Over the last one to two years a handful of automotive publications have been reporting that BMW intends to share platforms and engines going forward. And while we’ve known for some time the generalities of the plans, we’re starting to get a much a much better view of the future.
For starters BMW intends on using a common platform to underpin up to a dozen cars for both the MINI and BMW brands. UKL as it’s known internally will handle all front and all wheel drive small car needs for BMW and MINI in the years ahead. In fact there are some that believe UKL will even be used for the next generation 1 Series after the F20 – yes that means a front wheel drive 1 Series. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s talk about BMW’s first steps with the new platform.
BMW Group Board Member Ian Robertson has confirmed 6-9 new cars in a recent interview:
"We want to grow in the premium small car and compact segment with the BMW and Mini", explains Ian Robertson, BMW board member for sales and marketing.
The logical step is therefore the extension down to a compact car family called UKL (lower compact car) that there is currently not in BMW and Mini. To close this gap, Robertson announced a product offensive. “We think about six to nine new vehicles based on this architecture UKL So a product family that our position in the arena of small and compact cars will expand massively. “Whether or not including a van to the model of a Mercedes A-Class are, the BMW manager replied: “We have analyzed in great detail, where is still room for more models.
The first step will happen in late 2012 when BMW will release the 3rd generation MINI. Codenamed the F56 and replacing the R56, the three door hatch will sport completely new interior design (with improved interface design) and an evolution of the MINI exterior design language. Perhaps most importantly, there will be the new technology and powerplants. BMW will debut it’s new range three cylinder engines in the F56 that will ultimately go on to power much of the (approximately) 12 forthcoming UKL based models.
Shortly afterwards will come the BMW version of the F56. Known internally as the 1001 the car will be offered in three and five door variations that will offer the same space and general performance of the F56 MINI. So how will BMW be able to actually give each car it’s own character? Reportedly BMW feels confident that software, design and marketing will be enough to make them each unique. This is clearly the big hurdle that we all question can be overcome.
From there MINI will be going on to release the convertible and then the next generation Clubman on the UKL1. Ah yes, sources are now telling us that the next generation Clubman won’t be based on the current Countryman platform but actually the five door hatchback front wheel drive BMW. But don’t worry, the barn doors will stay.
For those about lose count of what’s coming, it gets in murkier. The Paceman (essentially a Countryman Coupe) will make it’s way to showrooms in 2014 based off of the current Countryman platform.
And then things get really interesting. Reportedly BMW intends to stretch the UKL to underpin the next generation BMW X1 and Countryman around the 2016 and 2017 model year respectively. Yes the X1 will go front wheel drive in standard form.
2017 will also see the production version of the MINI Rocketman. According to several sources MINI may even go slightly smaller with the Rocketman getting very close to the original Mini’s length of 120 inches. At this time there are no plans for a BMW city car of similar stature.
Reportedly on the drawing boards but unconfirmed by our sources are a BMW and MINI ‘sports activity tourer’ that will offer the most space and versatility on the platform. What they will ultimately look like we haven’t the foggiest.
By 2018 BMW intends on rounding out the decade with the next generation MINI Coupe and Roadster based on the UKL. And alongside the much rumored BMW Z2 front wheel drive roadster. The Z2 will finally bring an affordable roadster to the BMW range. Although how it will market it alongside the MINI Convertible and MINI Roadster is yet to be determined.
Finally there are several rumors that are pointing the UKL serving as the basis of a front wheel drive 1 Series. Yes that would mean the F20 would be the last rear wheel drive 1 Series before the car moves over to what many BMW enthusiasts would consider the dark-side. However for those who doubt BMW’s prowess and building successful and sporty front wheel drive cars, just look at the last ten years of the MINI brand.
BMW intends on leveraging everything it can to combat VW, Audi and Mercedes over the next decade. And with lighter, more efficient (yet power engines) combined with a flexible and very high-tech platform, they stand a fighting chance.
Mini is about to launch the third-generation of the hatchback which has proved so successful since BMW remixed the British brand in 2001.
It's not the last of the current Mini family.
In 2013, Mini will launch one final model to complement the hatch, Convertible, Clubman estate, Coupe and Roadster: the Paceman coupé inspired, in essence, by the BMW X6. Click here to see the Mini Paceman concept car.
Mini: the new F56 family
Just six months after the Paceman, the first third-generation Mini - a three-door hatchback codenamed F56 - is due to see the light of day.
This is a significant new car for BMW: the transition from the long-running R family codename to the more advanced, totally modular F family also happens to mark the first joint venture between Mini and BMW.
According to sources, we expect the following highlights from the small car brand:
• A five-door hatchback F54, due in summer 2014, challenging the new A-class and A1 Sportback
• A four-door Clubman F54, due in summer 2015, takes on Mercedes CLC Shooting Brake and Audi A3 Sportback, gaining a fourth door, 10 inches in length and therefore more boot space.
• A five-door Sportvan F58, due in spring 2016, sporting a lower roof, longer-wheelbase designed in essence as a people carrier
• A four-door saloon F59, due in autumn 2016, all-new notchback zooms in on A3 Sportback
Sadly, the Mini Rocketman, aka the baby Mini, has been canned. It was too tricky to make it meet crash and safety regs on account of its shorter wheelbase and diminutive footprint.
The big plan for the Mini F56 range
Historically, Mini has always concentrated on two-door cars. In the future, however, we are going to see more four-door variants. Fusing style and practicality, the five-door hatch is an obvious addition to the range. But Mini has made more changes to this model than simply add two doors.
The hatchback features a bespoke grille, its own set of doors, a third side window and a slightly longer rear overhang. Internally known as Clubman 410 because of its extended length, the Mk II version actually measures 4250mm between bumpers.
All the new-generation Minis will use turbocharged three-cylinder engines driving the front wheels; you'll see the same three-pot in small future BMWs. But Munich also plans a plug-in hybrid version for some models, most notably the Countryman successor.
The new Mini Clubman F54
Like its chief rival, the follow-up to the Audi A3 Sportback, the next Clubman will be fitted with one rear door on each side instead of the quirky asymmetrical arrangement on the current vintage. The vertically split so-called butcher's doors again got preference over a conventional top-hinged tailgate, and we may eventually even see a modern interpretation of the Morris Woody theme.
The still tentative new Traveller would be given a slightly taller roof, a longer rear overhang and a contrasting geometric structure made of pressed steel, not timber, for that special treatment of the B- to C-pillar section.
The Mini van F58
After long discussions, the Mini division has under Kay Segler, zoomed in on the definitive version of the Mini Van. Management have chosen a Sportvan which surprises with its unusual proportions. The versatile five-seater sits on an extra-long wheelbase and displays an unexpectedly low roofline about on a par with the Traveller.
If we're being honest, we don't think it'll look like the artist's impression above (we certainly hope not), but that does give us an idea of what a taller Mini could look like.
For cost and communality reasons, the Sportvan retains conventional front-hinged doors, but the seat configuration, the boot space and roof could hardly be more innovative. While the Sportvan will be twinned with the 1 Series Touring, the four-door saloon is linked to the BMW 1 Series NES, short for New Entry Sedan. While NES is at this point a China-only project, the Mini notchback is reportedly a global programme.