By Colin Bird on February 21, 2011
Mini’s vehicle proliferation has mainly involved ways to make the Cooper lineup larger and more versatile with the Clubman, Paceman and Countryman. If the Mini Rocketman concept is any indication, the British automaker is now looking for something smaller than the already diminutive two-door Mini Cooper.
The Rocketman concept’s approximate 135-inch length, 55-inch height and 75-inch width (including side mirrors) places it squarely in the city car category with players like the Smart ForTwo and the upcoming Scion iQ.
While the vehicle is small on the outside, Mini claims that its carbon fiber space-frame construction allows it to maximize interior space. Even so, Mini says the Rocketman has a “3+1” passenger layout design. That’s a nice way of saying there’s room for two, possibly three passengers and four on very short and uncomfortable trips. That versatility comes from the ability of individual seats to move fore and aft in an offset manner and an instrument cluster that can slide back and forth, too. The iQ features a similar 3+1 offset layout.
Other urban-focused features include doors that are double-hinged, which look to operate in a similar fashion as bi-fold closet door. This allows for large opening angles when space is restricted, according to Mini. The rear features a two-part tailgate, which includes a hatch and a lower section that slides out to form a drawer. Think of the drawer as a built-in rack, probably best used for skis or snowboards.
Other than the innovative compact-oriented features, there’s also a full-glass roof with integrated optical fibers that illuminate in the form of the Union Jack flag. The rear LED tailamps are fashioned as trapezoidal protrusions budding from the end of the rear fenders. Oddly, the taillamps project turn and brake indications against the body of the car. What purpose this serves — other than to look cool — is beyond us.
The interior features a trackball on the steering wheel and a joystick for vehicle-related controls and a speedometer with 3-D effects. As for powertrains, Mini doesn’t mention any propulsion systems in the release, but it says the vehicle will achieve approximately 78 mpg.
While this concept is unlikely to go into production, we think what we are seeing here is a hint at a smaller, more affordable Mini Cooper. Content features like the steering-wheel trackball will probably show up on future models, too. The more radical thinking is that this is the future design direction of the Mini Cooper itself, which is due for a redesign in the near future.