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by Tim Beissmann

As the MINI range expands to be anything but that overseas, MINI Australia has confirmed local customers will not be left behind.

MINI Australia’s Piers Scott today confirmed a facelift of the current range, including the hatch, convertible and Clubman, will take place most likely in the last quarter of 2010. He said cosmetic changes would be “subtle”, with the biggest changes inside and under the bonnet.

“You could expect some small improvements in engine output fuel economy across the range and some changes in the interior in terms of the ergonomics, the layout of the interior and the levels of personalisation of the interior.

“Something that MINI places a very strong emphasis on is your ability to tailor your own MINI in terms of options and that will be increased with the launch of the model update. Things like what you can do with interior light set-up is a big one for example – the colour options become virtually infinite – and other things like that,” Mr Scott said.

He said the next brand new model to join the local line-up would be the MINI Countryman – a longer, chunkier, higher-riding, four-door off-roader with optional all-wheel drive – which launches internationally next month.

“That car won’t arrive in Australia until the very beginning of next year. It certainly heralds a pretty exciting new direction for the brand as a reasonably big departure in a design sense from where we’ve been in the past.

“But you can expect the vehicle to retain all the performance hallmarks of MINI in terms of it being quite unique in its drivability and driving experience,” Mr Scott said.

In the US, MINI vice president, Jim McDowell, earlier this week revealed that the MINI Coupe would arrive in the third quarter of 2011 and be followed by the Coupe-based Roadster six months later in early 2012.

Mr Scott said he could only vouch for the production of the Coupe, which he said was a good chance to make it to Australia.

“It’s been confirmed that the two-seater MINI Coupe will go into production. We don’t have any timing around that. I haven’t heard anything that the Roadster will go into production.

“[There is] no information on Australia, although assuming the car is built in right-hand drive – which I think is a pretty safe assumption – we will definitely be taking that vehicle,” he confirmed.

Looking further down the line, UK publication Auto Express says MINI designers have plans to make a seven-seater version of the Countryman to compete against smaller people-movers and SUVs.

Global head of MINI brand management, Dr Wolfgang Armbrecht, told Auto Express the Countryman’s platform had the flexibility to be expanded.

“We could take the wheelbase from 2.60m to around 2.60m,” Dr Armbrecht said.

The UK publication also said the Moke is expected to make a comeback after supposedly being given the green light for production following a positive response to the radical Beachcomber Concept unveiled at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Mr Scott said that although neither vehicle was set in stone, MINI had plenty up its sleeve for the future.

“There’s certainly no confirmation of models like that going into production. All I would say is that over the coming years we do expect to see a lot further diversification of the model line-up for MINI.”




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