New versions of the Mini don't happen that often; the first of the 'modern' Minis was launched in 2001 and its successor - the car that's about to be replaced - was introduced back in 2006. Thousands of Mini owners are interested in the new version, and What Car?'s team of journalists and photographers have already spent time with the car in the studio. Here are our answers to some of the most important questions about the 2014 Mini.
Why is the new Mini bigger?
Mini's parent company BMW believes it can stretch the regular three-door version of the iconic small hatchback and still retain enough of its core values. Its reasons for wanting to do so are complex, but they're focused on two key goals. The first is to offer greater practicality - a bigger boot and easier access to a more useful rear cabin - in a bid to keep Mini devotees from whom a change in lifestyle often forces them to leave the brand.
The second is cost-saving through economies of scale. This Mini's chassis technology will be shared with a range of front-wheel-drive BMWs (including the next generation of 1 Series), so there could be as many as a million cars per year built using these components. That offers BMW huge savings - and through them, increased profits.
Does that actually translate into a more spacious cabin?
Technically yes; there does seem to be a bit more shoulder room up front, and adults in the back will have a little more kneeroom than before (headroom is surprisingly decent, too). However, access to the back seats is still fiddly - a problem that will be addressed by the five-door model (see 'other versions', below) - and the narrow side glass means that the rear cabin does feel a little gloomy.
There's no doubt that the extra length and girth does help one of the Mini's weakest areas: boot space. Mini claims there is almost a third more capacity in the new car, at around 211 litres. Don't get too excited, though; that's still smaller than you'll find in many city cars like the VW Up, let alone superminis like the Ford Fiesta.
Does it still feel like a Mini inside, though?
Yes, it does. Just seeing that huge circle in the middle of the fascia makes it clearly identifiable as a Mini - even if the speedometer has moved to a far more logical position ahead of the steering wheel.
Give thanks, too, that the electric window switches have moved from the centre console to the doors - but there are still oddball touches that will delight or infuriate, depending on your point of view. Some will find the 'glowing' keyless start button and the huge rim of flashing LED lights plain tacky; others will say they're funky.
What other versions will there be?
Mini has plans to replace all of the current variants with new editions based on the latest car. That means that in the coming years there will be new versions of the Countryman SUV, the Paceman 'SUV coupe' and the regular Mini Cabriolet. Even the oddball Clubman is likely to get a new version - thanks, no doubt, to surprisingly strong sales in the US and China. It will be longer than the three-door hatchback and retain its unusual side-hinged boot doors.
The range will also expand beyond its current line-up - including, most importantly, a five-door version of the regular-shape Mini. It's already been spied testing and is expected to be one of the first additions to the third-generation range. There could also be a taller mini-MPV variant, and successor to the two-seat Roadster.
One car that won't make it is a smaller Mini. The firm showed a promising concept called Rocketman which showcased how a baby model could look, but it has decided that it can't make it profitably, so the project never got the green light.
Will there be faster versions?
Yes. The Cooper S will continue to be the regular 'hot' Mini but expect at least two more steps above it. The first of these will be a John Cooper Works variant with a more highly tuned petrol engine producing around 240bhp. There should also be a Cooper SD with a more potent version of the diesel engine.
What about the current cheaper editions? Aren't they being replaced?
Yes, they will be. Mini hasn't announced any specs or prices, but we'd expect both First and One editions. The old car's engines won't work in the new chassis, so the new entry-level models will use detuned versions of the Cooper's 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine, probably with around 100bhp and 115bhp respectively.
Will the Mini still be built in Britain?
The Mini hatchback will continue to be manufactured at BMW's factory near Oxford. However, before the end of 2014 the firm will also start producing Minis at a former Mitsubishi factory in the Netherlands; it's still unclear whether this site will make right-hand-drive examples.