What Is It?

The MINI Clubman Concept is a preview of the next MINI Clubman, which is MINI's in-between model. Just like its platform-mate, the 2015 MINI Cooper Hardtop, the Clubman Concept is a fresh design from the ground up. Bigger than the 2-door Hardtop but smaller and lower than the 4-door, quasi-crossover Countryman, the Clubman occupies a niche that many shoppers have thus far overlooked.

In part, that was because the previous-generation Clubman had only one rear door: a reverse-opening, clamshell-style Club Door that didn't do wonders for backseat versatility. The outgoing Clubman actually had a significantly more user-friendly back seat than the Hardtop, but access remained an issue.

Accordingly, the Clubman Concept features four conventional entry doors, making it more of a junior Countryman this time around. Employing BMW's new front-wheel-drive platform has also given MINI occasion to enlarge the Clubman's dimensions. By the numbers, the Clubman Concept is about 10 inches longer and nearly 7 inches wider than its predecessor. This should yield relatively generous seating for four, or five in a pinch, along with increased cargo capacity.

Other notable changes include eye-catching horizontal taillights, which replace the old Clubman's vertical units. Overall, the Clubman Concept looks much more dynamic than the outgoing model, with taut, muscular sheet metal that could dramatically broaden the model's appeal.

Will They Ever Sell It?

Absolutely. To be honest, we weren't sure the Clubman would make it to the next MINI generation due to its slow sales. But now that they've gone to the trouble of building a concept, there's no doubt that a production version will follow, perhaps by the end of the 2014 calendar year. If history is any guide, we expect that the Clubman will at least share the new Cooper S Hardtop's engine, which is a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with 189 horsepower. As for the Hardtop's base turbocharged 3-cylinder (134 hp), it might be a bit of a drag in the larger Clubman, but the fuel economy could be astounding.

Why It's Important

Don't look now, but 4-door hatchbacks are cool again. From the sleek new Mazda3 to the reinvented 2015 Volkswagen Golf, the market's full of genuinely appealing hatches that offer equal parts practicality and performance. Clearly, the Clubman will add dashing style to this mix, and it could be a game changer for MINI's previously overlooked in-betweener.

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Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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