BMW launches fuel-efficient, "still cheeky", new Mini


OXFORD, Nov 18 (Reuters) - BMW unveiled a morefuel efficient, third-generation version of its iconic Mini onMonday, as the world's biggest luxury carmaker looks to retainits leadership in the lucrative high-end compact car market.

The launch of the three-door hatchback took place at theMini's production plant in Cowley, Oxford, on the 107thanniversary of the birth of the Mini's founding father AlexIssigonis. Prices will start at about 13,500 pounds ($21,700).

"It's a brand new car under the skin and it retains thatgo-kart feel to drive," said BMW board member PeterSchwarzenbauer, who was driven on to stage to the music ofBritish band Blur in a Mini adorned with the Union Jack flag.

Describing the new Mini as "original and still cheeky," hesaid it would appeal to "young people with their finger on thepulse" and older Mini fans. The previous Mini generation waslaunched in 2007.

Production of the new Mini will start later this week and itwill go on sale in Britain early next year. It will be based ona brand new BMW-engineered platform called UKL1.

The small, fast and affordable original Mini was hugelypopular when it first went on sale in 1959 and has been a bigsuccess story for BMW since it revived the brand in 2001,growing sales volumes by 21 percent to more than 285,000 carslast year.

It has also seen an influx of competitors into the high-endcompact car sector in recent years such as Fiat's 500and Opel's Adam, which are courtingenvironmentally-conscious city dwellers in want of easy-to-parkvehicles.

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