the new MINI cooper
all images courtesy BMW group
designboom recently traveled to london for the unveiling of MINI‘s third generation launch, on the day that classic MINI designer sir alec issigonis would have turned 107 years old. carrying forward its predecessor’s signature form and body language, the new MINI has evolved into a more mature hatchback: aspects such as space, safety, fittings, materials and finish quality as well as sportiness and ride comfort have been emphasized in the exterior and interior overhaul.
powered by newly engineered ‘twinpower’ turbocharged engines, the ‘cooper’ and ‘cooper S’, respectively produces 136 horsepower from its 1.5 liter 3 cylinder engine, and 192 horsepower from its 2.0 liter 4 cylinder engine. boasting a standard 6-speed manual transmission, the go-kart-like ride provides increased engine efficiency, optimized weight and enhanced aerodynamics for a reduction in fuel consumption of up to 27 per cent as compared to the previous models.
below, we get a chance to speak with adrian van hooydonk – head of BMW design, anders warming – head of MINI design and oliver sieghart – head of MINI interior design on the design and process of the new MINI.
the exterior of the new MINI has been developed to reflect some of the signature design elements from the original cooper mark 1, such as a hexagonal radiator grille and adaptive LED headlamps. inside, the cockpit has been completely re-configured, relocating the traditional speedometer from the center console to the steering columns, paired with an all new heads-up navigation display with interactive driver assistance, and infotainment systems on the center instrument.
designboom: can you briefly talk about the new design of the new MINI being presented today?
anders warming: when we designed the new MINI, what we really wanted to focus on is getting the perfect balance between the heritage of the brand: where we come from and how people have been very very excited about driving the MINI so far and the innovative solutions, the innovation that goes into any new car design. but I believe the essence of the new MINI is that perfect balance: heritage, knowing where you come from, and knowing where you want to go.
adrian van hooydonk: this is the third generation of the new MINI, in this generation, we wanted to make the car crisper, add more precision, but keep the friendliness of the original car, and then of course specially on the interior, add more room, and certainly more quality feel to the materials, and some clever technological solutions, things like a heads up display, and so on.
designboom: earlier this summer, MINI introduced the vision concept. what overlapping features can we can present in the new MINI?
anders warming: when we previewed MINI design in form of the vision concept, we wanted to display, especially in the interior, very many new ideas as far as how to integrate connectivity into the design of the car, and this is something that obviously you are seeing in the new MINI, the way we have integrated the center display, having alot of design features that basically reflect the use of the car. for example, backing up and you have the park distance control you’ll have a blinking LED light that gives you that in the circular element and really gives a new meaning to the central display of the MINI, something that the cars had for way over 50 years, but now we’re finding out that it actually works in this modern world of connectivity and being online.
adrian van hooydonk: the vision concept was sort of a preview of the new MINI. a lot of the thought was already previewed in the vision concept, and you can now see here it in the metal on the real car. the fact that we have a few sharper lines was already previewed, the fact that we’re turning the central instrument into an entertainment center, and that we have the main driving instruments behind the steering wheel, all those things we have pre-communicated in that vision, virtual concept, and now see how they’ve turned out in reality.
designboom: with over 50 years of history, how does the new MINI retain some of its iconic design elements?
anders warming: the iconic design elements are basically centered around the functions of the elements: round headlights being lights and a grill, obviously being air intake. but that is something that i believe is the mere basis for finalizing the design. the rest is making sure that all the line work, and all the lines that we work on in the design capture people’s emotions. so it goes beyond the function of a light or a grill, when you come around the corner, you immediately have to recognize this being a MINI, being a car that you want to have, a car you want to drive, and that I believe is the iconic look of the car, but also that special feeling you get when you see it.
adrian van hooydonk: well of course a MINI needs to be recognizable right away, it starts with the front end grill with a very friendly look. the grille with this third generation has gotten a little bit larger, this now more reminiscent of the MINI mark 1, the very first MINI which also had sort of a hexagonal larger grille. then of course, the round head lamps, which now incorporate LED technology, it makes the car instantly recognizable, even at night.
the new MINI cooper // interviews – adrian van hooydonk, anders warming, oliver sieghart
video © designboom
designboom: was the design of the original MINI a major precedent? what were some of the design comprises made with the new model?
anders warming: in designing a new car for the road, you have so many parameters you have to work around, obviously engineering is very complex. you have to incorporate aerodynamics, road holding, proportions, where wheels go on the car, even acoustic behavior of the side view mirror. all of these things have been worked out into the design. so all in all, I think its very important as a car designer to look at the positive opportunities and challenges, and make a beautiful composition of all of these elements. and that is, I believe, what we have done with the new MINI, and hopefully that is what is going to inspire people to want and drive this car.
adrian van hooydonk: well I mean designing a new car is always a complicated matter. each new vehicle generation, we need to fulfill more legal requirements. this car is safer, more fuel efficient than the previous model, so we had to spend a lot of time and attention on aerodynamics, which actually helps decrease its fuel consumption.
