out from the inside with handy polycarbonate liners (read: fancy plastic) and have body color skin on the outside, while the rear windows are tinted to boot. It looks like a van and works like a van, so it must be a van. A Mini-van, though.
Where is Mini going with this relatively low-cost (to the company) product line extension? The chief market for this nimble little hauler is cities in Great Britain where they were frequently in bygone days identified as milk delivery vans. These days, though, there are - even in the US now - lower cost smaller urban delivery vans from Ford, Ram and Nissan. Therefore, the spin is that the Mini Clubvan is designed to cater to smaller boutique firms in need of making a fashionable impression while delivering the goods to people living in penthouses and such. Think: Florists, caterers, and so on.

Mini may have overexpanded, some models may not be replaced

Fri, 05 Apr 2013 16:57:00 EST

Surprise, surprise. According to Edmunds, Mini may be looking to reduce the number of vehicles in its range, which has recently expanded to include a total of seven offerings (not to mention the copious varieties of configurations found within each line). When Mini relaunched in the early 2000s, it did so with one model, the Cooper Hardtop, and has since added the Convertible, Clubman, Countryman, Coupe, Roadster and Paceman. It looks like those ambitions of expanding the range to include up to 10 models may have been a bit optimistic.
"When we start to replace models, I think you will see that we won't replace every model exactly," Jim McDowell, Vice President of Mini USA, told Edmunds in an interview. The brand's core models right now are the Hardtop and Countryman, and of the roughly 66,200 vehicles that Mini sold in the United States last year, these two vehicles accounted for some 75 percent of total sales.
McDowell declined to mention any specific models that may not be replaced in the lineup's next generation, though our best guess is that ultra-niche vehicles like the Coupe (pictured) or Clubman. As for replacing some of the current models with new products, the only clear gap we can see in the brand's lineup is a smaller car like the Rocketman concept, though we've been told several times that a mini-Mini isn't going to happen. Be sure to let us know what Mini models you'd like to see kept or axed in Comments below.

Mini sells 500,000th car in US

Thu, 04 Apr 2013 10:12:00 EST

Mini has officially sold 500,000 vehicles in the United States. The achievement came just a few days after the company commemorated its 11th anniversary in America. When the automaker first opened its doors to US buyers in 2002, it sold just 24,590 unis. Last year, the automaker moved 66,123 vehicles thanks in part to an expanded lineup that now includes the Clubman, Countryman, Coupe, Roadster and Paceman in addition to the stalwart Hardtop and Convertible. The company plans to have some 130 dealerships nationwide by the end of 2013; there are currently 116 Mini dealers in the US.
Mini helped reignite an interest in small cars with plenty of personality when it debuted the Cooper 11 years ago. The move helped pave the way for machines like the Fiat 500, Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Sonic. Check out the quick press release on the 500,000th Mini model below.

Automotive April Fools' joke roundup [w/videos]

Mon, 01 Apr 2013 19:00:00 EST

Happy April, everyone. And we all know what this first day of the month means: April Fools' Day. Today is a national holiday for pranksters with the Internet acting as a serious enabler, and it's always fun to see what kind of vivid imaginations exist out there in the automotive world. The abundance of fake news gets a little old as the day rolls on, but we did manage to get in a few chuckles thanks to a handful of major automakers and automotive news outlets that got into the pranking spirit this year
Some of our favorites this year includes Subaru showing what happens when you combine a bunch of rumors, a Corvette some may have already thought was a joke or Honda providing some in-car innovation circa the late 1980s. Honestly, we're still waiting for official confirmation from Mitsubishi that the recently introduced 2014 Mirage is an elaborate April Fools' joke using a failed design intended for the 1995 Geo Metro. We dug up as much "official" OEM foolishness we could find, as well as some of our other favorites, and posted them all below.

