Auto blogWed, 19 Nov 2014
See that red thing? It's the Mini Citysurfer Concept. It is not, in case you were wondering, an automobile. Yet despite this apparent shortcoming, Mini has placed it on a plinth at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show.
The electric scooter weighs in at 40 pounds, can hit 15 miles per hour, cover 10 to 15 miles and can be folded up and charged in the trunk of a Mini Cooper (or any other vehicle with a 12-volt outlet and a roomy enough cargo area). According to the British marque, these qualities will give the scooter's owner the "spontaneous and convenient mobility even in those sections of an urban area not accessible to motorized vehicles."
It's not terribly difficult to see the appeal, as Mini explains it. With urban congestion becoming an increasingly serious problem - and some cities beginning to ban cars outright - the idea of an easy to charge and easy to stow runabout is extremely attractive. That's doubly true in the case of the Citysurfer, which is rather well equipped, as far as scooters go.
Mini gave us our first taste of its next-generation John Cooper Works Hardtop in concept form at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show. And in fact, we already know that the production version will make its debut at the 2015 Detroit show in January. Fitting, then, that this most recent round of spy shots shows a JCW that's pretty much ready to roll - peel back that yellow swirly paper, and you've pretty much got the final deal.
It's easy to make out the final design for the revised front and rear fascias, and we can clearly see a more robust brake package nestled behind those alloy wheels. Speaking of, we must admit, the wheels here look rather pedestrian for a JCW model, but they could just be prototype rollers and not indicative of the final rolling stock. We expect the flashy red decals of the concept to be offered on the production model, as well, though they could be optional kit.
As reported earlier, power is expected to come from a 230-horsepower turbo-four - a modest increase over the 208 hp from the outgoing Mini JCW. Expect that to route through a six-speed manual transmission, sending turbocharged oomph to the front wheels.
Things aren't looking good for Mini this year. The diminutive BMW brand has shown falling sales every month in 2014 in our By the Numbers wrap-ups. If that weren't bad enough, the latest Cooper Hardtop suffered fuel economy issues upon arriving to the US. First, there was a delay getting some versions certified, and then several models had to have their miles-per-gallon ratings revised.
According to Automotive News, the brand's sales are down about 20 percent for the year through October, despite hitting a record 66,502 vehicles in the US for 2013. For their part, Mini execs attribute much of that drop due to constricted supply. However, with the new-generation three-door Cooper finally on sale and the five-door coming at the end of the year, there might be room to bounce back some in the final months of 2014. "We are starting to claw back our way a little bit. It will be an uphill battle," said David Duncan, vice president of Mini of the Americas, to Automotive News. "We will not get back to where we would be even year over year. It should be a lower decrease than it is so far."
AutoTrader Senior Analyst Michelle Krebs reminds Autoblog that external factors aren't helping the brand's sales either. For one, there's "a direct correlation exists between falling gas prices and lower small car sales," she said, and the average price per gallon is now $2.94, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Also, the booming popularity of small crossovers is eating into the compact car market. Mini has its Countryman model, but the trend could be hurting the rest of its lineup. "Mini was fresh, new, unique and stylish, but fashions change and fashion-conscious buyers are fickle. They move on to the next thing," Krebs said.
The Mini brand and its products have typically been a runaway success for BMW, but sales of the retro hatchback dropped a drastic 20.5 percent last month, and have been doing such pretty much all year.
The reason, according to Jalopnik, is that the new model has been held up due to EPA certification. Mini told our compatriots, "Sales have dropped because our supply has been so limited. MY 2015 Mini Hardtops have also not been able to go on sale pending the final results of federal fuel economy certification."
Mini goes on to clarify that "as of October 1st, three out of the four 2015 Mini Hardtop 2 door models, the Cooper with manual transmission, the Cooper with automatic transmission, and the Cooper S with manual transmission, have been released for retail sales and deliveries."
Mini's Superleggera Vision Concept may not be a Paris Motor Show debut, but this is the first time we've seen this stunning all-electric roadster in the metal, having been first shown on the tony shores of Lake Como at Villa D'Este in May. While it's small in stature, it's still big on both presence and detail, from its overall stubby yet sleek proportions to its Union Jack taillamps, Jaguar-esque rear fin and elegant rearview mirrors.
We still don't know much more about what powers this Touring Superleggera coachbuilt showcar, as any powertrain specifics are conspicuous by their absence, but we'd welcome both a pure electric version and something powered by the BMW/Mini turbocharged three-cylinder currently making the rounds in the new Mini Cooper.
