|Mini Cooper to make world debut at Paris Motor Show
When Sir Alec Issigonis presented the original Mini to the world in 1959, it set entirely new standards in design and was destined to become an automotive icon, lasting decades in virtually its original form. Two years later race car expert John Cooper helped develop the first Mini Cooper in 1961 and the Cooper name has been closely associated with performance Minis ever since.
It is in these famous footsteps that the new Mini Cooper treads, but with a high-tech, modern twist. Many of the styling features of the new car, inside and out, make it unmistakably a Mini, but under the skin it offers the latest automotive technology available.
"The Mini Cooper is not a retro design car, but an evolution of the original," said Frank Stephenson, chief designer of the MINI. "It has the genes and many of the characteristics of its predecessor, but is larger, more powerful, more muscular and more exciting than its predecessor."
At the front, the hood, lights and grille give the car its unique, friendly face, while at the back, the wide, steeply raked body with its flared wheel arches gives the car a compact, glued-to-the-road look which is 100 per cent Mini.
The cabin pillars are hidden behind the glass, giving the impression of a continuous window extending all round the car. There is also an optional panoramic sunroof.
Inside, the design is a modern interpretation of the simple and straightforward look of the original Mini, with its characteristic centre speedometer. All the switches, levers, buttons and dials have been designed with their look, feel and weight in mind to convey the Mini feel.
Wide-opening doors, remote central locking, an adjustable steering column and driver's seat ensure that the Mini Cooper is extremely practical and adaptable for driver and passengers. The boot can be opened remotely and 50:50 split-folding rear seats increase luggage space dramatically.
Behind the wheel, the handling and performance of the car will bring a smile to everybody's face. Power comes from a 1.6 litre 16 valve engine driving the front wheels and the body is two to three times as stiff as any other modern car of its size. The suspension is the latest in multi-link technology and, with a wheel-at-each-corner like the old Mini, the new car's agility on the road will be quite exceptional.
It will be the safest car of its size with an extremely strong passenger safety cell, advanced crumple zones, side impact protection, anti-lock brakes, a tyre pressure warning system and up to six airbags. Front and side airbags will be standard for both front occupants and head airbags will be an option.
MINI will be built at BMW Group's Oxford plant, which employs 2500 people. Trial production is due to start early next year and the first cars will go on sale in summer 2001. Prices are expected to start at under £10,000. It will be sold by BMW's existing dealer partners, but will have its own strong identity and be run as a separate business unit. This will mean creating an entirely different sales environment, with dedicated Mini staff and usually a separate showroom.
Source: BMW Group
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