LUCA CIFERRI

Mini Rocketman, a cute design that raises questions

Luca Ciferri is chief correspondent at Automotive News Europe.Luca Ciferri is chief correspondent at Automotive News Europe.
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BMW's plan to expand the Mini lineup to double sales to half a million units a year is brilliant and appears achievable if it produces stunning models such as the Rocketman Concept that debuts at the Geneva auto show on Tuesday.

The problem is that regardless of how cute I find the Rocketman, it is wrong to call it a mini Mini.

The Rocketman is 3419mm long but has a 3+1 configuration (three adults and one child). Toyota uses a similar layout on the 3000mm-long iQ.

Maybe it is because I was born the same year as the original Mini, but I believe that a car the size of the Rocketman should fit four adults just as Alec Issigonis's revolutionary 1959 creation did at just 3030mm long.

It is also worth pointing out that the Rocketman is the same length as the Citroen C1, Peugeot 107 and Toyota Aygo sister models, all of which offer room for four adults.

If the Rocketman concept simply hints at the design direction of the third- generation Mini, due in 2013, it is previews a couple of solutions that would be head-turners in a production car.

The innovative two-piece tailgate is very practical. The upper part, fashioned from glass, hinges centrally from within the roof, opening high to provide easy access to the trunk. By contrast, the lower part slides out from the bodywork in the form of a drawer that also doubles as a luggage carrier.

The re-interpretation of the original Mini's so-called "floating roof" is pure fashion. The glass structure is arranged in sections that are fitted with light emitting diodes to recreate the look of the Union Jack. When not illuminated in the colors of the British flag, the various sections glow a neutral white.

Despite its positive attributes, at 3419mm, this 3+1 Mini Rocketman concept is no mini by contemporary automotive standards.

You can reach Luca Ciferri at lciferri@crain.com.

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