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Sunday, January 29, 2023

New 2023 MINI Hatch spied again ahead of official debut

Our spy photographers have spotted the next MINI Hatch tackling its Arctic development programme, this time with an electric powertrain. The fourth-generation version of the BMW MINI will get smaller as part of the redesign, and it’s based on a new electric platform co-designed with the Chinese manufacturer Great Wall.

BMW hopes that its compact redesign of the MINI will allow it to steal a few sales off the new, pure-electric Fiat 500. These images show that its styling won’t have quite the same retro appeal as the Fiat, though, as it’ll be an evolution of the current-generation MINI Hatch rather than a faithful throwback to Issegonis’s original design.

The headlights and front bumper are quite similar to the current car’s, sharing the same bulbous styling. However, the windscreen has been raked back a little further, likely to help improve aerodynamics and maximise the amount of range for the Electric variant.

MINI has given the Hatch’s rear end a much more thorough overhaul. There’s a new set of trapezoidal tail lights hiding under the camouflage (which are unlike anything we’ve seen on a MINI before), connected by a fresh trim piece running across the tailgate.

The front and rear overhangs look considerably shorter than the current model, but it’s entirely possible that the car’s wheelbase will be the same as its predecessor’s. The distance between the front wheels and the driver looks about the same as before, which drops a pretty major hint about the car’s size.

We’ve also seen the interior of the next MINI, courtesy of some opportunistic spy shots of a completely uncamouflaged prototype that was recently spotted in China. MINI has made another evolution over the current model here, fitting a larger circular infotainment screen in the centre of the dashboard.

The brand’s trademark toggle switches have survived the update, but the digital gauge cluster fixed to the steering column of the current car has been swapped for a head-up display mounted on top of the dashboard. The quirky two-spoke steering wheel is new, too.

New 2023 MINI Hatch: platform and powertrains

The next MINI Hatch will be available with a choice of both petrol and electric powertrains – at least in the early stages of its life. The electric version will be built in China on a platform that was jointly developed between BMW and Chinese SUV maker Great Wall.

The petrol-powered model will continue to be built in Oxford, but it’ll be based on BMW Group underpinnings. We expect the chassis will be an updated version of the current car’s UKL platform, which will be given the new codename FAAR.

This version of the car will also spawn further variants beyond the three-door hatch. MINI and BMW recently confirmed that the MINI Convertible will make it to the next generation and that it’ll be built in Oxford from 2025.

Before we even started spying prototypes, MINI was public with its plans for the fourth- generation Hatch. The company’s boss, Bernd Körber, first told Auto Express of his desire for a smaller successor to the current model at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show. His vision is to reverse the MINI’s significant growth in size since the introduction of the first BMW MINI in 2001, and to return the brand to its roots as a purveyor of small, functional vehicles.

Körber explained: “When I say small, I mean I want to make a small three-door hatch again. Today there are some restrictions for pedestrian safety, but we would like to, in terms of design and exterior, make the three-door hatch as small as possible.” Expectations of a shift to city car proportions are unrealistic, but Auto Express understands that the new car will straddle the line between a city runabout and a small hatchback.

MINI has also hinted that a high performance John Cooper Works (JCW) version of the new car will remain on the cards, even if it goes fully electric. Körber suggested: “We have to go and define JCW in an electrified context and era. But that’s possible, there’s no problem, no contradiction.”

MINI’s pure-electric future

MINI has already taken the first steps to becoming an all-electric brand. According to Körber, the company’s plan is “80 per cent” complete – and this new hatchback will play a key role in the brand’s rethink.

Following the three-door hatch will be a completely new model from MINI – an electric-only crossover, which is due to hit the market in 2024. The newcomer is tasked with capitalising on growing consumer appetite for fully electric crossovers, (such as the Kia e-Niro and the MG ZS EV) as well as helping MINI gain a stronger foothold in China.

As for the Countryman, Körber explained that MINI’s current largest model will get even bigger for its next generation. “I would say in terms of dimensions, we talk half a segment increase for the Countryman, so in the direction of [BMW] X1 size but with the MINI proportions,” he explained.

It’ll be offered with a choice of petrol, diesel or pure-electric powertrains but, unlike the hatch and crossover, it’ll be based on a single BMW Group-sourced platform. The brand will also introduce a “new vehicle concept” alongside the Countryman, which could manifest as a small MPV inspired by the Urbanaut concept.

Click here for our list of the best small electric cars on sale right now

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