I like Mini Coopers well enough, but all their cars look alike to me. Even with a gun to my head, I’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a Countryman, a Clubman, a Piltdown Man or even their latest concept, dubbed the Rocketman. I get the whole iconic-brand-identity thing, but isn’t it time you branched out on the exterior styling of a new model? The Rocketman is a kinder, gentler but visually similar Mini; unlike recent models, it isn’t supersized. In fact, the Rocketman is shorter dimensionally than a base model Cooper. It’s designed to be uber-fuel-efficient, so the spaceframe chassis is made of carbon fiber instead of steel. Power comes from something, but Mini isn’t telling us exactly what; instead, they’re highlighting the concept’s fuel efficiency, which they claim is three liters per 100 kilometers based on the EU standard. Doing that math, that works out to be .79 gallons per 62.14 miles, or 78.66 miles per gallon.
Maybe the most unconventional thing about the new Mini is its doors. Instead of swinging outward on conventional hinges, they articulate and take the door sills with them. This opens up the interior to make passenger or cargo loading a breeze, while reducing the car’s width with the doors opened. The interior is meant for three, but a fourth passenger can sit behind the driver as long as comfort isn’t a big priority. When not in use, the seat behind the driver converts to provide additional storage, and (small) luggage can be carried in a slide out tray at the rear bumper to increase interior room. The roof is panoramic glass, which gives the open air feel of a convertible with the downside of premature aging and skin cancer.
There’s no word on if or when Mini will use the Rocketman as anything other than a design study, but I’d expect to see some of the concepts features make their way into future production cars. Stay tuned for updates after Geneva kicks off.