Let’s hope the Mini Clubman Concept, a huge improvement over the existing elongated Mini in terms of styling and practicality, will be traveling past the concept stage and into dealerships after its motor show debut.
The current Clubman is a strange automotive animal. Essentially a Mini mini-van, it has a vertical split rear tailgate and a strange three-and-a-half-door configuration.
Conceived to be more roomy and practical than the standard Mini while paying homage to the Mini Countryman and Mini Traveller models of the 1970s, the result is more interior space but poorer visibility and ingress and egress issues for rear passengers.
There is only one small, rear passenger door, which opens backwards (known as a suicide door in the trade). It means that depending on how the car is parked, there is a risk of having to alight into the street rather than onto the pavement. And as for trying to fit a child seat…
Mini has seen the error of its ways and the new car has four proper doors (two on each side) and, although it keeps the split rear tailgate, the door frames are significantly smaller so they won’t completely obscure the rearview mirror.
In the old car, whenever you glanced in the mirror, all that could be seen were the two big door frames and pretty much nothing else. Meaning that the mirror was better used for keeping an eye on the kids in the back or for checking your hair than for blind spots and cars coming up quickly from behind.
The Clubman is also 11 inches longer and almost 7 inches wider than the old one, so there should be plenty of space inside — crucial on longer journeys. Yet, thanks to Mini’s crack team of designers, this extra girth has done nothing to spoil the car’s compact external appearance or character. It’s unmistakably a Mini, and a rather elegant one at that.
Inside, the cabin is a minimalist treat, with strong flowing elliptical lines, clear, uncluttered instrumentation and clever use of backlighting to make it seem like the dashboard is floating. What’s more, the toggle switches use haptic feedback, they vibrate when touched so there’s less need to take your eyes off the road when trying to locate and operate one.
Of the concept, which will go on show on March 4 at the Geneva Motor Show, Adrian van Hooydonk, Head of BMW Group Design, said: “The Mini Clubman Concept shows how the Mini Clubman could be taken a step further: more interior space, a greater sense of high-end quality and yet still clever, bold and distinctive. In short: more car, more Mini.”