BMW's First-Generation Mini Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Car Culture / Comments

Yes, it's been two decades since the debut.

It was at the 2000 Paris Motor Show when the first BMW-designed Mini Cooper was unveiled. The famed British automaker was owned by the Germans and the first-generation reborn Mini was their take on what a premium small car should be. It was a gamble, no doubt, but BMW made the right call. The first reborn Mini Cooper rolled off the assembly line in Oxford in October 2001.

With its Liquid Yellow paint job, it was given the nickname "Sunny". Much to BMW's delight, the reborn Mini Cooper was a hit, but the automaker did a ton of homework to ensure this. Initial development began in 1994 and designers were told they must retain the classic Mini's short overhangs, round headlamps, and hexagonal radiator grille. Above all, the little icon needed to be modernized but still fun to drive.

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Mini

It now had to accommodate four people and their stuff. It also had to meet all modern safety standards and quality benchmarks. Towards the end of 1997, a select group of journalists was shown the Mini 2000 study, an early concept. Overall global reaction was excellent and BMW was confident it was doing things right.

Before the Paris reveal, domestic and international websites were launched where prospective customers could learn more details. More than 100,000 people expressed interest in buying one, sight unseen. UK market sales got underway two months before they did in Germany and BMW quickly realized it had to add a weekend production shift to meet growing demand.

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Mini

In the US, dealerships had already booked over 20,000 orders before the first examples were even shipped. Now in its third generation, the Mini brand has expanded beyond just the original hardtop hatch.

Today, there's the performance-focused Cooper S, hardcore and ultra-limited JCW GP, and other bodystyle variants like the Clubman and Countryman. The all-electric Mini SE is the latest addition. Aside from numerous exterior styling traits, every modern Mini has featured a very distinctive central instrument cluster design. Like the exterior, it continues to mature with every subsequent generation.

So, what's next for the brand? The Mini SE is a clear-cut sign electrified powertrains are the future. But still, future Minis will always look and drive like Minis.

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Mini
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