Bloody hell. What have they done to the Mini?
That was pretty much CAR Online’s reaction when we first saw this picture. This is the new Mini Clubman and although we’ve been snapping prototypes testing around the world for a few years, the official photos are still a bit of a shock. The Clubman will look like nothing else on sale when it’s launched on 10 November, though you’ll be able to see it at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, and CAR Online will be there to crawl all over this intriguing small car. As this photo shows, the Mini Clubman will have van-style twin rear doors, each with their own wiper and a cut-out that frames the rear light cluster. This avoids the expensive problem that BMW encountered with damping the headlights on the first-gen new Mini.
But from this angle it looks like a regular Mini
Indeed it does, but you can just make out the 240mm longer body. And if you look closely you can also see a rear suicide door, as per the Rolls-Royce Phantom and Mazda RX-8. But like the RX-8, and unlike the Rolls, the self-styled Clubdoor can only be opened when the front driver's door is open. This is for safety’s sake, apparently. However, the Clubman has clearly been developed for left-hand drive markets, so the suicide door is on the right-hand side. This means that UK drivers get the short straw and both doors will always open into traffic for any passenger drop-offs. Mini says it couldn't engineer doors on both sides, because of the fuel filler arrangement. A shame. Like the regular Mini, the Clubman will come in Cooper D (110bhp), Cooper (120bhp) and Cooper S (175bhp) guises. All engines will also come with BMW’s brake regeneration and stop/start technology – all aimed at lowering emissions and fuel consumption.
But the whole car somehow already seems familiar. Why's that?
As well as the Clubman differing little from the regular hatch, Mini has previewed the car as four concepts at various motor shows over the past couple of years. The first was revealed at Frankfurt in September 2005 (bottom left), then Tokyo in October of the same year (top right), Detroit in January 2006 (top left) and then finally at the Geneva exhibition in March '06 (bottom right). What is new is the space. The stretched wheelbase (80mm) means more room rear legroom (80mm), but don't forget we’re talking in comparison to the sardine-tin hatchback here. The marketing bods believe the rear seats now offer ‘a new experience in the Mini world, with inner values and extroverted flair. And the combination of that feeling so typical of Mini’. Hmmm... Our main experience so far has been of cramped rear seats! At least luggage capacity rises from 160 to 260 litres or, with the rear seats folded flat, from 680 to 930 litres. For comparison, a Ford Fiesta accommodates 253 and 892 litres respectively.
Er, what have they done to the back?
Mini has taken customisation a step further with the Clubman, and whilst you can’t have wooden panels (though who would bet against them appearing soon?), the rear pillars are now the same colour as the roof. The roof comes in silver and black as standard, though you can pay for a different colour, but it remains to be seen what hue they pillars will be if you have the Union Jack option. BMW will charge £1200 more for the Clubman over the hatchback, meaning that the cheapest Clubman is the petrol Cooper costing £14,235; the priciest is the turbocharged Cooper S at £17,210.
Can I get a Works version?
You can, but not yet, and it’ll have a long name too: think Mini Cooper S Clubman Works. An announcement will be made next month, and the option is likely to be a dealer-fit kit rather than being factory-fitted. We’ve already seen a preview of the regular hatch in Works guise and it looks pretty hot. A Mini One Clubman hasn’t been ruled out, but don’t expect it for at least 12 months. Mini is also preparing a convertible, though it’s based on the Mk1 Mini’s platform. Fiat’s new 500 is putting Mini under threat, not only as a more fashionable car, but as a better money maker too, as Gavin Green explores in this month’s CAR Magazine. The expansion of the Mini range to include the Clubman is BMW’s riposte.