Compared to its quirky predecessor, the new 2015 MINI Clubman looks almost conventional with its four forward-hinged occupant doors, instead of the asymmetrical three-door plus suicide door arrangement that its predecessor was known/criticised for. The only distinguishing design feature the two cars share is the split rear door arrangement.
However after our first drive of the new MINI Clubman in Stockholm, we can say that it is far from the case of being “more of the same, only slightly better”. With MINI striking out into the “premium compact class”, occupied by the likes of the Audi A3 Sportback, MINI has incorporated several neat design cues into the new Clubman that certainly elevates the Clubman's status and is deserving of a mention.
1 – ‘Chester’ Diamond Stitch Upholstery is quite Exclusive
If you have seen the pictures of the new MINI Clubman, chances are it will be sporting a deep rich purple paintjob on the outside and blue leather seats on the inside. Those seats are MINI's new 'Chester' upholstery and not only do they look good, but they aren't your normal fare with MINIs or even BMWs.
If you have ever flipped through the options list of any BMW, you would have noticed that you won’t find such a diamond-stitch pattern available in BMW models. According to Oliver Sieghart, head of MINI interior design, the Clubman is the only other model besides the brand new 7-Series to feature such an upholstery design. It looks part exquisite, part excessive, and actually pretty attractive.
2 – More Customisation Options
Personalisation has been a big part of the MINI appeal, and the Clubman would be bringing the customisation options up a notch, especially when it comes the interior. The dashboard itself has three customisable styling elements, the cockpit fascia inserts that run horizontally across the dashboard, the cockpit fascia frame that circles around the dashboard, the door bezel, and centre console bracket.
Sieghart is especially proud of the Clubman’s unique cockpit fascia frame design element and the angular air conditioning vents, which is made with a precise fit and finish, and gives the cabin a premium appearance.
3 – Mesmerising Door Panel Light Show is Produced from a Single LED
One option that should pique your interest is the MINI Yours illuminated door bezels, which light up like a huge disco ball and changes colour according to the car’s cyclic ambient lighting colours. Rather than using a whole panel of tiny LED lights, the illuminated door panel achieves this lighting trick through a single LED light hooked up to fibre optics that dispense light through tiny little holes in the panel.
4 – Plenty of Tartan Patterns to be Found
Whether you like it or not, the tartan pattern is kind of cool to have in a small hatchback. For the Clubman, MINI has inserted several tartan-patterned non-slip mats in storage compartments around the Clubman. That being said, these mats are removable if you don’t fancy having tartan in the first place.
5 – Those Big Signature Taillights Isn’t the Clubman's Brake Lights
It might sound strange but as far as we can tell, the Clubman’s huge signature taillights aren’t there to light up when you get on the brakes. Instead it serves the role of parking lights or daytime running lights to let others know of its presence.
In fact the braking lights are the two light clusters located on the rear bumper, below the rear doors. They might be small, but they will certainly light up the rear like a Christmas tree and are rather effective at telling others that you are slowing down.
The decision to put the brake lights there is to fulfill legal requirements that require the brake lights to be pointing rearward to warn oncoming cars when the rear boot door is open. With the signature taillights being an integrated part of the rear doors, thus putting it out of sight of oncoming traffic when the doors are open, MINI engineers had to relocate the real brake lights to the bumper instead.
6 – Alarm Blinkers are Inspired by Aircraft Positioning Lights
Sitting atop its immensely long roof is the Clubman's tiny shark fin shaped antenna, but rather than just leaving it as that, MINI’s designers decided to integrate the alarm blinker light on its tip. MINI says that this design feature was inspired by the positioning lights on aircrafts, and is meant to help owners locate their cars in a crowded parking lot. To the best of their knowledge the Clubman is the only car to come factory fitted with such a design feature, though whether the light will help owners find their car amongst a parking lot full of other Clubmans is yet to be verified.
7 – A MINI Logo will Show you the Way to the Driver’s Door
Afraid that you might lose your way to the driver’s seat in the dark? Don’t worry, the Clubman’s optional MINI Excitement package will add a small light beneath the driver’s door mirror which will project a welcoming MINI logo onto the ground for 20 seconds to help you find your way to the door.
That being said, it remains to be seen what features would be included in the upcoming MINI Clubman when it arrives on our shores on the second-quarter of next year. If our first impressions of the MINI Clubman is anything to go by, our expectations for it is pretty high.