We’re not huge fans of the original Mini Clubman. The adverts are cool, the brand heritage is cool, those barn doors on the back are kind of cool too - but the whole bizarre 3-door element just left us cold.
That’s all just changed. Because the Mini Clubman Concept shown off at the Geneva Motor Show looks, to us at least, like a trendier, more futuristic version of what the Clubman might evolve into in coming years: a 5-door model. Well, a 6-door model really because the barn doors at the back are two separates.
For starters the Clubman Concept is a lot longer than the existing version, and a whole foot longer than the 2014 Mini Cooper S. But this is a Clubman and that makes total sense. It’s also not too long - although having not driven one we can’t attest as to how that will adjust the handling.
There is an sense that "long" doesn’t spell out "Mini" in its true form and there’s some mileage in this. Since BMW took over the brand it’s done a good job of maintaining the positive Mini-style quirks to just the right degree, but in this Clubman that’s stretched out a little further.
But it still looks very Mini. Look at the front headlamps in isolation, for example, and they just seem to sing modern-day Mini to us.
With its red paint job looking extra shiny from the top-down lights in the Geneva convention hall, eye-catching was definitely the word. But one of the most exciting parts about this Mini for us is that a lot of it is windows, which makes for an extra bright interior.
Look on the roof, for example, where huge near-car-length strips keep the sun’s goodness channelling in. Those rear barn doors, too, have big sheets of glass in them to keep up that bright ethic. And we like a bit of sun, so we think this is a great aspect of the design - although we’ve not seen it under natural light just yet as it’s only been shown off indoors.
In keeping up its modern image the Clubman Concept was shown with spangly 19-inch alloy wheels and chrome mirror housings, while inside it’s all plush. Really plush. There’s an abundance of red leather, lots of suede-like blue and a dash of chrome on the controls, that all keeps the cabin looking as modern as its exterior. Or, if anything, more modern.
The main bulbous interface to the centre looks like something out of Minority Report and the speedometer and navigation rise up like bug eyes from around the back of the steering wheel - they don't need a dashboard to live in. It continues that open freedom of spacious design throughout.
This is all most likely top-of-the-range trim for when the tweaked production car comes to be, rather than making it into a basic-level model of the future. Even so, it looks gorgeous.
As it’s all concept for the time being there’s no clue as to when we’ll see the real new Clubman surface, nor how much that will cost. Nor do we know what engine options there will be or whether the extra size and weight will need a bit of extra grunt to keep it flying like any nimble Mini should be able to.
On the basis of our time with the Clubman Concept we think that BM’s longer, larger scale makes more sense in this format than we’d have given it credit for. It’s gone as far as to turn our opinion of the Clubman around. Lookin' good.