Glumness and melancholy were setting in like hardening emotional cement. We all grow up and most of us grow out, I ruminated as my shrinking nuclear family boarded the 2016 Mini S Clubman to drive our youngest daughter to the airport. She’s flying off for her gap-year travel odyssey before resuming university thousands of miles away come September.

The other kid hasn’t lived with us for three years. So functionally, we’re empty nesters. But I swear my wife and I were trekking carefree through Europe ourselves just a few months ago. I sighed, clicked the seatbelt and set the electric seat to memorize a creeping girth.

Even my beloved Clubman has aged almost beyond recognition, I thought darkly. I had picked up this new Clubman just minutes earlier for a week’s testing. The last car I ever owned was a 2010 Clubman and I’d loved it. Seeing this bigger new one, I was suspicious, even resentful, of the changes. A recent press release reported, Mini is evolving its brand from being the city dweller’s fun car to something more practical and sophisticated, “combining intelligence with design”.

I wondered just how much were Mini going to quell the fun. For starters, the colour of this big tester was an officious Pure Burgundy Metallic. My 2010 was Hot Chocolate, not Pure Brown, with silver racing stripes that made it go faster. Sigh.

“Oh wow, this is waaay better than the old one,” my daughter interrupted.

Kids say the darnedest things. “There’s finally room for my expletive deleted knees. And my elbows. And look!” She started playing with the dual zone climate controls’ rear vents. “I got my own expletive deleted heat!”

It wasn’t like she’d suddenly pricked my emotional bubble. It was more like, with a few words, she’d smashed that hardening emotional cement. Like that, snap, I rebounded out of this sulk like my old Mini Clubman on a hairpin turn.

“Yeah,” I conceded. “And check this out, darling. It has different drive modes. Here’s the green one for conscientious eco-driving.” Pandering to the youthful audience, I flicked the circular switch. The relatively huge 8.8-inch visual display screen acknowledged the shift modes and cheekily displayed “Let’s MINImalize.” This text flanked a tiny cartoon of the Clubman bein’ green, green arrows lining the hood and, within a thought bubble, a tachometer leans into what looks like a cushion. “That’s so cool!” she enthused from the backseat, warm air blasting (only) her way. “This one’s a green helper too.” I show the start-stop button whose symbol looks like an @ symbol. If activated, “the engine stops at lights when I’ve got my foot on the brake, then restarts automatically when I take it off.” We never had any of that in my Clubman.

From small beginnings… Evolution of the Mini

“Yeah, this is way better, Daddy.” Two minutes later, after the engine restarts at the traffic light, we’re on a thoroughfare, heading out of downtown. My wife joins Team Junior, championing the superiority of the new Clubman, searching the satellite radio for music we can all agree on. Good thing there’s 130 stations.

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