Mini Hardtop next generation shown in first official photos

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Undermining the work of spy photographers around the world, Mini gave us our first official look at the next-generation Hardtop by publishing a series of photos that show the hatchback wearing full camouflage. While the finer design details remain hidden, the shots are revealing enough to provide a very decent idea of what to expect — and what not to expect — from the fourth generation of this British icon.

What's immediately clear is that the next Hardtop looks like a Mini; or, at least, like the German reinvention of the Mini. Designers haven't significantly changed the hatchback's proportions, and they kept defining styling cues such as round headlights, a nearly flat roof panel, and vertical rear lights. One interesting detail is that the headlights are no longer integrated into the hood; the Mini seemingly loses its clamshell hood in favor of a more conventional unit that stops at about the same level as the A-pillars. Mini also mounted the door handles flush with the body. We're guessing more details will jump out when the camouflage come off, but we're expecting mostly evolutionary changes.

"What you'll see in 2023 is that we've clearly modernized it by taking a big step — the biggest step in the last 20 years — but it will be unmistakably a Mini," said Mini boss Bernd Körber in December 2020. He added that the project's motto was "don't screw with an icon."

Mini hopes to become an electric-only brand by the beginning of the 2030s, but we're not there yet. While the Hardtop draped in camouflage runs on batteries, gasoline-powered models will continue to be part of the range in many markets around the world. It's too early to provide technical details, but it's reasonable to assume that both the EV and the gasoline-sipping models will benefit from drivetrain improvements. Front-wheel-drive will continue to come standard, like it always has. Will the stick-shift survive? We're keeping our fingers crossed.

More information about the next-generation Mini Hardtop will be released in the coming months, and the model is scheduled to make its debut in 2023. It's one of several new models the BMW-owned brand has in the pipeline. The next-generation Countryman is scheduled to enter production in 2023 as well, an electric high-performance John Cooper Works-branded model is on its way, and Mini pledged to release a crossover it described as "small" (which is highly relative, even for Mini) that will exclusively be offered with an electric powertrain.

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