Mini Clubvan: A commercial-grade Mini

Mini Clubvan sideHow many body styles are there? The Mini line comes pretty close to answering that question. To broaden the retro runabout’s popularity, parent BMW seems to release a new Mini every other week. There’s the original hatchback, the convertible, Clubman, Coupe, forthcoming Roadster, and the Countryman SUV. Now, there is yet another new Mini: the Clubvan, a commercial vehicle based on the Clubman. It will be shown soon in concept form at Geneva and enter production later this year.

To make a Clubman into a van, the rear seats are removed and replaced with empty space. An aluminum bulkhead separates the cargo area from the front seats, just like in a full-size van. Polycarbonate panels replace the rear windows, making a nice canvas for your company name.

The Clubman’s rear-hinged third door and vertically-split rear hatch (very van-like) remain. Mini did not give dimensions for the Clubvan, but the standard Clubman has 32.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded flat.

Is there a need for a Mini van? The idea isn’t exactly unprecedented. The original Mini was offered as a panel van beginning in 1960. Car-based panel vans used to be very popular, but they have largely been replaced by tall-roof, truck-based vehicles; the last panel van sold in the U.S. was the Chevy HHR.

Mini notes that Red Bull and Sephora already use its vehicles for commercial purposes (delivery and advertisement). In Europe, small vans are actually the norm; streets on the Continent are not wide enough for a Ford E-Series, and fuel is much more expensive.

Fuel economy might be the Mini’s biggest selling point. Not every business needs the cargo capacity of a full-size van. Smaller vehicles like the Clubvan could help businesses save money while cutting down on emissions as these vehicles make their daily rounds.

Farmers have begun importing tiny “kei” trucks from Japan to do jobs that don’t require a full-size pickup, which is all that the U.S. market offers. Ford already has the Transit Connect, and Nissan will begin selling its compact NV 200 shortly, so someone must see a market for this kind of thing.

Mini also claims the Clubvan will be bought by non-commercial buyers. The company views it as a “lifestyle”-type vehicle for people with sports equipment or a massive sound system.

It is hard to predict which cars will appeal to subcultures, but a downsized commercial vehicle seems to fit the times. The Mini Clubvan may be considered for its fuel economy as much as its cargo capacity. Either way, the Mini lineup will get a little bigger when the Clubvan goes on sale later this year.