The next-generation MINI Clubman is being considered for an upsize towards becoming an SUV, while the three-door hatchback is also being worked on in order to reduce its external bulk, Autocar reports. The brand is losing sales in the US market as the Countryman – currently its sole SUV offering – is deemed by Americans to be too small to justify its pricing, the report said.

The present-day Clubman is just slightly shorter and wider than its crossover sibling the Countryman, whilst occupying similar price points, though the future development for the Clubman remains to be seen if it will become substantially larger on its own, or if both will grow even bigger to offer two SUV models of different sizes.

“For future architecture, we’re having weekly discussions to improve interior space and reduce the car’s footprint. But it’s not solved yet. Maybe next year,” Heilmer said with regard to improving space efficiency within the three-door MINI hatchback.

It isn’t necessarily that the internal combustion engine which needs more space, as even with electric powertrain a deformable crash structure is still required, Heilmer said, adding that “crash performance is the bigger issue.” Another challenge is ‘an electric motor that might keep running (after a crash),’ a scenario that does not usually affect internal combustion-engined cars.

The Clubman (left) could grow larger, and so could the Countryman (right)

Space efficiency in the three-door hatch might improve with the possible use of a new type of energy-absorbent foam between the front bumper skin and the crash bar, which potentially reduces the hatchback’s front overhang. “The footprint is most crucial with the hatch; size is less of a problem with the other models,” said Heilmer.

“I want each model to be the smallest in the segment, or visually the smallest,” he added, though also admitting that compactness may not be helpful for sales, which is why to next Clubman could grow larger. The models’ ‘iconic features’ are also being reconsidered, as while recogntion of the ‘face’ is important, tail lights may be less so, he noted.

The clamshell bonnet isn’t necessarily a must-have, and inside, the toggle swtiches are also being re-evaluated, with the larger Clubman and Countryman models suggested for a move away from the retro interior elements. “They’re good on the hatch, less so on the others perhaps,” said Heilmer.

GALLERY: MINI John Cooper Works Clubman

GALLERY: MINI John Cooper Works Countryman