When I had a purple MINI Cooper on a 55 plate, there was only the one version of a MINI that one could buy. Eleven years later & you could argue that MINI have stolen the cookie jar, with numerous MINI derivatives now available, the latest addition being the new MINI Clubman, a radical move forward from the previous model, which did at least mirror the Clubman’s of old, especially with the rear twin rear doors & asymmetrical body, which took me back to the 1970’s, when my uncle Bill had a Clubman.
The new Clubman like the Countryman before it has not just got bigger, the all-new Clubman is the largest model MINI has ever produced, but also shows off MINI’s push into a more premium market for it’s models, where buyers want their car to contain goodies such as SatNav, Bluetooth, parking sensors, climate control & LED headlights, coupled with 5-door practicality, which let’s be honest the previous Clubman failed to deliver, being cramped inside & offering a strange semi-coach door to one side, forcing UK buyers to get out into the road rather than onto the pavement.
At almost 4,300mm long and 1,800mm wide, the all-new model is 270mm longer and 73mm wider than the MINI 5-door Hatch, with 100mm added to the wheelbase. What does the mean in real terms ? well it pushes the Clubman into the C sector hatchback territory with it’s immediate rivals being the Audi A3, VW Golf, Mercedes A-Class & BMW’s own 1 Series. Unlike these cars though, MINIS don’t seem to divide buyers. Pretty much everybody loves them. Me because I had a MINI over twenty years ago & when I passed my test drove one. And, for my 18 year old daughter & her friends, because they look fab both inside & out.
As our family car is currently a MINI Countryman, it was interesting to compare the two when parked on our drive. The Countryman is taller, with more headroom but less legroom in the cabin than the Clubman, which is longer, wider & lower than the Countryman. The Countryman’s boot space with seats down climbs from 350 litres to 1,170 litres, the new Clubman boot has a volume of 360 litres, which can be extended to 1,250 litres by folding the rear seats flat, so it’s actually slightly larger, although it is not as high & to my mind isn’t quite as practical as the Countryman’s. The twin rear doors in the Clubman, make access to the boot easy, although be prepared to park further away from the car behind, as they take up more room when they’re opened than you’d expect.
The real joy of the new Clubman though is the interior, where MINI have really gone to town The new MINI Clubman includes MINI’s highly acclaimed Navigation System as standard on all models, exemplifying the high levels of standard equipment across the range. Furthermore, every MINI Clubman also benefits from the MINI Excitement Package as standard, which features a projection of the brand logo on to the ground beneath the driver’s side door mirror when the car is opened and closed, as well as extended interior lighting. The MINI logo certainly impressed my 15 year old son.
Numerous features make their MINI brand debut on the new Clubman, including an electric parking brake, full electric seat adjustment and the optional MINI Yours Interior Styles with backlit door bezels, featured on my test car.
Reassuringly, the classic central circular speedo is still there, which showcases the media-functions for the Clubman which are controlled by MINI’s version of i-drive located between the front seats. It’s pretty straightforward to use & offers a spit-screen mode enabling the driver to keep the SatNav function in view whilst listening to the radio, making Bluetooth hands-free phone call, or using the Aux-in for MP3 players function. MINI’s toggle switchgear is also to the fore in the new model & the entire cabin is incredibly well put together & is made of the highest quality I’ve ever seen in a MINI.
The Clubman may have grown up but the one thing that reminded me most of MINIS of old, was the excellent driving position in the new model, which allows the driver to feel in total control of the car. Coupled with a slick six-speed gearbox & fantastic suspension, the Clubman really drives as a MINI should & it is this that lifts it above the more Conservative cars it’s up against, where only stablemate the 1 Series comes close to being as much fun to drive. The seats are firm, but not uncomfortably so, unlike in the Audi A3 & the overall feel inside the cabin makes the poor-quality interior found inside the A Class & the safe interior of the Golf seem disappointing.
The Cooper D I tested now comes with a 2 litre engine, offering more power, 110 kW/150 hp at 4,000 rpm with maximum torque of 330 Nm at 1,750 rpm & acceleration of 0–62mph 8.6 seconds & a top speed of 132 mph.The six speed gear box has a smooth action, which encourages quick changes, increasing the fun factor of the car. Take a sojourn along a windy country road & the Clubman is enormously enjoyable, handling bends & bumps in equal measure. The down side of the fun if there is one, is that the 2 litre engine, whilst offering a claimed combined fuel consumption of 68.9 mpg, does use fuel up far more quickly than the 1.6 diesel used to do, simply because it’s a hard engine to drive it sensibly. My test model did offer 3 different driving options. Normal, Green & Sport, all controlled with a simple twisting mechanism in front of the gear stick, but the truth is, that having driven the car using each option, all were a blast. Better news is the CO2 emissions which are 109 g/km, ticking many company car drivers box.
As I’m sure you can work out for yourselves, I really liked the Clubman. The sheer fun of driving it coupled with it’s funky interior & good looks really appealed to me. However, for MINI to gain new customers the Clubman needed to be more practical & it’s now a five door car with a decent sized boot & that could be a deciding factor for many.
The new Clubman’s looks may not appeal to the MINI purists, but with the launch of the new Clubman, the MINI brand continues to be a marketing phenomenon & seems set to continue along that vein for some time to come.
A Fab Five Freddy 4/5.
Key specs for Clubman Cooper D
• Price: £22,265
• Engine: 2.0-litre 4 cyl turbo
• Transmission: Six-speed manual, front wheel drive
• Power: 189bhp
• 0-62mph: 7.2 seconds
• Top speed: 142mph
• Combined economy/CO2: 69.8mpg/109g/km