New 2023 MINI Hatch: design revealed in leaked images from China

MINI’s next-generation three-door hatch is caught without disguise; will be built in EV form in China and petrol form in Oxford

MINI’s all new, more compact three-door hatch is still a long way off its launch, but the 2023 model has been leaked in revealing shots taken during testing in China.

The new shots, posted by various sources on social media, appear to show a prototype of the Fiat 500 rival shed of almost all of its usual disguise. While the front-end design looks to be a familiar evolution of today’s model, the same can’t be said of the rear, with radical new triangular light clusters and a full-width black trim strip adorning the tailgate.

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A glimpse of the partially disguised interior shows that MINI has also evolved the dash and central screen design. In the new car a gloss black circular panel, which likely houses a full-width touchscreen, dominates the centre stack, although the brand’s trademark physical toggle switches seem to be intact.

There’s now no central instrument readout above the wheel, with a head-up display taking its place, although it remains to be seen if this will be standard equipment. A new two-spoke steering wheel design also features.

It’s still difficult to accurately gauge MINI’s claim of shrunken exterior dimensions for the new car in these images. We’d really need to see it alongside the current car, but it does appear that the front and rear overhangs have indeed been reduced in the new, more efficiently packaged body.

The electric version of the next mini will be built on a platform developed between BMW and Chinese SUV maker Great Wall. The petrol variant that will be built in Oxford will have the same design and dimensions, but it’ll be based on BMW Group underpinnings – likely an updated version of the current car’s UKL platform, called FAAR. This version of the car will spawn variants beyond the three-door hatch, as MINI has now confirmed that the next-generation MINI Convertible will also be built in Oxford from 2025.

Prior to these images, MINI had been public with its plans for the next-gen MINI Hatch. The brand’s boss, Bernd Körber, first told Auto Express of his desire for a smaller MINI hatch at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show. His vision will reverse a significant growth in size since the introduction of the first BMW MINI in 2001 and return the brand to its roots as a purveyor of small, functional vehicles.

Speaking with Auto Express in 2020, Körber explained: “When I say small, I mean I want to make a small three-door hatch again. Today there are some restrictions for pedestrian safety, but we would like to, in terms of design and exterior, make the three-door hatch as small as possible.”

Expectations of a shift to city car-sized proportions were unrealistic, with the new car instead straddling the line between city runabouts and small hatchbacks, and providing direct competition for Fiat’s recently reinvented 500.

A previous camouflaged development vehicle, seen in better quality shots taken in the UK, hid the final design of the new MINI. As the leaked prototype shows, the headlights and tail-lights are cleverly disguised, though the latter’s triangular shape is just visible under the fakery. 

There are some interesting design features hiding in the new MINI’s shape, though. Some of the features on this development vehicle are placeholder items to hide the final design of the vehicle. The real headlights are still hidden under the disguise, for instance.  The tail-lights aren’t the real deal, either, and this prototype is missing some trim, such as its side skirts and radiator grille.

There are some interesting design features hiding in the new MINI’s shape, though. The windscreen, for instance, is far more steeply raked than the current model’s, which will provide better aerodynamics and boost the efficiency of the electric powertrain. Also, while the new MINI will be smaller overall, its wheelbase could well be the same as its predecessor’s. The front wheels appear to be the same distance ahead of the driver as the current car’s, but there’s a shorter overhang up front.

MINI has also hinted that a high performance John Cooper Works (JCW) version of the new car will remain on the cards, even if it goes fully electric. Körber suggested: “We have to go and define JCW in an electrified context and era. But that’s possible, there’s no problem, no contradiction.”

MINI’s pure-electric future

MINI has already taken the first steps to becoming an all-electric brand. The company’s plan is “80 per cent” complete, according to the company’s chief, Bernd Körber, with this new hatchback playing a key role in the brand’s rethink.

Following the three-door hatch will be a completely new model from MINI: an electric-only crossover, which is due in 2024. The newcomer is tasked with capitalising on growing consumer appetite for fully electric crossovers, as well as helping MINI gain a stronger foothold in China.

As for the Countryman, Körber explained that MINI’s current largest model will get even bigger for its next generation. “I would say in terms of dimensions, we talk half a segment increase for the Countryman, so in the direction of [BMW] X1 size but with the MINI proportions,” he explained.

It’ll be offered with a choice of petrol, diesel or pure-electric powertrains but, unlike the hatch and crossover, it’ll be based on a single BMW Group-sourced platform. 

The brand will also introduce a ‘new vehicle concept’ alongside the Countryman, which could manifest as a small MPV inspired by the Urbanaut concept.

Click here for our list of the best small electric cars on sale right now…

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