Last we heard in September, any decisions on a production future for the Superleggera Vision have been tabled, with word being that a further six months of study is planned before Mini decides to greenlight or nix the project. We'd love to tell you that the fact that it's here in Paris is a great sign, but we wouldn't believe us, either.
We've seen it in super high-res glory, and we can even build one on the automaker's website, but the Paris Motor Show marks the official coming out party for the new Mini Hardtop 4 Door (which is what it's called in the US, despite this Euro car having "5 Door" badging). It's a stretched version of the third-generation Mini Hardtop, but with an extra set of doors for rear seat passengers. Think of it as a more useful Clubman, but with a lower ride height and less rugged-ness than the Countryman. Got it? Good.
Engine options carry over from the normal Mini Hardtop range, with a 1.5-liter turbo-three and a 2.0-liter turbo-four offering 134 and 189 horsepower, respectively. The rest of the car is everything else you know and love from the Mini range, just with a more spacious rear bench. And as you'd expect, there's a nearly endless pallet of customization options.
The Hardtop 4 Door arrives at US dealerships just before the end of the year, commanding a roughly $1,000 premium over its three-door kin. Scope out our new live shots in the gallery above, and take in the extensive press blast, below.
Mini just doesn't want its Rocketman concept to die. It unveiled the truly mini model at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, and since then, there have been countless on-again, off-again rumors about the possibility of it going into production. If the latest talk proves true, a smaller vehicle like the Rocketman might make it into the automaker's lineup after all, as competitor to other stylish city cars like the Smart ForTwo.
According to the company's head of design, Anders Warming, speaking to Auto Express, Mini likes the idea of having a smaller model in its lineup, but it has to figure out a way of actually making it work. Warming is clear that the next iteration of the Rocketman concept (or whatever it's called then) won't be seen until a design is ready.
There are still plenty of challenges keeping a production Rocketman off of the city streets of the world, and chief among them continues to be finding a platform. But Mini is at least considering it. "At the moment, we don't have the right tech solutions, but we are working on it. We don't yet have a final solution, you could say," said Warming to Auto Express. He also thinks the final version would drop the concept's carbon fiber in favor of more aluminum components.
The Mini Cooper five-door hatchback, which the company insists on calling the Mini Hardtop 4 Door, doesn't start arriving at US dealers until January 2015. However, if you dig the latest model's styling but can't live without the two extra doors, you can start speccing one right now in the recently launched configurator.
The new five-door hatch isn't just the standard model with extra doors squished in. It rides on a 2.8-inch longer wheelbase and is 6.3-inches longer overall. That means more room for rear passengers and extra space to haul stuff in the boot. The engine options are shared though with a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder with 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque for the Cooper or a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder with 189 hp and 207 lb-ft in the Cooper S. Both are available with a six-speed manual or automatic.
Prices (including destination) for that extra space starts at $21,450 for the Cooper or $25,100 for the Cooper S, which is $1,000 more than the three-door in both cases. However, like any modern Mini, these guys are extremely customizable from the factory. There are an array of colors, 10 option packages and a ton of other add-ons to choose from.
It sold over five million units. It was voted the second most influential car of the last century, bested only by the pioneering Ford Model T. It counted among its owners Steve McQueen, Enzo Ferrari and Peter Sellers. It is the classic Mini.
The tiny, two-box, four-seat hatch is an automotive icon of the first order and it's high time it featured in an episode of Petrolicious. Of course, the video gurus did it right, filming this handsome 1971 Mini, which has been modified to accommodate the 1,275-cc four-cylinder from the Mini Cooper S of the time.
Its owner, Sumner Norman, describes life with his right-hand-drive, UK-spec Mini. Naturally, he points out some of the idiosyncrasies inherent with a car built under the guise of British Leyland, including some of well known reliability woes, which he says is the car "going British." Mostly, though, he just seems to have a good time with the little hatch.
With the latest generation of Minis having only recently launched a few months ago, the company's Plant Oxford has found another reason to celebrate as it reached two major milestones almost simultaneously. Since production of the new, BMW-revived version began there in 2001, the factory has produced 3 million of the retro-looking models and 2 million vehicles exported outside of the UK. Just four years ago, it was celebrating building 1.5 million of them.
The three-millionth model was a Mini Cooper S five-door hatchback with a special Union Jack paint job. At about the same time, the factory hit its two-millionth exported Mini to leave there, as well. It was a standard Mini hatchback in Volcanic Orange heading for a buyer in Japan.
UK Transport Minister Baroness Kramer attended the ceremony and said: "I congratulate the workers at Mini Plant Oxford on reaching this remarkable milestone. The Mini is a British icon and is a major part of a thriving automotive industry spearheading the growing British economy."