MINI Beachcomber Concept (© Sean Frego)Click to enlarge picture

MINI Beachcomber Concept

Picture the MINI Beachcomber Concept with doors and a roof and you'll get a good idea of what the company's new small crossover coming out later this year will look like. Put it next to the MINI Crossover Concept that debuted at the 2008 Paris Motor Show and you'll get an even better idea.

The crossover that MINI will sell to consumers, which will be the company's fourth and largest offering to date, won't have the cool open-air cabin of the Beachcomber Concept — though MINI is gauging interest in the design to see whether there is a place for it on a production vehicle.

The Jeep-like form was conceived as a way to tie the forthcoming MINI crossover to the classic, cool MINI Moke, a stripped down MINI Cooper produced from 1964 to 1993 that looks like a cross between a World War II Willys Jeep and a dune buggy. Tying its crossovers to the Moke is a clever move as it creates the impression that this type of vehicle is less of a stretch for the brand. And with bloggers already grumbling about MINI "selling out" by building ever-larger cars, that's an important consideration.

Among the many design conceits on the Beachcomber Concept, there are some elements of substance that will carry over to the production model, which will be MINI's first vehicle with four doors, four full-size seats and four-wheel drive. Besides the Beachcomber's beefed-up-MINI Cooper shape, styling elements you'll see on the production model include the slatted front grille reminiscent of the MINI Moke's, and the new headlight design, which is a departure from the classic round headlamps seen on every MINI to date and will differentiate MINI crossovers from MINI cars.

Another innovative feature on the Beachcomber Concept that will make its way to the production model is a rail system that runs between the two front seats to the rear of the cabin. It will be the basis for a set of modular storage bins, cupholders, eyeglass cases, arm rests, and mounts for electronic devices like GPS, all of which can be clipped on and moved to different locations along the rails.

The design of the Beachcomber's seats and dashboard give a good indication of how the production model will turn out. All four seats will slide fore and aft, as well as recline.

A rear storage compartment outside the vehicle and roof rails that can accommodate various mounting systems for outdoor gear suggest that the production version will also have modular storage options to optimize carrying cargo outside the vehicle.