These spyshots clearly show a lesser disguised prototype of a MINI estate out testing - this isn't something car companies do for fun, so we'll take this as confirmation that a modern-day interpretation of the classic Mini Traveller is on the way.

MINI goes maxi

Company bosses were being a bit coy about a production future for the MINI Concept, which was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show last year. But these spyshots clearly show a lesser disguised prototype of a MINI estate out testing - this isn't something car companies do for fun, so we'll take this as confirmation that a modern-day interpretation of the classic Mini Traveller is on the way, possibly as early as 2007.

A MINI estate will address two of the most pointed criticisms of the MINI, namely, lack of rear passenger and boot space. The head of MINI design, Gert Hildebrand, has already said that new MINI will be an extra 80mm long, so the next-generation platform would certainly stretch to an estate.

Like the MINI Concept showcar, the real thing, too, will have side-hinged doors just as the original Traveller had. A major difference to the Concept is the strong evidence here that this new MINI will have small rear 'suicide' doors similar to those on, for example, the Mazda RX 8. Look closely at the profile shots and you'll see a 'shutline' a few inches forward of the fuel filler.

There also appears to be something interesting going on with the estate's roof, which may sport dual, parallel sunroofs with an interior console in between, a design element that features on new models such as Vauxhall's Zafira.

This prototype also confirms the styling changes in store for MINI three-door hatch and convertible heralded by the MINI Concept. These include elongated headlamps and a higher-set bonnet.

Be part of something big

New MINI Traveller Estate Spy Photos