Mini Reveals New Hardtop Ahead of LA Debut

A little larger, a little lighter.

by on Nov.18, 2013

Coming at you...the newly redesigned Mini Hardtop.

Like baseball, it might help  to have a scorecard to keep up with Mini, the British carmaker rapidly expanding its line-up in recent years and hinting it could soon offer a whopping 10 to 12 different models in the not-too-distant future.

But in one sense, Mini is about to go back to basics, and the Los Angeles Auto Show will this week see the roll-out of an all-new update of the brand’s flagship product line, the Mini Hardtop. Based on a new platform developed in cooperation with German parent BMW, the next-generation Hardtop won’t deliver many visual surprises but will bring to market some new engines and advanced connectivity and other high-tech systems, Mini promises.

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While the new platform is a significant update, the approach to exterior design has been much more evolutionary which, Mini suggests, “signals the more mature character of the new model, reflected in a significant optimization of such aspects as space, safety, fittings, materials and finish quality as well as sportiness and ride comfort.”

The new Mini Hardtop is slightly larger in every dimension - especially interior and cargo space.

The exterior won’t surprise those familiar with the outgoing Mini Hardtop, though the look has been updated with details such as the new LED headlamps. A closer look reveals that even traditional design features, such as the hexagonal grill, side indicators and upright rear clusters have been, as Mini puts it, “reinterpreted.”

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The basic shape, though holding to the familiar Mini proportions, have also been tweaked. The new Mini Hardtop measures 151.9 inches, nose-to-tail, 68 inches in width and 55.7 inches high. That is 4.5 inches longer, 1.7 inches wider and 0.3 inches higher than the outgoing model, while the wheelbase has been stretched 1.1 inches to 98.2 inches. The maker says this allows for larger seats, more shoulder and foot room – and a major improvement in cargo space. The boot, as the British like to call it, jumps from the old car’s 3 cubic feet to 8.7 cf.

The optional new LED headlamps – a segment first, can also be ordered with an adaptive light distribution function that helps direct the beam where needed along the roadside or road surface.

The new Mini moves its speedometer right above the steering wheel - a shock for purists.

Perhaps the biggest change – which purists may disdain while most everyone else seems likely to praise – is the relocation of the speedometer, tach and fuel gauges to a place above the steering wheel, rather than atop the center console, the classic Mini layout. It might be seen as quite so heretical but the new car also gets a new push-button starter.

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The new Mini Hardtop will benefit from the launch of two new engines for the U.S. market, a 134-horsepower, three-cylinder package, and a 189-horsepower four-cyl9inder powertrain. Buyers will have a choice of a 6-speed manual or an optional 6-speed automatic. Though Mini claims the new powertrains will yield improved fuel economy, the maker likely won’t release specific MPG numbers until closer to the new Hardtop’s on-sale date.

The suspension of the new Mini Hardtop has been significantly revised and, among other things, the car will now be offered with a system called Dynamic Damper Control. Electronic controls allow a driver to shift between comfort and sport modes. The electro-mechanical steering, meanwhile, now adds a torque steer compensation system to prevent zigging and zagging under heavy launch acceleration.

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The new Mini platform will be shared with several new BMW models, including the X1.

Efforts to trim mass, the maker claims, have helped the new Mini Hardtop deliver a “more go-kart-like feeling.”

New safety features include a drive-off assistant, automatic brake drying, Fading Brake Support, Electronic Differential Lock Control.

The new Mini Hardtop also gets an upgraded version of the Mini Connected Services package, and the car will be available with either a 4-line TFT or 8.8-inch LCD display. There’s also an optional new Head-Up Display, and the new Driving Assistant adds a number of camera-based safety systems such as active cruise control and collision and pedestrian warning,

The new Mini platform was developed as part of a joint venture with parent BMW – the German maker planning to use the new “architecture on some of its own, smaller models, including replacements for the 1-Series and X1. It will mark the first time BMW will opt for a front-drive layout.

Look for the 2015 Mini Hardtop to reach showrooms next March. Mini is not giving any guidance on pricing yet.

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