Small commercial vans may just be the next big thing. Not only are seasoned van builders starting to tiptoe into the segment, but so too is Mini. The new Mini Clubvan, shown above, will debut as a concept at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show but will enter production by the end of 2012.
A work-ready Mini seems a little odd, but it isn't exactly unprecedented. The original Mini gave birth to a panel van variant in 1960, which in turn spawned the Traveller Wagon a year later. The Traveler itself inspired today's Mini Clubman, which in turn serves as the basis of the Clubvan. History seems to be repeating itself, albeit in an inverted manner.
As you can likely glean from its name, the Mini Clubvan is essentially a van-like twist on the existing Mini Clubman model. The rear seats are eliminated in favor of a flat, carpeted load floor, which stretches from the split rear doors to an aluminum bulkhead affixed just aft of the front seats. The rear-hinged third door - located behind the passenger-side door - remains, opaque polycarbonate panels replace the Mini Clubman's rear quarter windows. Dimensional data has yet to be provided, but we assume the Mini Clubvan's cargo space is similar to that of the Clubman, which offers 32.8 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded flat.
Would anyone put such a Mini to work? The automaker points out that many companies, including Red Bull and cosmetics giant Sephora, already use Minis in a commercial setting (the latter actually uses the Mini Clubman to deliver products in New York City). Like the Ford Transit Connect and the forthcoming Nissan NV200, the Mini Clubvan could appeal to small business owners looking for a nimble urban delivery vehicle - but unlike those vanlet, the Clubvan could provide an extra dash of style. Interestingly, officials tell us they suspect the Mini Clubvan will be seen as less of a commercial vehicle in the U.S, and more of a quirky, "sub-culture" personal lifestyle vehicle - the sort perfect for hauling bikes, surfboards, DJ equipment, and so on.
Those ideas will soon be put to the test: Mini officials tell us the Clubvan will go on sale in late 2012 as a 2013 model. Pricing is still unknown, but we wouldn't be surprised if it runs near or just below the $25,000 base price of a 2012 Mini Cooper Clubman.