Word on the ground is that Mini are to enter the commercial vehicle sector with an updated version of an old classic. The new panel van – the Mini Cargo – is, on the face of it, a Clubman with the back seats replaced with a simple flat-bed and in place of windows will be sheet metal panels.
It is not the first time that Mini has gone down this road – when Leyland owned the brand, they produced the Traveller as a panel van. That was almost fifty years ago, now, and the return of Mini to the commercial market will be a welcomed change when the panel van is launched at the 2012 Motor Show in Geneva.
This is a timely move by Mini’s current owners BMW as Italian car manufacturers Fiat have also unveiled plans to convert their 500 model as direct competition. But one has to ask will the market support another small van, despite their popularity for flitting around tiny little backstreets in Europe.
The 500 will be the second small van under the Fiat logo as it will join the current model, the Doblo. The German contigent is already represented by the VW Caddy, the French have the Citreon Berlingo and, of course, no sector of the van market would be complete without a Transit as Ford have their connect model in there.
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The version of the Cargo scheduled for launch at Geneva in March will have the same 1.6 turbo diesel engine and, powered by six-speed transmission, will offer similar fuel efficiency even though it will be capable of carrying a heavy load.
If cheap van insurance is not your main concern, but it’s power you’re after, it may be worth holding fire. Rumour has it that a 2.0l petrol version is also scheduled, but that is yet to be confirmed, probably at the Motor Show in Spring.
It is hoped that power will not be the only selling point, although that’s where the Mini Cargo will surely score points over its rivals; with the revitalised brand that is the Cooper, it’s hoped that the legend cements itself in the commercial vehicle marketplace, albeit under a pseudonym, as well as the tour-racing circuit where it made its name.