First look at new Mini Aceman ahead of April debut

1 month ago - 14 March 2024, autocar
First look at new Mini Aceman ahead of April debut
Chinese-built, aero-optimised electric crossover sits between next-generation Cooper and Countryman

The design of the Mini Aceman has leaked online over a month before its official unveiling, which was due to take place at the Beijing motor show on 24 April.

The new images posted to Cochespias.net reveal a close resemblance to the larger Countryman, below which the Aceman will sit in Mini’s line-up.

They also confirm that the Aceman will receive a John Cooper Works (JCW) range-topper with larger wheels, low-profile rubber and racing-inspired stickers.

The Aceman will share much of its mechanical make-up with the new Cooper electric hatchback, using a stretched version of its Spotlight architecture.

Billed as the Mini with the broadest appeal, the Aceman is 192mm longer, 23mm wider and 130mm taller than the Cooper.

Power will come from a single motor at the front axle, with an output of either 181bhp or 215bhp.

The former is capable of sending the Cooper from 0-62mph in 7.3sec, while the latter reduces this to 6.7sec, and the Aceman should achieve broadly similar times.

As with the Cooper, two battery packs will be offered, with capacities corresponding to the motor’s output: the 181bhp car will have a 40kWh pack and the 215bhp model will receive a 54kWh unit.

In the Cooper, these yield official WLTP ranges of 188 miles and 248 miles respectively.

Charging rates will be limited to 95kW, almost matching the rival Jeep Avenger’s 100kW but behind the Renault Mégane E-Tech (130kW) and Volvo EX30 (134kW-plus).

The JCW version will not be differentiated by powertrain changes but by a more aggressive chassis set-up, as recently outlined to Autocar by Mini product line boss Stefan Floeck.

He said: “The most important thing when it’s a front-driven car is that on one side you have a big benefit, because the centre of gravity is lower because you have the battery in the bottom.

“You also have a good balance, with the weight balance in the front and back of the cars. So the genes – a low centre of gravity and 50:50 weight balance – is better for driving dynamics.

On the other side, you have a bit higher weight. So to deal with the higher weight, it’s a question of tyres for driving dynamics, so we will put different tyres on the car to handle this, which are a bigger diameter.

The rest is just developing the go-kart feeling, as we do for the combustion cars. It’s just a question of space and geometry.”

Unlike the Cooper – which will also be available with a five-door body and with a combustion engine – the Aceman will be sold as a five-door electric car only.

It has five seats rather than the Cooper’s four and puts a more overt focus on practicality. For example, there is a wider aperture between the front seats than in the Cooper, intended to allow occupants to stow a small bag.

The dashboard is dominated by Mini’s new round touchscreen, which is claimed to be the first circular OLED touch interface to appear in production cars. It is used for most functions, but the trademark row of toggle switches remains below the infotainment and the steering wheel retains buttons for media, drive modes and cruise control.

The concept’s knitted-textile dashboard will make it into the production Aceman, in line with a rethink on materials that also phases out the use of chrome and leather for new-generation Minis.

Deliveries of the Aceman will begin by the end of the year, with cars initially coming from a factory in China. However, from 2026, Aceman production for Europe will move to the historic Oxford plant, thanks to a £600 million investment from BMW. The funding, supported by the UK government, safeguards 4000 jobs.

Head of Mini Stefanie Wurst said: “To people in the UK, I can still see that Mini is regarded as your baby, because it was born there and has been there for a long time. We still call Oxford the heart of our brand. I hope and I think we will take good care of it.

“Mini has a very strong heritage, and that is being modernised and given a future now, and I hope that aspect is felt in the UK as well.

Pricing is expected to represent a slight premium over the Cooper, at around £32,000. That would still undercut crucial competitors such as the Jeep Avenger and Volvo EX30 – although each of those cars offers a longer range than is expected from the Aceman.

The trim line-up will mirror that of the Cooper, with Classic, Exclusive and Sport specifications.

The Aceman is anticipated to become Mini’s best-seller because, as Wurst noted, “you can buy it for your first car, or have it as your only car”. 

She added: “I think this car has the biggest potential. It is the one with the hottest ‘newness’ aspect.”

Opinion: Is the Aceman likely to succeed?

Since BMW revived Mini as a brand 24 years ago, the hatch has been a huge hit – but other models to carry the badge haven’t fared as well. The Countryman is now well established, but models such as the Clubman, Roadster and Paceman never gained traction. So can the Aceman succeed where other cars faltered?

Well, the prospects are good. While it’s a crossover, it is relatively compact by modern standards, giving it a bit of that true Mini ethos.

The electric crossover class is getting crowded, led by strong contenders such as the Avenger and EX30. The Mini’s heritage and style will help, although Mini’s past has shown those are no guarantee of success. But if the Aceman can build on those strengths while also offering strong driving dynamics at a competitive price, it should quickly become a compelling contender. Here’s hoping.ъ

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