New Mini looks set to become a high street name under plans revealed by BMW at the Birmingham International Motor Show.

As the long awaited replacement for Britain's best loved little car made its UK debut at the NEC, BMW announced a radical marketing strategy for its new baby.

Not only will Mini be sold through the BMW dealership network but the company is considering setting up a number of town centre shops especially for the car.


"We are discussing the idea with a number of dealers to open shops in strategic locations," said Mini spokesman Mark Harrison.

"These will be lifestyle shops feeding back to the showrooms and not just selling the cars but also clothing and other products associated with the Mini experience."

Mr Harrison said BMW had already received more than 50,000 inquiries about the new car and 1,000 orders had been placed despite it not going on sale until next July.

Prices for the car are still to be determined but BMW has pledged to keep the entry level model below £10,000 with the top range Mini Cooper S selling at about £15,000.

When it is launched next year, Mini will initially be available as two models - a basic version and a Cooper.

The more powerful Cooper S should go on sale later in the year and BMW is also considering Cabriolet, pick-up and Clubman estate versions.

BMW says it is planning to produce up to 100,000 new Minis a year with 20 per cent being sold in the UK.

And from first impressions, it will sell well. In the flesh, it looks much better than in its promotional pictures. It is a faithful modernisation of the original and incorporates the latest technological and advanced safety measures.

It even has tyre pressure sensors and that is a device unheard of in anything other than the most specialist of vehicles.

But the best bit is its interior. It is classy, stylish but packed with retrospective features that hark back to the original concept of Sir Alec Issigonis.

Although the rev counter sits in front of the driver on the steering wheel hub, the speedo is in the centre of the dash - just as it was when the first car rolled off the production line in 1959.

There is also a bank of flick switches for the likes of the heated rear window etc, at the bottom of the instrument cluster again just like the cars of old.

But the most dramatic effect is how posh and stylish it all is.

It feels good too. The steering wheel, gear level and handbrake are all chunky affairs and the driving position is certainly comfortable.

In the front there is plenty of head room although the amount of leg room in the back is pretty restricted.

The boot - although the new Mini is a hatchback - is also relatively tiny.

But this is a car that will appeal to the enthusiast, whether a Mini fan of old or not.

Wherever you look in the interior there are bits of design that stand out such as the open cross member construction in the doors. There are also modern features such as cup holders, front and rear, illuminated vanity mirrors and even satellite navigation which is available as an option.

Even from the outside the car smacks of the original design.

From the side, the front may look a bit stubby but head-on Mini has quite a presence on the road - and that effect is set off by large oval headlamps.

It looks squat and purposeful and quite unlike any other car around.

However, the proof of the pudding will be in the driving and that's an experience the faithful are going to have to wait for patiently.