When I first saw the new Mini Clubman had transitioned from a stretched,unconventional wagon with three doors to a more traditional wagon whose only reference to the original are barn doors, which incidentally would totally work on a Suburban but they don’t quite do so here, I was ready to dismiss it as yet another reason for which to to dismiss Mini until they make that rumored Minor (Slogan: No, we mean it this time!). I mean, why would you want a non-crossover wagon with endless personalization options, that will most definitely be available in brown with a manual at a reason…hang on a minute!
Yes, for once I think we can all agree that MINI have really made a hit this time. I sure as hell hope so, it’s not very often than a manufacturer caters to the Internet motoring enthusiast, willingly or otherwise. This is not to say that the last Clubman wasn’t actually the most desirable Mini in the lineup; in your author’s opinion. Okay it didn’t quite have the same driving dynamics as the standard model. But thanks to an extra door and some stretching it actually had some modicum of practicality without becoming a hideous bloated facsimile of a Mini (Oh hello there Countryman, didn’t see you there. What? It’s the first time someone’s told you that?). You could even get it as a van for a little while. Unfortunately people who regularly buy those are much more interested in practicality than style so it didn’t quite make sales expectations.
This new model has some things that I’m not so sure about though. Chief among which, as mentioned in the beginning, are those barn doors. Sure they were all cute in the original, but this model is (I presume)trying to capture a much broader audience, what with it becoming a much more conventionally-laid vehicle. I have it on good authority that the people purchasing cars usually don’t even bother doing a test drive first, therefore spending a considerable amount of money on an article they have absolutely no experience with apart from seeing it on a magazine ad or on the paper or just looking at the financing deals. So what will the suburban family who wants to be different from all the rest in their neighborhood will think the first time they’re reversing it and they find that they have a huge pillar in the middle obstructing visibility. You and I may say “Oh Man (or Woman) up.” But new car buyers are not particularly accepting of “quirks”. They’re electric too, which means a couple of seconds of your life wasted every time you wait for them to whirr open or close themselves. I don’t know about you but I think a normal hatchback or, if we absolutely need to be different, a split-folding tailgate would be much more suited to the car. It’s not like there’s anything else left from the original Clubman is it?
Other things that bug me are not exclusive to the Clubman, the interior for instance. Don’t get me wrong, I thank Mini for being different and having just the right amount of retro in their interior to make them cool and not just weird for the sake of weird. I also thank them for allowing normal people to enjoy the pleasure of toggle switches, it’s either this or a Pagani if you want some in your car. But I think that the classic styling elements are beginning to become incompatible with the rest of the interior.
And that really sums it up doesn’t it? Why Mini now sells five-doors and crossovers and have tried to expand themselves. It’s all well and good trying to keep the spirit and image of a brand, but the fact of the matter is that change will always come and will always cause trouble if you’re making a product that has one foot on the past. You can either stick to your guns and let the competition do new while you bid your time and incorporate it only when you’re sure it will actually improve your product or you trust to luck and the latest in development and hope the core values in which the brand was built all those years ago can still be seen, even if you need to take a magnifying glass out to see them. It works for Jeep doesn’t it?
In any case, I really do hope that the new Clubman succeeds in the market. It could set a precedent to manufacturers that you don’t really need to make your wagons tall and use that nonexistent people that go windsurfing on their lunch breaks on your advertising for them to succeed. You just have to make them as stylish as you can and, crucially, never ever refer to them as wagons.