Mini is getting ready to stretch out

The new Mini ‘Clubman’ is based on a concept vehicle (shown here) that was unveiled at the Detroit auto show two years ago.
The new Mini ‘Clubman’ is based on a concept vehicle (shown here) that was unveiled at the Detroit auto show two years ago.Mini
/ Source: Forbes Autos

Mini has confirmed that a longer version of its current Cooper will go on sale in Europe by the end of this year and in the U.S. by the first quarter of 2008.

The new car will be called the “Clubman” and is based on the concept vehicle shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit two years ago.

Judging by reports of how the pre-production 2008 Mini Clubman looks, the rear swing-out doors are a throwback to the original Mini Traveller.

The Clubman is likely to be officially unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, said Mini spokesperson Andrew Cutler in a telephone interview.

Specifications, photos and pricing for the Clubman have not been released, but Cutler did say that the vehicle has an “incremental increase” in interior space and will offer more rear legroom and cargo room. However, he stressed that “it’s not a station wagon.”

The Clubman is aimed at consumers who find the current Mini Cooper too small. “We’re looking at the type of person who wants a Mini but also wants to surf, for example,” Cutler said. “It’s more adaptable to someone who does that — or someone who needs space for a dog or a mountain bike.”

Cutler said that the Clubman’s larger interior and cargo capacity will cut down on the need to contort items in order to get them into the car, as may be necessary with the current Mini Cooper.

The Clubman was inspired by market research and Mini’s heritage — the original company produced a wagon-like vehicle called the Traveller (and sometimes the Van, Countryman or Estate) from 1962 to 1980. It was sold predominantly in Europe. Mini produced roughly 730,000 of them.

The new Clubman isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to consumer demand, Cutler said, but part of a strategy to create a variety of models that the company has held since parent BMW relaunched it in March 2002.

Although Mini wouldn’t confirm any specs, it’s likely that the Clubman will have an engine similar or related to that of the 2007 Mini Cooper’s 118-hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. The all-aluminum engine uses BMW’s sophisticated technology to deliver peppy acceleration and good fuel economy.

Cutler said that Mini is planning to launch a new vehicle every year for the next few years. It seems likely that a new Cooper Convertible based on the updated coupe that debuted for 2007 is coming for 2009, but Cutler would not confirm this.

In the meantime, the current Cooper Convertible carries over with few, if any, changes for 2008.