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The electric model will be MINI's fifth 'superhero' model.

BMW's MINI division is developing the fifth core member of its lineup. Expected to make its debut in late 2019, the yet-unnamed compact will arrive with an all-electric drivetrain.

Executives explain the upcoming battery-powered car will be one of the brand's so-called "superhero" models. The other superheroes are the Hardtop, the Convertible, the Clubman, and the Countryman. The comments from up top suggest MINI's first series-produced EV will be a standalone model, not merely an electrified variant of an existing car. However, official details are few and far between.

MINI also stresses its upcoming electric model won't be just a compliance car built to please regulators in California and in China.

"The electric car is not meant to just have an offering so you can say you have an electric car, but really nobody buys it. No, it's a real car, and people will hopefully buy it," explained MINI boss Sebastian Mackensen in an interview with industry trade journal Automotive News.

Earlier rumors claimed the fifth superhero model would be a toned-down version of the attractive Superleggera Vision concept shown three years ago. However, insiders suggest MINI has canned plans to turn the well-received design study into a production model because the roadster segment it would compete in is shrinking.

It's looking increasingly likely that the fifth core model will slot a notch below the Hardtop (pictured). The model has steadily grown in size since BMW re-launched it in 2000, so there's plenty of space for a new entry-level model.

Photos by Ronan Glon.