THE Cowley-built Mini Hatch has been hailed as “head and shoulders above the competition” after picking up a top industry award.

Bosses were last night celebrating after the third generation of the car was crowned Auto Express Car of the Year 2014 to the delight of workers at the plant where special celebrations will be laid on marking the achievement.

Tom Bradford, body shop production manager, said: “It is fantastic news. We are all over the moon and it gives us a sense of pride.

“We have been committed to this new car for years in terms of preparation and training and development and this is a vindication of all that effort. People appreciate what we have delivered here.”

Mini parent company BMW has invested £750m in the production of the new car launched in November 2013 and has built 30,000sq m of extra manufacturing space on to the body shop to accommodate it.

But even with that, demand is expected to exceed supply quickly with the car now being on sale in 114 countries worldwide, the latest additions being Angola, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.

As a result, a new plant in Holland will open tomorrow, which is set to boost production to more than 400,000 cars a year.

Mini spokesman Maarten Abele added: “Oxford is no longer capable of meeting the clamour for this car. The car will be sold in even more places and the new plant will help deliver cars more quickly to the customer.”

The Oxford Times:

  • The body shop at BMW Mini at Cowley

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith greeted the news as “fantastic”.

He said: “It is a very fitting tribute to the effort put in by everybody at the plant. The Mini has exceeded the expectations of everybody at BMW and the fact they are starting to manufacture in Holland is because of the scale of its success in Oxford.”

As well picking up the overall Car of the Year title, the Mini was also voted Best Premium Small Car at the awards.

The car costs from £13,750 and went on sale in November 2013.

Auto Express editor Steve Fowler said the new version of the car was “way ahead” of rivals such as the Fiat 500 and Vauxhall Adam.

He added: “There are a lot of small, premium cars coming on the market but the Mini is head and shoulders above them.

“This generation and the last may look similar but that is about it as the new car is so advanced. It has the fittings you would expect on a much more expensive car and there is masses of technology on board.

“We love the way it drives and it is also built brilliantly in Britain – a car the UK can be proud of.”

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