designboom: last year in mallorca you mentioned sustainability being an important part of the MINI lifecycle. how have these influenced the exterior and interior?
anders warming: sustainability has a lot to do with footprint. the size of the car ‘MINI’ is very important to us. the word ‘MINI’ is a promise of being the smallest car in the segment. and we are, with this car, still the smallest car in this segment. for me I think that’s very impotent in a modern lifestyle, in a mega city environment to be able to have the shortest car available. another detail as far as sustainability I’d like to point out is that we worked a lot of aerodynamic features into this car, especially around the rear end of the car, so the aerodynamics of the car have improved by a long-shot. furthermore, I can go into details about the engines that have been improved for much much better emissions and even down to the seat material, we are also using recycled materials for the seat materials so you see, the element of sustainability is carried through various elements on the entire car and I believe it comes together in a highly emotional product.
designboom: what major leaps in technology have been made with the new car?
adrian van hooydonk: to start with, the engine of the MINI is all new. for the first time we are going to introduce 3 cylinder engines – turbo engines, which actually make the car as sporty as it was before, but have it consume far less fuel. in the interior, we now have a lot more digital services, accessible through the big central instrument, we have a head-up navigation system, which projects the relevant information directly in front of the driver. and then there’s a host of all new materials that we have in this generation of the car, but we also retain certain iconic elements such as toggle switches for example.
anders warming: I believe the major leaps are centered around these elements of sustainability, obliviously that the car is small, very light, very nimble, very agile, and with highly efficient engines. that goes together with the lifestyle of wanting to drive a small car and a the same time we have innovations as far as the features in the cockpit. the central display that has the connected features in them is really very usable and very modern in our modern context.
designboom: how would you explain the experience of driving a mini to someone that’ never done so before?
anders warming: driving a MINI is like driving a go cart. very nimble, very agile driving experience. but what comes with the new generation of the mini is that the level of refinement in the way it drives is incredible. it feels so composed and it feels so nice the what it goes into corners. the way it steers, the way it breaks, the way it accelerates that it really supports this go cart like handling and I think that’s one of the things that really captures the essence of the emotions. a lot of people that are not even race car drivers will come back and tell us, ‘oh it drives like a go cart’. and I think that is the true test of a design of a car and the engineering of a car.
adrian van hooydonk: MINI makes you feel alive. it only takes 2 or 3 corners to feel wide awake, and enjoying life. MINI simply does that to you. when you drive a MINI in traffic, you get away with nearly anything – that’s not necessarily the case with when you drive a BMW.
designboom: what can we expect to see in the next 5 years for MINI?
adrian van hooydonk: today we are launching the new icon, the core of the brand, the MINI hatch. in the next couple of years, you will see the other members of the MINI family appear, and you will notice that they are becoming a little bit more distinct, and each of those new MINI’s will get a character of its own. they’re all going to be recognizable as MINI’s, all part of the same family, but they will move away from the core product a little more than they have so far.
anders warming: right now we’re working on introduction of the MINI hatch. we really want to make sure the MINI hatch is the center of the brand, really is the core. we even refer to it as the ‘hero’ of the brand. its the character of the MINI that all the other minis we have in production are looking towards and saying this is the true core of the MINI brand.
designboom: can you briefly talk about the interior design of the new MINI?
oliver sieghart: of course it’s always a challenge, we have an icon. when we created the interior for the new MINI, we thought about using some of signature details such as the round and elliptical elements, which are obvious for a mini, and combined them with sharper lines and surfaces, and of course you have these strong iconic elements like the center instrument, which is more or less a unique look for MINI – it’s the look for MINI interiors, and we tried to re-invent it, develop it further. the new center instrument is not just for showing the speeds, the speedometer is now on the steering column, which is more ergonomic, but we have now have the space and all the experience of infotainment in the center of the car, and for use, we call it ‘the heart’ of the car, the center of the cockpit. this is a very important element we will never give up.
designboom: how did you approach the new design of the interior?
oliver sieghart: when you start such a project, we get together with the team, you do workshops, and we always create a story… even if we know the project is going to be the successor of the existing car, we create a story of the new car. and when we have the story, we begin to design, and of course, we pick out out icons and details we believe in. most important gestures or characters, were that the car gets more mature. its still playful as before, its easier to use now, window switches are on the door now, speedo is on the steering column, but you still have these typical MINI elements, like toggle switches.
designboom: how important is the customization experience for MINI and its customers?
oliver sieghart: we know that MINI customers have a big focus on making their own car. they don’t take the car like it is, so they are really focused and interested – and they expect that – to get MINI in the way they’d like to have it.
designboom: what overlapping in features can we can present in the interior design of MINI’s vision concept.
oliver sieghart: I believe we have a lot of spirit of the vision show car in the new MINI now. the new form language, which is more complete, more precise, the features like the LED chain in the center instrument, everything is there.
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