That rear seat looks a long way back... it looks like a Mini with proper space for four adults?
Absolutely. The new Mini Clubman, as the estate is expected to be named at next month's Geneva Motor Show, receives a welcome stretch to the wheelbase, freeing up plenty of cabin room. This side-on shot reveals how much extra room will be squeezed in - just look at how far back the rear backrest is positioned. At a stroke, it should answer long-standing criticism of Minis old and new; they've never been renowned for generous legroom in their hind quarters, but the Clubman is likely to fix that at a stroke as it grows up to challenge Golf-class cars for the first time.
And what's going on with the rear doors?
That’s the clever bit. BMW is fitting the Clubman with an asymmetric rear-hinged side door; this left-hand drive test mule has it on the right-hand side, but UK-spec right-hookers will have the single rear door on the kerbside. Apparently, BMW wanted to fit double suicide rear doors, but it interfered with the fuel filler system. Hence the decision to go with a single door. The tailgate has an unusual design, too. It gets split, van-style doors that open independently. They even get separate hand-clap twin rear wipers. Boot space might suffer, though - unless BMW has developed a sliding rear seat mechanism to let owners juggle between space for limbs and luggage.
What are the differences between this and the current Mini hatchback?
Not much, really. It uses the same floorpan as the new Mini hatch, but with a hefty stretch to the wheelbase. These scoop shots do uncover one or two changes to the bodywork, though. The slender sidelights along the front and rear wheelarches are new to the Clubman, as are what appear to be roof rails tucked away under the black cladding, as befits an estate. Expect a few extra cubby holes scattered around the interior for additional family storage space.
What about the engines?
Again, no surprises here. The Clubman will be available with all the engines from the current Mini range. And despite being a bit bulkier, the estate is still nimble enough for the 175bhp 1.6 turbo from the Cooper S, which should make for some interesting family fun.
When will the Mini estate go on sale?
If the Clubman sounds like your cup of tea, then you’re likely to be hanging around for about a year to pick one up. We expect to see the car at the Frankfurt Motor Show this autumn, with sales beginning at the end of this year or early in 2008. Don't think that the Clubman is the last Mini derivative. It is considering four or five new models in the next five years, proving just how elastic the new Mini brand is becoming.