AM Online

Spy shot: Small hatch with estate practicality

BMW’s runaway success story, the premium Mini hatchback, will be joined by a new sister model in early 2008. This new estate version has welcome extra space for bodies and bags.

The XL Mini is the third bodystyle to be built alongside the hatchbacks and convertibles at the Cowley plant in Oxford and plays an important role in expanding Mini annual sales from 200,000 in 2005 to 240,000 next year.

Rather than being positioned as a proper estate, the new Mini will be sold as a premium small hatch with a degree more practicality – never a Mini strong point. The wheelbase is slightly stretched for more passenger and boot space.

The new Mini has some novel doors: the unique van-style, side-hinged rear doors offer good boot access, while there’s only a single, asymmetric rear side door on the offside of this left-hand-drive prototype.

All the usual Mini engines will be offered, stretching from a 1.4-litre petrol and 1.6-litre turbodiesel, to the 1.6 turbo petrol from the Cooper S.

Mini will announce the name of the new estate at the Geneva show in March, ahead of its debut at the Frankfurt show. The original Traveller badge has now been ruled out and the Clubman name is tipped as favourite.

The little estate will be unmistakably a Mini, but the rear overhang is stretched out to liberate more luggage room.

Split boot doors are side-hinged, van-style for easy boot access. They even house individual rear wipers on each side.

Usual Mini engines, from 1.4 petrol and 1.6 diesel to the Cooper S 1.6 turbo, developing 175bhp.

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