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Spyshot: Mini Mk II drops clamshell bonnet

It’s a Mini – but not as you know it. Look closely, don’t be fooled by the black paint and black tape, and you’ll realise that tinkering with this Mini’s ticker is not via the typical clamshell.

This is a prototype for the Mini Mk II – and one of the big changes is the elimination of today’s clamshell bonnet. Brilliant car it may be, but the Mk I has been repeatedly plagued by accusations that the product is too faithful to Sir Alec Issigonis’ original – i.e. a money loser. BMW denies the charge.

But this photo reveals that the clamshell bonnet is one expensive indulgence that won’t be repeated when the Mk II arrives in 2007. Sources say the costly problem was anchoring the headlamps in place, to avoid the beams of light jiggling around. For the Mk II, the lamps will be fixed permanently to the wings.

There’s another big change up front: under that bonnet bulge lurks the new ‘Prince’ four-cylinder engine. Developed by BMW but to be built and used by Peugeot-Citroen, the petrol engine will be offered with 1.4 and 1.6 litre displacements. Valvetronic variable valve timing, boosting power and economy, will also figure.

Expect around 90bhp from the 1.4, while the 1.6 is tipped to offer 110 and 140bhp.

The Cooper S replacement could call on 200bhp, but by adopting a turbo rather than the supercharger of today’s Pentagon unit, shared with DaimlerChrysler. As for the obligatory diesel, no word yet on whether the Toyota engine is ditched for a PSA HDi oilburner.

Elsewhere the template remains much the same: transverse engine, front-wheel drive and a tentative, evolutionary approach to that smash hit-look.

The windscreen should be more steeply angled, and the proportions bigger, but overall it will be obviously a Mini. This time, however, the car will be sold as both a three- and five-door. The latter will have a stretched wheelbase and measure close to four metres long.

Expect other variants, too: a practical Clubman estate, four-seat Cabriolet and two-seat Speedster are all tipped to figure. And BMW, caught napping by the runaway success of the Mini Mk I, is likely to revamp the Oxford plant, to boost capacity to around 300,000 units a year.

The Mini adventure is showing no signs of letting up.

ENGINES

BMW developed ‘Prince’ 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre 4cyl petrol unit built by PSA will be used in the 2007 Mini Mk II.

BONNET

Expensive clamshell bonnet is to be replaced by more conventional unit with headlamps fixed to wings.

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