Question: why does a British-heritage brand such as BMW-owned Mini launch a new Clubman 'wagon' version (here in the UK on 10 November; Europe around the same time); US early '08) and put the extra rear side passenger door on the right, the, er, 'wrong' side, for the key right-hand-drive 'home' market?

Answer: a BMW spokesman said the fuel filler is on the left of the existing hatchback version and the cost of relocating it for a second rear door on a derivative body style was too high. The decision makes more sense when considered in the light of the hatchback's historical LHD/RHD split: only 27% of drivers sit on the right.

The door in question is a rear-hinged 'suicide' portal of a style already seen on some light pickup trucks, Mazda's RX-8, Saturn's Ion coupe, Honda's North American market Element and others. It's designed to allow easier access than the long front doors and tilting seatbacks already permit but, parallel-parked on the left, as in right-hand drive Britain, Japan, Australia, etc., it is on the traffic side of the car. This door can only be opened after the driver's door and there is no external release.

The new Clubman is based on a concept first shown at the last Frankfurt motor show in 2005 and is, BMW said, "a modern interpretation of its famous Mini predecessors [aka Traveller and Countryman] taking into account all the demands and technologies of the 21st century".

UK launch variants parallel the more upmarket Cooper D, Cooper and Cooper S hatchback specification trim choices. BMW claims flexible use of space, easier access through innovative door concepts (including twin side-hinged rear doors, each with a window wash/wiper system), more space for rear passengers and high levels of safety and customisation options, all without compromising the hatchback's well-liked driving dynamics, as selling points.

The new car retains the hatchback's short body overhangs, wide track, a long wheelbase and high shoulder line rising towards the rear but is 24cm longer and 2ch higher with a useful extra 8cm more legroom for rear passengers and seating for five (though seating for just two rear passengers is optional). Boot capacity has increased 100 litre to 260 litres with the seats in place and up to 930 litres (+250 litres) with the rear seats down.

The tail lights are completely new and the C-pillars and rear bumper are painted either silver or black while the roof can be ordered in silver, black or body colour. No mention yet of the Union Jack…

Petrol and diesel engines shared with both PSA Group and the hatchback will include auto start-stop, brake energy regeneration and a gearshift point indicator from the off - the hatch gets an upgrade from September.

Andy Hearn, Mini UK general manager, said: "Dealers are very excited and confident about the imminent arrival of the Clubman and the expansion of the range. Dealers have invested close to GBP40m in the last two years in expanding or moving premises, enabling them to present the huge choice of models, options and accessories to customers in the showroom.

"Demand continues to grow year by year with 2007 sales up nearly 14%, including three record months from March. Residual values remain amongst the best in the industry and the arrival of Clubman will further add to growth over the coming years."

Graeme Roberts