IN the late 1960s I was conducting one of my earliest road tests in a Mini Countryman - that neat tribute act to the old Morris Minor Traveller.
I was praising the car for its incorporation of the cosmetic wood framing at the rear and the retention of the 'Moggie's' old side opening rear doors.
Little did I think that 48 years later I would be driving the old Countryman's modern counterpart, the MINI Clubman and still praising the retention of side opening rear doors.
The difference is that the new MINI Clubman is made by BMW and not the old BMC company. And although paying tribute to the old car in terms of styling references, it is a textbook exercise in creating a compact premium car with a dash of nostalgia.
And unlike the old Countryman there is not a splinter of wood paneling but there are four passenger doors in addition to the side opening rear ones to made this car a thoroughly practical proposition for more than two people.
The next quantum shift is price, because in 1961 an Austin Mini Countryman would have set you back £641, the MINI Clubman I drove cost £22,755 on the road. An acceptable price for a small premium car but still light years ahead of the old wheels.
Customers who go for this car seek a powerful fusion of sleek lines, innovative touches and first-rate materials with generous space for five occupants, excellent luggage capacity and those important classic MINI driving characteristics.
With a more mature and sophisticated design, the latest MINI Clubman's dimensions are larger than those of the previous generation.
It's also 270mm longer and 73mm wider than the MINI five-door Hatch, with a wheelbase which is 100mm larger. The boot has a volume of 360 litres, which can be extended to 1,250 litres by folding the rear seats flat.
The latest generation of MINI TwinPower Turbo Technology engines have been installed under the bonnet, with four units currently available.
New to the MINI brand is an eight-speed Steptronic semi-automatic transmission, available as an option on some models.
Numerous new features for MINI debut on the new generation Clubman, including an electric parking brake, full electric seat adjustment and the optional MINI Yours Interior Styles with backlit door bezels.
The new MINI Clubman includes MINI's acclaimed navigation system as standard on all models, exemplifying the high levels of standard equipment across the range.
Furthermore, every MINI Clubman also benefits from the MINI Excitement Package as standard, which features a projection of the brand logo on to the ground beneath the driver's side door mirror when the car is opened and closed, as well as extended interior lighting.
Under the bonnet of this particular MINI CooperS Clubman was a four-cylinder petrol engine with MINI TwinPower Turbo Technology (turbocharging, direct injection, fully variable valve control, variable camshaft control).
With a capacity of 1,998cc this car is capable of 142mph and a zero to 60mph sprint of 7.2 seconds. With a high - in modern terms engine - capacity you would expect this car to be something of a guzzler, but not so. In everyday use it was returning more than 45mpg and CO2 emissions are not bad at 137g/km.
The rear door design is exceptionally well thought out. Unlike the tinny old slammers of days of yore these close as smoothly and silently as an airliner door.
In keeping with the MINI look, the front end is defined by circular headlamps with chrome surrounds. Add in the hexagonal contours of the radiator grille and the sculpted ‘power dome' of the bonnet plus the car's solid and purposeful stance, and you are driving something totally individual.