Smart’s announcement yesterday that it is planning on releasing two full-size SUVs. The vague memory that, yeah, Mini is planning on releasing more big SUVs just drives home the realization that the car market is inexorably lumbering to becoming nearly an undifferentiated parade of chonky SUVs. If this is truly our fate, then I’m going to take some time here to implore Mini to at least consider an alternate path into that inevitable SUV space. A path that feels more true to their origins, more British, more Mini. Here we go.
So, first, let’s figure out what, exactly, it is that SUVs offer that everyone seems to want. There’s that high “command seating” position that so many people seem to have decided they love so damn much, so, okay, they want to be nice and high up when they drive. Fine.
Then there’s more space (less than a minivan, but whatevs), and the possibility of third-row seating. Also, I suppose there are aesthetic reasons, too. I don’t think I’ll include off-road ability in this list because the vast majority of SUVs sold don’t drive over any terrain rougher than a forgotten pool raft left in a driveway.
So, what we need to figure out how Mini can provide these basic demands without completely debasing themselves and turning their back on all of the qualities that make Mini, well, Mini?
More so than most carmakers, Mini’s whole deal is tied to the character and traits of the one particular car that inspired the whole brand, the original Mini.
And if you were forced at a sharpened-screwdriver point to come up with two words that summarized everything about what the brand Mini is, I’m willing to bet a puncture wound that those two words would be “small” and “British.”
Even under BMW’s very German ownership, Mini has always really leaned into the Britishness — hell, who else sells cars with Union Jack taillights?
So, okay, we gotta keep things British. But small. How do we keep things small while simultaneously making things SUV-level bigger, and somehow getting that high, command-seating position? Is there any very British solution out there for getting more room and seating in the same small footprint on a vehicle?
Actually, there is. There really is:
That’s right, queen-motherfuckers! A double-decker bus. That’s the solution Mini needs to get more space, more seating, a command driving position, keep their basic footprint small, and, yes, remain so very very British.
Here’s what I’m thinking:
Were you skeptical? Not anymore, right? Hot damn, this just feels right. I mean, think about it: the wheelbase and length and width are no bigger than the smallest currently-sold two-door Mini, yet interior volume is nearly doubled and seating, too! It doesn’t just add a third row, it adds a fourth and will be the only SUV on the market that can haul six-foot 2x4s vertically.
Thanks to modern drive-by-wire tech, the driving controls can be located on the upper or lower decks, and let’s say the panel with those windshield wipers can slide down to cover the lower windshield from above or the upper one from below.
In the upper position, a Double Decker Mini SUV will have a command seating position even higher than most lifted trucks:
So yeah, eat it, big-ass trucks.
Let’s also not forget that Daihatsu, of all companies, has already proven the Mini look works with a much, much taller greenhouse:
The “floor” between the decks will have a pass-through in the center tunnel area to facilitate communication and snack distribution. As far as entry and exit, the Mini will remain a two-door car (well, along with two more doors for the rear cargo area — a hatch would just be way too high) but there will be a flexible, extendible staircase that collapses and stores under the upper deck floor:
This double-deck setup will give all of the SUV advantages while keeping the Mini advantages of being able to squeeze into tiny parking spots, being nimble and agile around town, and maintaining that special British Mini charm.
Will it be a bit top-heavy? Sure, sure it will! If you take it to a track, will you be very likely to tip it over? Hell yeah, you will! Take a turn too hard and this thing will lay right down, slamming you to the ground as the side-curtain airbags deploy, the sounds of shattering glass and metal scraping against tarmac almost— but not quite — drowning out your screams of pain and terror.
But you know what? Most mainstream SUVs will probably be pretty shitty at the track, too, and almost nobody buys a big SUV to track it, so, who cares?
Look, if Mini wants to maintain any sort of honesty and respect to the origins of their brand and produce SUVs, this is pretty much their only path. I don’t want to sound too dramatic about this, but attempting any other sort of large SUV design for Mini will be no different than breaking into the Tower of London, violently stealing the Crown Jewels, taking the St. Edward’s Crown, inverting it, and loudly and messily defecating the bountiful and redolent contents of your colon into it.
I don’t think that’s unfair. Mini/BMW, if you’d like to implement this design, consider these drawings my contribution to get you started. Do you have my Venmo?