THE renewal of the latest MINI range is continuing with the launch of a new Clubman which has now become a genuine family-sized motor.
Styled as a compact estate car it is the largest MINI currently available and also one of the few cars that can lay claim to being six door models.
That's down to the double tailgate - a trait of the previous Clubman - and two full size rear doors.
The crazy arrangement on the model before where access to the rear was through a tiny rearward opening ‘suicide' door on the driver's side has been dropped and the newcomer is all the better for it.
It has turned the Clubman into a grown up car with a mature take on life on the road but with features that dare to be different.
The tailgates can open automatically and inside there is 360 litres of space which puts it into the same league as a VW Golf or a Ford Focus.
Drop the rear seats - and they fold with a 40/20/40 split - and there is almost four times the amount of room which adds up to make the new Clubman nicely practical with even more luggage capacity than the pumped-up MINI Countryman.
There is also underfloor storage available in the boot and useful pockets on the inners of the back doors.
Leg and head room in the rear is also much improved and so is the feel of the cabin thanks to bigger windows and the option of a panoramic sunroof.
Trim quality and finish is spot on with finely stitched leather upholstery available and some smart use of ambient lighting. There's even an outside light display which projects a MINI logo onto the ground from the base of the door mirrors as the car is unlocked.
The dash is different to that on other MINIs and comes with a pronounced lip and there is also backlighting in the door bezels.
It is classy stuff and a move upmarket and while prices start from £19,995 a realistic cost is going to be almost half as much again.
Both the Cooper D and Cooper S versions of the Clubman that we have just tried out were dressed up with plenty of options and tipped the scale at more than Â£30,000 - but for that price you do get the kitchen sink and a car designed to carry one.
Features such as a full colour head up display, an eight speed auto gearbox and variable dampers plus 18-inch alloys all come as extras and in the case of the top range Cooper S it took the price from a base level of £22,955 to £32,665.
Nevertheless it is a lot of car for the money and includes sat nav, cruise control, Bluetooth and a digital sound system as standard features right across the range.
Compared to the five-door MINI hatch - itself a stretched take on the new MINI - the Clubman is more than 10-inches longer and almost three inches wider with a wheelbase increased by four inches to 8ft 9ins.
As well as being bigger it is also heavier - it weighs almost as much as the all-wheel-drive versions of the Countryman - and that has an effect out on the road.
The Clubman uses the same engines as are fitted in the hatch and while lively enough and fun to drive it is not quite as spritely as the smaller models.
Noise suppression in both the petrol and the diesel versions is good and if there is a gripe it is with rearview visibility through the mirror which is impeded by the central door jam.
On the economy front MINI is claiming an official fuel return of 68.9mpg for the manual Cooper D with emissions of 109g/km and 48.7mpg for the Cooper S automatic which has a CO2 figure of 134g/km and is a better performer than the manual version with a 0 to 60 time of 7.1 seconds and a 142mph maximum.
The diesel is rated at 8.6 seconds 0 to 60 with a top end of 132mph and there are some serious aerodynamics in play with vents in the front bumper creating an air curtain around the body to give some added streamlining.
On our drive we managed to average 38.6mpg in the 192hp Cooper S auto and 50.5 to the gallon out of the 150hp diesel manual which is nothing to grumble about for a little estate.
The entry level Clubman comes with a 1.5-litre three cylinder turbo petrol engine which has a claimed fuel return of 55.4mpg and emissions of 118g/km while the 2.0-litre diesel is also available in uprated form in the Cooper SD which develops 190hp, is good for 0 to 60 in 7.4 seconds yet still has a claimed fuel figure of 62.8mpg.
The Cooper SD is the most expensive of the new Clubman range and is priced from £24,255 while the Cooper D costs from £22,265.
The new Clubman is also fitted with an electronic parking brake and can come with electrically adjustable front seats which are firsts in a MINI.
In every way the new Clubman is a step up from the original, it looks sleek and satisfying and can now fit a whole family and their accoutrements with a satisfying ease.