Given the reaction to the launch of the new Mini Clubman from some quarters, I did have to stop and pinch myself when I stepped into a secret room at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and laid eyes on the car. Stone me, I rather like it.
Billed by its makers as a VW Golf rival, I thought it looked well proportioned, spacious and practical, as well as appearing fun on the outside and the right side of quirky on the inside. Much like all modern Minis, in fact. Quibbles? There are a few but, rear headlight cluster aside, my equilibrium wasn’t too disturbed.
Some will never forgive a ‘Maxi’ Mini, of course, purely on the grounds it’s not true to the brand. I get that, although I don’t subscribe to the theory that you should keep doing what you did before just because you did it before.
I fear that others have been misled by the appalling official photographs of the car, which make it look considerably more stretched and out of proportion than it appeared to my eye. Sadly, no cameras were allowed in the Goodwood enclosure, so there’s nothing I can do to persuade you of this theory - but I would urge fans and critics alike to take a look at one in the metal when the opportunity arises.
Mini will certainly be hoping for a swing in opinion, because the Clubman signals the start of a rebirth for the brand. The theory goes that when Mini burst back on the scene 15 years ago it did so with a freshness and new approach that marked it out from the opposition, but that it has subsequently been so successful, and therefore copied, that it no longer owns the space it created.
What form Mini's reinvention will take isn’t completely clear, beyond the revelation that the brand has a new logo, that it will be built around five superhero cars and that there will be a shift in its marketing and visual presentation over the coming years. Given the Clubman’s role in kick-starting this process, you have to suspect that there are cars in the pipeline that could challenge what Mini has traditionally stood for.
Is that a bad thing? Not in my book. Porsche makes better sports cars for selling SUVs, so perhaps Mini can make better Minis by doing the same thing. For now, it would be great to get some clarity on how this new start will manifest itself. So how do you think the brand should thrive into the future?