MINI previews all-new Clubman
What's the news?
Having shown and launched an all-new hatchback, MINI will continue its product expansion at the Geneva Motor Show next week with this, the Clubman Concept, a car that once again only really carries the 'concept' tag as a pointless fig leaf to disguise that this is, in all but minor detail, the production-ready Clubman you can buy at the end of this year. Why the subterfuge?
"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," says Adrian van Hooydonk, Head of BMW Group Design, explaining the approach to this model.
The biggest and most obvious change from the current Clubman is in the rear door - or doors. Out goes the slightly awkward drivers' side-only 'Clubdoor' that opens backward and in come two conventional, front hinged doors, one on either side this time. That should allow much better access to the rear seats, which are bigger, more spacious and, claims MINI, offer space for three people. It's a bigger car than before, breaking the tapes at 4,223mm long and 1,844mm wide (not including the mirrors). That makes it around 260mm longer than the current Clubman, which should make it the most practical and spacious MINI this side of a Countryman 4x4.
No official word on how big the boot will be, but the new Clubman keeps the current model's rather cool rear doors - two that open on hinges mounted in the D-pillar. Unlike the current car, the new Clubman has massive rear lights, inspired by those on the Paceman coupé, which cut into the rear doors.
MINI claims that the car's styling highlights its aerodynamic efficiency, and it includes little flaps integrated into the front bumper that create Air Curtains - a smooth wall of air that covers the front wheels when the car is moving, making the entire vehicle more aerodynamically slippery. There's also a further 'Air Breather' on the side, designed to allow air to exit.
As with the hatchback, there's a distinctive 'waistline' to the car, which sweeps around the entire window line, separating the glasshouse from the 'bathtub' body and emphasising the floating roof. The concept's colour scheme (Berry Red body with 'Blade' metallic grey roof) will also make it through to the showroom, as will (very likely) the laterally split glass roof.
Inside, the red colour from the exterior is carried over and there are striking pale blue Nubuck leather seats (again, expected to make it to production as an expensive option). There's a clever new 'Black Chrome' panel between the air vents on the dash that can function as a digital display screen while the trim finishers are a mixture of ash wood and white porcelain. Will they make production? Probably, but most likely as plastic copies. That display screen is touch sensitive, by the way, and features virtual toggle switches that MINI claims can be operated without the driver needing to look at them, because they give a haptic feedback to synthesise the sensation of real buttons. Clever stuff. There are lots of other surprise-and-delight features on the inside too, such as mood lighting strips and red piping.
MINI hasn't revealed any engine details yet but it's a safe bet that the Clubman will use the new 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbodiesel and turbocharged petrol units in the Cooper and Cooper D, with the larger 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines for the Cooper S and Cooper SD.
There's a Clubman badge, picked out in chrome, on one of the rear doors. That makes this the first Clubman to announce its name in badge form.
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