Our spy shooters caught a prototype for the next Mini Cooper S testing in Europe. Fairly light camouflage means we can tell a lot about the new car, which will likely go on sale by the end of this year or early 2014.
The most obvious change for the new Mini Cooper S is a lengthened wheelbase, presumably providing more rear-seat legroom and cargo space. The hatchback also appears to be wider than before, and its rear windshield slopes at a more pronounced angle. The roof spoiler on this prototype is larger and a different design than the spoiler on current Mini Cooper S hatchbacks, and the doors appear to have a subtle character crease that passes through the chromed door handles. Fewer visual changes are evident on the front and rear fascias, although the taillights appear to have a different graphic treatment.
Under the hood, we can expect Mini Cooper S models to continue with turbocharged four-cylinder engines. Today's car has a 1.6-liter turbo-four rated for 181 hp; the John Cooper Works variant offers 208 hp, and the limited-edition GP model tops the range with 211hp. Base models of the new Cooper, however, will likely adopt a fuel-efficient three-cylinder engine. The new Mini will be built on a platform shared with the upcoming front-wheel-drive BMW 1 Series.
Our previous spy photos showed that the interior of the new Mini Cooper S will adopt several design cues from BMW products -- no surprise, given the common lineage. Look for a new BMW iDrive-like controller on the center console, more traditional buttons on the center stack instead of chrome toggles, a three-spoke steering wheel nabbed directly from modern BMW cars, as well as larger and clearer climate controls. The small circular start/stop button adjacent to the steering wheel on current Minis is ditched in favor of a red toggle switch in the center console.
Production of the new Mini Cooper is expected to begin by the end of this year. The car will probably make its public debut this fall.