Spied: Next-generation Mini Cooper

Still heavily cloaked but fully identifiable, the all-new 2014 Mini Cooper Hardtop has been spotted on public roads during shakedown runs in Germany. Due to go on sale here early next year, the 3-door hatch appears to be slightly longer and wider than the current iteration. Sharing its basic architecture with several next-gen BMW front-drive models, the new Mini Hardtop looks to have a more prominently raked windshield and rear hatch glass as well as a smaller grille, larger headlamps, thinner A-pillars and more prominent wheel arches. Mini ultimately will incorporate this new platform and similar exterior cues into all of its upcoming models but the Hardtop and its Cooper S variants will be the first -- and for a while, the only - vehicle in the lineup to feature these sweeping revisions.

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The cabin of the 2014 Mini is due a similar kind of focused remake that will maintain a direct connection with its classic heritage but reflect a definite step into the future. Best information indicates that the most significant change takes place in its center dash layout. While it carries over the large round shape, the long-vestigial supplemental speedometer finally gets broomed in favor of a new BMW-designed infotainment/climate control interface. In a corollary move, the existing instrument cluster is being revamped to accommodate that change, and improved switchgear and control layouts also are being introduced.

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There's still no final word on what powetrains will be used in the 2014 Mini Cooper Hardtop line. BMW's new family of lightweight, small-displacement (1.0-1.5-liter) turbocharged 3-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines are strongly rumored to have the inside line as prime motivators in most if not all markets. However, the existing 4-cylinder engines reportedly will fit underhood and are virtually certain to remain in the new Mini Hardtop's carryover siblings. At some point down the line, we might also see a Mini Hybrid roll onto the scene.

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