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

Munich. An original celebrates a landmark
anniversary. 20 years ago, the MINI was presented for the first time
ever in a public arena at the Mondial de l’Automobile in Paris. 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. As the successor to the classic Mini, which ceased to be
produced just a few days later after 41 years, the second generation
provided all the enablers for 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 already given in July 1994. Alongside styling details
like the short overhangs, round headlamps and hexagonal radiator
grille, 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
also taken into account. 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.

In autumn of 1997, selected journalists were permitted to take their
first look at the MINI 2000 study. This generated the MINI fever. The
relaunch of the brand and the imminent presentation of the series
vehicle were the subjects of intense debate particularly online. In
parallel to the world premiere in Paris, national and international
MINI websites were launched and more than 100,000 prospective
customers interested in the MINI had soon already registered.

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, “Sunny” leaves
absolutely no doubt that the MINI has been designed for athletic
driving and extreme cornering. The 85 kW/115 hp engine powering the
MINI Cooper also provides impressive acceleration capacity. 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
race tracks 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. The elementary design principles from the first
generation had been taken over in the new edition with front-wheel
drive and the transversely mounted four-cylinder engine at the front.
However, the contemporary driving fun unrivalled in the competitive
environment was now delivered by a MacPherson front axle with axle
shafts of the same length, the multi-link rear axle that is unique in
this segment, disk brakes on all four wheels and the series antilock
braking system including cornering brake control and electronic brake
force distribution.

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.

The interior also demonstrates that reinterpretation of design
features in the second generation of the MINI already formed the
platform for technological advance. Here “Sunny” expresses its
individual style most notably with the large speedometer in the centre
of the instrument panel. In the first-generation MINI, the centrally
positioned instrument had been replaced by new displays behind the
steering wheel when the type MK V Mini was introduced in 1985. And in
the latest fourth-generation MINI, speed, engine speed and other
driver-related information are shown in a modern instrument cluster on
the steering column – also in digital display depending on the model.
Nevertheless, the central instrument continues to be an important
design and control element to this day. It serves as a control display
for navigation, infotainment, telephone and vehicle functions.

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. Yellow colour accents characterise the
MINI Cooper SE (combined fuel consumption: 0.0 l/100 km; combined
electricity consumption: 16.8 – 14.8 kWh/100 km; combined
CO2 emissions: 0 g/km), which marks the next evolutionary
stage of the original as the first all-electric powered model of the brand.

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