Friday, 11 January 2008

The real new Mini?

Elsewhere on the Interweb, I have made the case to back up a belief I have held for months: namely, that the real new Mini is the Mitsubishi i.

And it's a solid case, it is a small car, intended for city use, with 4 seats, a tiny engine/drive package, and a boot. Is also is in keeping with trends, and I would imagine it appeals to younger buyers too.

But yesterday, I saw an article on the news about the Tata Nano. This is not, as those of you not up to date with Indian cars will find surprising, a variant of the Apple's popular MP3 player which resembles a root vegetable. What it is is the new Mini.

The entirety of the argument I built up for the Mitsubishi still applies, but for a few small modifications. The interior of the Nano, for example, has a centrally mounted speedometer and not much else. The Nano has wheels that are perhaps better suited to a supermarket trolley. And, best of all, like the original Mini was it is stupidly cheap. It sells in India for the equivalent of just £1277.

This is mind-blowing. Our cheapest car in Britain is the £4500 Perodua Kelisa, unless it's been replaced with the latest daihatsu cast-off. To import the Nano, and to perform a similar 'Eurofication' as MG-Rover did to Tata's larger Indica to make the CityRover, should still cost less than this. And it looks good too, as it is seemingly a carbon copy of the Mitsubishi i.

Tata are the company set to buy Jaguar and land-Rover. This sale will presumably include the Rover name also (Will it include Lanchester?). We could see this Nano marketed in Britain under the Tata badge, with a more plush version along similar lines to Ford's Ka Luxury using the Rover nameplate.

Of course, Rover had this car twelve years ago. It was called Mini Spiritual, but was never made. The car would have featured a rear-mounted K-series, Hydragas suspension, and seperate subframes. It was rejected by BMW as it was too advanced.

Rover had the perfect opportunity to clean up the market and make a killing with this. And they were forced to throw it all away.

Mini Spiritual - Rover's missed opportunity