Friday, 17 August 2007

MINI Clubman - how Mini, how British?

It's hard to believe it but the BMW MINI - or the 'shouty' Mini as I always think of it because of BMW's insistence on spelling the name out in capitals - has been around for about six years and is now in its second generation.


Even today, old bores like me scrutinise BMW's every move for evidence that the company is compromising on the car's Britishness. On the face of it the new Clubman seems to confirm the worst. The single rear side door is optimised for left-hand drive markets, which is to say, it is mounted on the right. That means British rear seat passengers step out into the traffic, not on to the kerb.

Continental and US markets favoured over British buyers? In fairness, I think not. The main reason no rear door can be fitted to the Clubman's left side is that the fuel filler is in the way. And the fuel filler is only on the left hand side because that's the traditional location - the nearside - for the fuel cap on a British RHD car.

Personally, I'd like to have seen BMW be just a little more ambitious with the Clubman, giving it a bit more of a stretch both within the wheelbase and in the tail, i.e. more of an 'estate' shape, in order really to sort the rear legroom and provide some decent luggage space. I think a couple of Italian coachbuilders were offering conversions along these lines. And I'm not too sure I like the - I hope optional - trim that can be seen on some publicity shots, which presumably pays homage to the rear wooden exterior frame on the original. I believe the wood was purely ornamental on the original Mini, compared with the Morris Minor, on which it was structural (I think I've remembered that correctly). But it's still a welcome addition, and I'm sure that like everything else BMW has done with the MINI, it'll be a raging success - and at least the original squared-off Clubman nose hasn't been revived.

4 comments:

Ricky J. Lee said...

Not sure about the new Clubman David, they had a wo page feature in this month's Top Gear magazine!

I just can't see the market potential? they must have researched it, not just done it because there was an "old" Mini Clubman surely?

David Wilkins said...

I'm not sure the Clubman is as convincing as the standard MINI, but I'm sure it will sell because every variant of the MINI does. The last version of the 'old' BMW MINI (the one fitted with the John Cooper Works kit) sold out almost immediately last year even though everyone knew the second generation BMW MINI was on its way. I'm wondering whether there are people out there who feel they have to collect every variation - a bit like stamp collectors!

James said...

Morris Traveller, I believe.

It was indeed structural. I witnessed one in which a grist of bees had made the woodwork their home.

I think there's a market for the CLUBMAN, though an extra few inches wouldn't have hurt it.

James said...

Morris Traveller, I believe.

It was indeed structural. I witnessed one in which a grist of bees had made the woodwork their home.

I think there's a market for the CLUBMAN, though an extra few inches wouldn't have hurt it.