According to French magazine, L'Automobile, this is an early prototype of the upcoming 2012 MINI Cooper or the i-MegaCity, featuring MINI Crossover Concept-inspired headlights and a much smaller, non-clamshell hood. Sacrilege!
L'Automobile also claims to have received a spy photo of the upcoming MINI's interior as well, but as we've believed all along, our suspicions about the French have been true. The MINI-obsessed folks at MotoringFile have uncovered that the interior image that L'Automobile has "acquired" is simply a Photoshopped version of a development mule for the current 2nd generation MINI, which makes us question the whole story.
But, if what they're saying is true — this single exterior photograph is that we're looking at an early clay or foam design mock up for the next generation R60 platform-based 2012 MINI Cooper. It's also entirely possible that this is a mock up for the upcoming production MINI Crossman which has been spied wearing trippy acid brown camo as of late. Regardless of which specific model it is since its fairly hard to tell from this single photograph, the design details such as the slightly less round headlights and more conventional hood will be shared between the two models.
The production version of the MINI Crossman is expected to be shown this fall with a concept version of the R60-based MINI Cooper bowing a little less than a year later. [theswitchback, motoringfile via L'Automobile]