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The 2016 Mini ClubmanJeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Given how the Mini family has grown like Topsy since the original wagonoid Clubman arrived in 2008, Wednesday's announcement from BMW may have come as a surprise.

We already have a five-door version of the Gen-3 Mini that's bigger than the discontinued Gen-2-based Clubman. And for those who still need more Mini, there's the class-above Countryman.

Nonetheless, the all-new 2016 Clubman is not just significantly larger than the five-door hatchback – which it would have to be, otherwise what's the point? – it's also bigger than the current Countryman.

The 2016 Clubman's 4.25-metre overall length is almost exactly the same as a Volkswagen Golf, and Mini is specific about the implications of that: the Clubman represents the brand's first foray into the premium compact class. All other Minis have been no longer than typical subcompact hatchbacks.

As it is, the 2016 Clubman is only 1.6 cm taller than the Mini five-door hatch, but it is 25.5 cm longer and a substantial 9 cm wider. It's as much a new "flat" version of the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer architecture as it is an evolution of the existing Mini. In turn, the next-generation Countryman will likely share the existing taller version of the Active Tourer architecture, with AWD and added ride height to support the Countryman's quasi-CUV mandate. And the next 1 Series will ride on the Clubman's lower version.

Further evidence that the Clubman is its own car, rather than just a stretched five-door: its front-end design incorporates Air Curtain aerodynamics for the first time on a Mini; the dashboard is completely redesigned; and its front suspension hardware is specific to the Clubman.

Given its size, there is now a pair of conventional doors on each side (the previous Countryman had a rear-hinged half-door on the curb side only). In the tail, the new Clubman retains the original's trademark split, side-hinged doors – a design feature that harkens back to the original Mini Traveller wagons of the 1960s. But those old Travellers never had a hands-free opening option: just wave a foot under the bumper of the 2016, and the back doors open automatically.

Seats-up cargo room grows to 360 litres from 260 on the original Clubman and 278 on the current five-door. The rear bench has room for three passengers and a 40:20:40-split backrest is available. Seats-folded cargo room grows to 1,250 litres versus 930 on the old Clubman and 940 on the current five-door. And for the first time in a Mini, power front seats will be offered.

Powertrain choices include the same 1.5-litre three-cylinder (Cooper) or 2.0-litre four-cylinder (Cooper S) gasoline engines as in the current Mini hatchbacks, plus a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel that's unlikely to come to Canada any time soon. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, and for the first time in a Mini, an eight-speed automatic is available – on the Cooper S; the Cooper automatic keeps the existing six-speed option.

Expect an extensive range of standard or optional on-board IT and active-safety driver aids. The former will include screens up to 8.8 inches, and a navigation system that collaborates with the automatic transmission to anticipate the appropriate gears for the road ahead. Among the latter: a head-up display, active cruise control, collision and pedestrian warning with initial brake function, road sign detection and parking assistant.

The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.

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