For the past year we’ve seen the F55 roaming the streets of Germany testing in various states of camouflage. And as each layer has been slowly stripped away ahead of its fall of 2014 reveal, we’ve started to get a grasp on its size and its four doors. Then a few weeks ago the first 2015 F54 Clubman was spotted in advanced prototype form outside of Munich. It was immediately obvious that MINI had re-thought the Clubman as a longer and wider vehicle with four doors (six including both rear “club doors”).
That’s two four doors from MINI set to be released over the next 18-24 months. What are the differences and why did MINI go this direction? Read on.
The F55 5-Door Hatch
The new MINI five door will allow MINI to compete in the four door market without buyers giving up the typically MINI attributes. There have been many of you who have struggled with the idea of the Countryman but wanted more flexibility from a typical MINI form. Simply put this car was designed for that need.
Using the F56 hatch as its basis, MINI will shorten the front doors and add two small, conventionally opening doors behind them. This will be much like the Countryman’s layout, but in a slightly smaller package. As you can see in the photo (courtesy of Auto Express) rear doors will be on the small side, but still more usable then you might expect. Sources are telling us that the rear doors will extend from the trailing edge of the front doors all the way into the rear wheel arches and up to the gas cap on the right side of the car.
Inside we’ve been told to expect rear legroom to increase about 5 cm as compared to the next generation hardtop (which will be roughly the same as the current generation). F55 will offer a three person bench seat (like the Countryman and Clubman in some markets) likely as standard.
And yes those are door frames you see in the photo above. Expect them on both the F55 and F54 Clubman.
Stylistically the front of the car will be identical to the new F56. However the rear will be slightly raked as the extra 5 cm of legroom will push the boot out. As these photos let you make out, think of shape as almost a fast-back.
In total the F55 will likely be at least 5 cm longer than the F56 hatch which will be approximately the same size in length (give or two a cm or two). On the roof the R55 will feature a more subtle version of the Clubman’s “dune-line” roof profile to further distinguish the three and five door hatches.
MINI will even likely market the R55 simply as “the four-door MINI.” It won’t be taking the place of the iconic two door hardtop, but it will be offered for those who want a small MINI with just a bit more practicality. A little practicality wouldn’t hurt the hardtop for many. Have you ever tried to get a child seat in the back of the hatch or perhaps a dog in and out? Then you’ll know why the four-door F55 may go along way in helping Americans overcome their fears of impracticality. For the rest, the original hatchback form factor of the two door MINI will remain as well.
Or thought of another way, it’ll bring some of the Countryman’s gains in practicality, but with fewer of its SUV-bred performance compromises. Imagine being able to more easily haul passengers, kids or pets, but retaining all of the smaller MINI’s handling and lightweight efficiency. That’s a package we can get excited about.
The Release Schedule
The 2015 MINI five door (the name is still TBD) will debut in the fall of 2014. Details have yet to be worked out but expect a roll-out to be slightly compressed in compared to the F56 – meaning it should hit the US before the spring of 2015. This should help give the Convertible room to launch that spring.
The F54 Clubman
Where the F55 is all about being as small as possible with four doors, the Clubman stretches things out with an eye on increased utility. As you can see above 2015 Clubman will be lengthened and widened to Countryman proportions. This will allow for 2+3 style seating with easy access via two forward hinged rear doors. Exterior and interior details will be very similar to the soon to be released F56 albeit tweaked and stretch.
These changes were made possible by the F55 five door MINI and the increased market for small four door hatchbacks.
The Clubman will keep it’s iconic club doors in the rear but will lose it’s single “coach door” on the right in favor of two traditionally opening doors. This was done both due to customer feedback (especially in right-hand drive markets) and also safety concerns. In side impact crashes having a B-pilar is good thing.
Inside the rear legroom grows to Countryman levels while increased width will allow for three across seating as standard. The size of the boot is also increased dramatically in length, width and under the floor. One note about the rear club doors, MINI will be again hinging them on the corner of the car to allow for greater load angles. However unlike the current Clubman the lights will be integrated into the club doors and will be very similar to the Paceman’s in shape.
Based on the UKL platform, the F54 will carryover all drivetrains from the F56. What about all wheel drive? After our interview with Oliver Friedman head of MINI Product worldwide, we know we won’t see AWD on the F56. We’d guess that the F55 won’t deceit as well. But the F54 Clubman may be a very different story.
The Release Schedule
Design has been signed off and MINI is now in the prototype and manufacturing assessment phase. This should mean a debut date sometime in the first half of 2015 or about 6-12 months after the five door MINI is released.
Photos courtesy of AutoExpress