Adrian van Hooydonk, head of BMW Group design, recently told Autocar.co.uk that the next generation of the MINI hatch will be a “bigger design leap than the last one.” Mr. Hooydonk goes on to add that Anders Warming, the new head of MINI design, will be all but starting over with the new line of iconic little hatchbacks, but adds “we have to balance that against the fact that it is the brand’s core model, like the 3, 5 and 7-series rolled into one.”
I can’t say this is too much of a shock. We’ll be two generations and nearly 15 years removed from Frank Stephenson’s revolution of the classic car in the R50. And while I love many things about the R56 (power, comfort, refinement, etc.), I’ve always felt that many of its design details were needlessly derivative of the first generation MINI — change for change’s sake. Not bad per say, just fussed with in a way that I’ve never liked. With the car evolving significantly in this next generation (3-cylinder engines, more variants), it makes sense for the design language of the MINI to get an overhaul. Add to that new leadership at MINI design and significant change is inevitable.
But what will that change look like? What is sacred ground? How can the MINI evolve and still be iconically MINI? In their posting, Autocar goes on to cite sources saying that MINI is working on a “new interior design language to replace the theme of the large centrally mounted speedometer.”
I was flabbergasted when I read this. Speaking just for myself, I really hope this is just a rumor. Perhaps it’s just a design exercise and not their actual intention. Yet, I can’t hide my alarm. The center speedo is one of the few truly unique design details in the MINI. No other car out there shares the gauges with the cabin like the MINI does. Rooflines, headlight shapes, bonnet bulges — these can all be pretty fluid in my mind. MINI has shown us over and over in their concept cars how much flexibility there is in the brand’s character. But can a MINI be a MINI without the center speedo? Does it just become yet another clever european interior? Say it ain’t so, Anders. Say it ain’t so.
We’ll be working diligently to get more information. Stay tuned.