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Hatchbacks

Mini's new Clubman stretches out, joins the compact class

Making its North American debut at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show, the newly enlarged 2016 Mini Clubman is setting its sights on popular hatchbacks like the Mazda3 and the VW Golf.

Mini is showing the world that sometimes good things come in large(r) packages, too. After making its world premiere at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the largest Mini to date has landed on US shores in the form of the 2016 Clubman. The newly enlarged model has been completely redesigned and now features four full doors -- six if you count the double rear aperture.

At 168.3 inches in length, the new Clubman is 1 foot longer than its predecessor, a big enough stretch that it's Mini's first official foray into the compact premium segment. An overall width of 70.9 inches and a height of 56.7 inches make for a more spacious interior that's big enough for five while holding 17.5 cubic feet of cargo. Subtract three people, fold the rear seats and the cargo volume goes all the way up to 47.9 cubic feet of space. That's still less than the Volkswagen Golf, but it's more than the Ford Focus hatchback or Mazda3.

An example of simple technology making life easier is the Mini's available noncontact split rear door opening. Drivers with their hands full of kids, groceries or suitcases need merely to kick their foot under the bumper to trigger the automatic opening mechanism.

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The Clubman's ergonomics have been rationalized...somewhat.

Josh Miller/CNET

As before, the Clubman comes in either Cooper or Cooper S trim. The former receives a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine good for 132 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque, while the S gets a more powerful 2-liter turbo with 189 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque.

A six-speed manual with rev-matching is standard on the Cooper, and a Steptronic automatic with the same number of ratios is also available. Splurge for the Cooper S, and you'll also step up to an eight-speed Steptronic automatic with available paddle shifters. In a slick little bit of technology, the automatic transmissions work with the available navigation system to ensure optimal gear changes by analyzing GPS data to trigger downshifts prior to corners (and refrain from upshifting in the twisties).

In a break from recent Mini tradition, the speedometer and tachometer are both located in the gauge cluster in front of the driver, which improves ergonomics. That leaves the center of the dashboard free to house a standard 6.5-inch (or available 8.8-inch) color touchscreen infotainment system. A redundant control knob is situated behind the shifter. In line with its slightly wacky interior controls, there's also a red toggle to start and stop the Clubman's engine.

Mini promises the Clubman will still provide an engaging drive, especially when using the optional drive modes. Sport mode will dial up the steering weight, quicken throttle response and hold gears longer in models outfitted with the Steptronic transmission. Green mode allows better fuel efficiency through more conservative transmission mapping and climate control modulation. Those wanting a balance between the two can keep the car in Mid mode.

The 2016 Mini Clubman is expected to arrive at dealers in January. The Clubman Cooper will start at $24,100, (that works out to around £15,800, or AUS$33,520), and the Clubman Cooper S will start at $27,650 (roughly£18,100 or AUS$38,500).

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