BMW GB is not expecting its new Mini diesel variant, due out next month, to account for much more than about 1,500 sales in the UK in 2003, the company’s senior spokesman Chris Willows said on the sidelines of a BMW launch in Spain.

“The Mini is a relatively sporty car and, at this level, we do not expect the diesel take-up to be more than about 1,500 units,” Willows said.

“In other small car lines, diesel is seen as more of a utilitarian option but the Mini is not a utilitarian car.”

Willows added that European take-up was expected to be larger but the UK volume in 2003 would additionally be restricted by the number of engines Toyota could supply as well as the number of cars available from the Oxford factory.

In the UK the Mini is currently selling at an annual rate of 35,000 but Willows predicted that no more than 6,000 diesel models would be sold in the home market in the variant’s first full year.