The MINI – for 20 years the original in the premium segment of small cars


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20 years ago, the successor to the classic Mini, the modern MINI was presented for the first time ever in a public arena at the Mondial de l’Automobile in Paris, and thus a unique success story in the automobile sector commenced with the relaunch of the traditional British heritage brand under the umbrella of the BMW Group and the presentation of the models MINI One and MINI Cooper. The second generation proved to be another revolution in the small car segment. The MINI was the first premium vehicle in this class. Its modern concept has promoted continuous advanced development to the present day, encompassing driving fun, efficiency, comfort, safety, connectivity and not least model diversity.

A journey through time with an early example of the MINI Cooper provides an ideal opportunity to get on the track of the pioneering character exhibited by the second generation. The ambassador from the initial phase of the British original for the 21st century rolled off the assembly line in October 2001, six months after production had been launched at the MINI plant in Oxford. Three previous owners already experienced loads of driving fun as they powered along some 175,000 kilometres. And like every MINI, it was given a name. This model was dubbed “Sunny”, inspired by the paint finish for the body in Liquid Yellow, which transformed it into a rarity. In the first year of sales for the modern MINI in Germany, only one in every fifteen vehicles was supplied in this colour. The combination with a roof and door mirror caps in Black was even rarer. The starting signal for the development of the second generation of the MINI was given in July 1994. A top priority for the designers was to transfer the fundamental idea from the initial years of the classic Mini to the modern era of the automobile. The modern MINI similarly needed to be unique, offer space for four people and their luggage, provide an efficient travelling experience, and generate enthusiasm with driving characteristics not achieved by any other model in its class.

Contemporary aspirations for comfort and maximum safety standards were considered. Once again, a revolutionary new small car was created – geared to the requirements of its era in all criteria, and this time developed and manufactured to comply with all the quality benchmarks of a premium brand into the bargain. The sale of the MINI in the United Kingdom started on 7 July 2001 and the market launch in Germany was celebrated two months later. Already at this point, a weekend shift was introduced at the MINI plant in Oxford for the first time, so as to be in a position to meet the massive demand. And yet the global triumph had only just begun. In Japan, where the classic Mini had a huge fan community, the second generation also encountered enormous interest. The sales launch there was scheduled for 2 March 2002 because this date is pronounced “MI-NI” in Japanese. At last, the turn of US fans finally came on 22 March 2002. The dealers there had already booked orders for 20,000 cars.

The MINI of the second-generation enthralled drivers around the world with its agile handling. Right up to the present day, the MINI has been designed for athletic driving and extreme cornering. Some 20 years ago, this also impressed John Cooper – the ingenious sports-car designer who had previously paved the way for the classic Mini to take racetracks by storm. “The MINI Cooper puts a smile on your face,” he commented after his first test drive in the eponymous model once more named after him. Right from the start, wide-ranging options were provided for individualising a key component of the typical MINI style. Diversity and premium look within the interior were created by a wide range of features including seats and upholstery, interior trims and steering wheels in many versions, alongside modern equipment options such as automatic climate control, heated seats, panorama sunroof and navigation. The original MINI accessories programme included auxiliary headlamps, white taillights, an aerodynamic package, a range of roof trims as well as additional instruments and even a car phone.

As early as 2003, a diesel engine was rolled out in the second generation of the MINI, and the convertible MINI Cabrio followed in the next year. The model diversity was even greater for the third generation launched in 2006. MINI Clubman, MINI Coupé and MINI Roadster joined the range. Not long after this, the brand succeeded in breaking into the premium compact segment where today the MINI Countryman and the new MINI Clubman create that go-kart feeling in a further dimension. Additional target groups were conquered in what is now the fourth model generation of the small car with the MINI 5-Door. Over the period of 20 years, the MINI has become noticeably more mature, but its character still remains inimitable. And the fresh colour shade that suits “Sunny” so perfectly is now acting as a very special beacon for the future

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About Author
Sunit Berry
Sunit Berry

With a passion for driving, appreciation for fast machines and a love for the tuning culture, Sunit tries to engage people by creating a bond and making them experience his passion and emotions for cars through his writing and humour. 

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