These days the job of the design staff has grown more interesting because instead of simply focusing on the look of the vehicle, there are now a whole raft of regulations and recommendations from the NHTSA to build into each new generation of the car as it’s readied for the road. Underneath its camouflage, here’s what everyone is saying the 2014 Mini Cooper is going to look like. Not a whole lot different from the old one perhaps. When you’ve hit the winning formula, you don’t change the look and feel of the model more than you have to. In this case, the wheelbase is longer to give the passengers more legroom in the rear seats and there are changes to the engine. But if you ask other road users and people who may be crossing the road, there’s one significant change. The height of the bumper has risen both front and rear.
This shows the problem. If the bumper is too high or too low, it will break the bones of the leg no matter what the angle of the crash. But if the bumper is at the average height of the knee joint, there’s a chance the pedestrian will be thrown on to hood which will absorb some of the impact and avoid breaking the leg bones. The NHTSA has been doing some tests with newly designed dummies to see whether there are optimum designs both for the height of the bumper and the extent to which it must stand out from the front or rear of the vehicle. Obviously, if a pedestrian is hit by a solid wall of vehicle, he or she will tend to be knocked to the ground and run over by the vehicle.
This is one of the standard dummies standing ready to take another blow for science. As you can see, the dummy is now fitted with knee joints so the reaction to the collision can be more accurately assessed. As a result of this testing, the NHTSA issued a new set of regulations and manufacturers have been working hard to implement them. Because the Mini Cooper is low slung, it’s particularly important to get the bumper design right to reduce the risk of catastrophic injuries to the legs of pedestrians hit. So far, all the indications are that the 2014 Mini Cooper will exceed all the car safety design specifications and prove to be one of the safest vehicles on the road, not only for the driver and passengers, but also for pedestrians. When it comes to car safety, you can’t ask for more than that.