Mini Hardtop's next generation could be smaller, electric-only

4 years, 7 months ago - 30 September 2019, Autoblog
Mini Hardtop's next generation could be smaller, electric-only
The model is due out in about 2022

Mini has started developing the fourth-generation Hardtop it will release in the early 2020s. Many aspects of the car aren't set in stone yet, but the company's chief executive revealed his team is considering making the hatchback smaller than the current model by offering it only as an electric car.

The cheeky Hardtop has ballooned in size since the first-generation model arrived in 2000. The current, two-door variant of the car (pictured) is eight inches longer, two inches taller, and about 250 pounds heavier than the original BMW-developed hatchback. Company boss Bernd Koerber told British magazine Auto Express that he's pushing his team to make the next Mini small again.

Going electric-only would allow engineers to get close to the original Hardtop's footprint. An electric motor is more compact than a comparable gasoline-powered engine, and the battery pack can be cleverly integrated in a part of the car that doesn't extend its length. Whether Mini will manage to integrate a bulky battery pack into the Hardtop while shaving 250 pounds remains to be seen.

"I would love to see Mini move back to the essence of clever use of space. That means the outer proportions on the core Mini Hardtop could be reduced. I can see that happening," Koerber explained. He added shrinking the hatchback wouldn't make it less practical.

Auto Express speculated Mini might sell the current, third-generation Hardtop alongside its replacement for several years to satisfy motorists not interested in going electric. This strategy will become increasingly common during the 2020s; the Fiat 500 will soldier on in Europe after the launch of its battery-powered successor, and Porsche confirmed it will manufacture the first- and second-generation variants of the Macan side by side to give customers exactly what they're looking for.

Going electric-only wouldn't be the cheapest, easiest way to replace the Hardtop. The firm can't use the BMW-sourced platform that underpins the recently-released Cooper SE because it's too big, so it would need to develop a new architecture specifically for it. Engineers would also need to figure out how to develop an electric follow-up to the John Cooper Works-badged hot hatch. None of these problems are insurmountable, but they're expensive to solve, so Mini's executives are giving themselves time to weigh the pros and cons of reinventing the heritage-laced British icon yet again.

"We have to see in the next few months what engineering and design can come up with as a solution," Koerber concluded. The next Mini is tentatively scheduled to arrive in showrooms by the end of 2022 regardless of whether it runs on gasoline or electricity.

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