Stretching the wheelbase nearly nine and a half inches in comparison to the MINI Hardtop significantly enhances interior room and utility, as well as driver/passenger comfort and convenience for those who want more of this iconic British brand.

And – in true MINI fashion – mixing the traditional with the modern results in both the car’s unmistakably MINI appearance and unique ways to access this interior: The tailgate carries forward the twin, outwardly hinged “Split Rear Barn Doors” found on the Clubman’s ancestors, while rear-seat passenger ingress and egress is eased through the rear-hinged “Clubdoor” incorporated in the car’s right side.

The 2010 MINI Cooper Clubman mirrors the latest MINI Cooper hardtop – both inside and out, in terms of equipment – from the radiator grill to the B pillars. This means the two variants share the 172-horsepower turbocharged engine of the MINI Cooper S and the 118-hp, naturally aspirated four-cylinder powerplant of the MINI Cooper, both driving the front wheels. Inside, the instrument panel, seats (with the exception of some upholstery colors and materials as well as interior trim colors), comfort and convenience features and switch gear that have already been made familiar. And they share the chassis components, as well as the soul, which have earned the MINI accolades on its fun-to-drive, go-kart-like handling characteristics.

Exclusive to the MINI Clubman is the area behind the front seats and the number of doors providing access to the interior. Stretching the Clubman 9.4 inches and the wheelbase 3.2 inches results in a very different environment for passengers and all of life’s precious cargo. Almost all of the extra wheelbase is translated into additional leg room for rear passengers, and the revised body work provides a bit more shoulder room for them as well. The most dramatic transformation comes in terms of luggage space: the Clubman offers 61 percent more space (9.18 versus 5.7 cubic feet) with the rear seats up, or 37 percent more (32.8 versus 24 cubic feet) with both seats folded. And the Clubman offers an optional flat-luggage-floor system which also brings a covered storage bin between the Split Rear Barn Doors and the seatbacks.

Those rear split-doors offer the most striking visual differentiator for the Clubman from the MINI Hardtop. In keeping with the marque’s heritage, the 2010 MINI Clubman’s rear look is modeled along the design of the rear doors found in the Austin Mini Countryman, Morris Minor Traveller and the Mini Clubman Estate from the 1960s. The MINI Clubman eschews the more common hatch for a pair of Split Rear Barn Doors hinged on the outer edge of the C-pillars, thus providing a wide, open access to the luggage area. Opening/closing operation of the doors is very specific: the right, or main, door must be opened prior to the left one (and closed in reverse order) and the doors effortlessly glide open with the aid of a pair of gas struts.

A similar sequential operation allows for the opening/closing of the Clubdoor which provides a more convenient means for rear passengers to enter or leave the MINI Clubman cabin. Hinged at the rear on the right side, the Clubdoor is integrated into the right-side B-pillar. Compared to the MINI hardtop, with the Clubdoor open, passengers have four times more space to enter the rear seats of the Clubman (when the front seat is in the easy-entry position).

Once inside, all four occupants have their own three-point seatbelts and are further protected by six standard airbags. Strong, stable body construction provides the MINI Clubman with a platform for a high level of crash protection. In the event of a collision, optimized load paths within the body structure serve to effectively divert forces acting on the car, despite the short overhangs front and rear.

Active safety is enhanced in critical driving situations by the standard anti-lock brakes (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Corner Brake Control (CBC) and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), standard on both Clubman models. Additionally, Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), a sportier mode of DSC, is optional on both models.