KBB 2013 Brand Image Awards has some obvious and oddball winners

Sat, 30 Mar 2013 08:58:00 EST

The sixth edition of the Kelley Blue Book Brand Image Awards have crowned a wide range of winners - in a couple of cases the recipient of the laurels might say more about KBB users than they do about the actual winner. Compiled from the responses of more than 12,000 shoppers on KBB.com over the past year, there are 13 categories broken into non-luxury, luxury and truck segments "representing the combined wisdom of the American car-buying public."
The award categories have been revamped this year, with some dropping off, some new ones appearing and at least one other given a new term. What isn't surprising is that Honda won Most Trusted Brand for the second year running, Best Value Brand for the third year in a row and took Best Overall Brand, which wasn't on last year's list of awards.
On our own shores, in the non-luxury categories Chrysler got Most Refined Brand and Buick took Best Value Luxury Brand. Neither one of those marques won anything in last year's Brand Image Awards, while Cadillac, which won Best Interior Design Brand and Best Comfort Brand last year - those awards disappeared this year - went home without a single accolade.

Next-gen Mini interior ditching familiar center speedo

Fri, 29 Mar 2013 18:28:00 EST

A Reddit user has posted images of the 2015 F56 Mini Cooper, one each of the exterior and interior. As has been the case since the launch of the new Mini in 2001, the overall exterior shape underneath camouflage screams Mini, but insiders are still calling the coming F56 model "the most aggressively different new Mini yet." Inside, though, the two-door that defined premium hatchbacks has, according to its most devoted buyers, gone mainstream.
The giant ring atop the center console is there, but there's no longer a speedometer inside of it. Instead, in an integration that brings to mind words like "shoehorned," Mini designers have placed radio and telephone controls inside the bezel. According to the Mini experts at MotoringFile, the picture above is the base trim and one of four possible treatments - in the upper trims a larger screen for navigation takes up most of the space. The bezel itself is marked with mood lighting that supposedly "swirls around" when you start the car with the red toggle switch.
The speedo rests atop the steering column with a tachometer placed to its left. The BMW wheel pictured is just for the prototype - you can expect a familiar three-spoke Mini wheel when the car is revealed, and latest rumor is that the event will take place at this year's Frankfurt Motor Show.

Mini Clubvan ready for boutique chic delivery duty from $25,985

Sat, 23 Mar 2013 10:59:00 EST

The light commercial vehicle market has exploded in recent years. With a too-large full-size van no longer the only option for small businesses looking for an enclosed cargo carrier, options like the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Ford Transit Connect and now this, the Mini Clubvan, are now available to suit every size need.
Unveiled at last year's Geneva Motor Show, the Clubvan will soon be on sale here in the US and we finally have details about what that transaction will cost you. Motoring File reports that the Clubvan's price will be $25,985, which includes the so-called "chicken tax" and a $700 destination and handling charge.
Other questions that were answered include whether or not the Clubvan can be ordered as a Cooper S or even John Cooper Works model, and the answer is no (why do need to deliver cakes that fast anyway?). Also, Mini has confirmed you can't take the shortcut of creating your own Clubvan by purchasing a standard Clubman and removing the rear seats. The factory Clubvan features steel side panels instead of vinyl coverings over the rear windows, as well as a fully flat load floor and a safety cage protecting front seat occupants.

2014 Mini John Cooper Works Paceman All4

Thu, 14 Mar 2013 11:57:00 EST

The One Mini Should Have Taken Rallying
It needs to be said: Mini using the Countryman as their World Rally Championship racer's bodystyle of choice has done them no favors on the marketing front. And that's what it's all about in motorsports these days: marketing and image. We have just driven the 2014 Mini John Cooper Works Paceman All4 through Frankfurt's surrounding rural areas, and even in thick snow where few souls dared to tread, it has singularly rekindled some faith in the John Cooper Works sub-brand - a glorious name whose credibility has been threatened by portly and somewhat pointless products like the JCW Countryman.
The JCW Paceman is a little quicker than its Countryman relative, a little lighter, hunkered down lower, and better looking. We can't say we're crazy anymore about the stock Chili Red details and black exterior they keep showing us at these launches, but that's just paint. Then there's that projected pricing of $36k-plus that puts us on the verge of yelling "¡No mas!" But the All4 system on our 215-horsepower Paceman worked extremely well when paired with a set of exceptional Pirelli Sottozero Winter 210 Serie II tires (sized 205/55 R17 91H all around). The combination of all-wheel drive and good rubber encouraged us to gradually up the average speed and enthusiasm the further we drove along.