THINK BIG

The six-door Mini Club­man shows just how much fun can be crammed into a small car.

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - WITH CAM WARD

This test drive comes with a disclaimer. Some­one in my fam­ily got it wrong. Big time.

I have long been taken by the looks of the Mini. Not its clas­sic ’60s guise as ex­em­pli­fied (in pop cul­ture-fo­cused way of think­ing) Mr Bean, but new-look Bri­tish icon, driven by Austin Pow­ers or that which starred in The Ital­ian Job.

From afar it oozed style and per­son­al­ity. More curvy, less boxy. than once I ex­pressed the view would very much like to get be­hind the wheel of one. Maybe not on a per­ma­nent ba­sis, but cer­tainly to see if walked walk as well as it talked talk.

To which I was shot down. In no un­cer­tain terms.

The anal­ogy was not so much that of a square peg try­ing to fit into round hole, as oblit­er­at­ing said hole com­pletely. I couldn’t pos­si­bly fit, it as­sumed, and if I did I would look like was driv­ing clown car. How wrong they were. When Doubt­ing Thomas fi­nally came for a ride in the new Mini Cooper Club­man, their im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion how nice it was. More than that, re­fined

There was com­fort, there was space, there lux­ury and a nim­ble turn of speed, no mean feat for a car pow­ered by three­cylin­der 1.5-litre en­gine.

The Club­man comes in two ver­sions in Aus­tralia — the base model I drove and two-litre four-cylin­der Cooper S, both with petrol en­gines. A four-cylin­der two-litre diesel version is avail­able over­seas but there no word yet whether that will be in­tro­duced here.

Cer­tainly consumption would seem to the sole rea­son. Mini claims 4.1 litres/100km (com­bined) for diesel, but three-cylin­der petrol is not much thirstier at 5.1, while Cooper S is 6.2.

It sits low does feel claus­tro­pho­bic. It hugs the bends and when you flick gear shift across into man­ual, pad­dles shift up down gears with snappy pre­ci­sion.

There is an­other word I’d use in re­la­tion to my first ex­pe­ri­ence of the Mini: fun. And sales

“When I send peo­ple out in a test drive in a Mini for the first time, and I say to them ‘How did you enjoy that?’, nine times out of 10 word that comes of their mouths is “fun”. That’s only way they can ex­plain it.”

LIANA HO­TON, GEE­LONG MINI GARAGE SALES CON­SUL­TANT

con­sul­tant Liana Hor­ton from Gee­longg Mini Garageg saysy I’m not alone in that as­sess­ment.

“This par­tic­u­lar model is brand new, so it’s the new­est mem­ber of fam­ily,” she said.

“When I send peo­ple out in a test drive a Mini for first time, and say to them ‘How did you enjoy that?’, nine times

10 the first word that comes out of their mouths is ‘fun’. That’s

only way they can ex­plain it.” How do make a car fun? In

case Club­man, you start with lit­tle things.

There is nice retro feel with the con­trols, which are metal tog­gles in­stead of plas­tic-like di­als. The fuel gauge is rep­re­sented by a kind bar graph, run­ning down the right- hand side of the one main dial on

dash that sits in front of the steer­ing wheel. There are tar­tan pat­terns bot­tom stor­age bins in doors and what look to be car­bon fi­bre in­serts doors turn out to more like fi­bre op­tics, light­ing up the mood you se­lect.

That pack is one of a myr­iad op­tions avail­able across the Club­man range. But even with­out that you’re well off for fea­tures — six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, 16-inch wheels, cli­mate con­trol, Blue­tooth, au­dio stream­ing, USB con­nec­tiv­ity, for­ward col­li­sion warn­ing, key­less start, rear park dis­tance

re­vers­ing cam­era and 6½-inch touch­screen.

The Club­man is priced from $34,990. model I drove had a bunch of op­tions, in­clud­ing sun­roof, sports seats, heated front seats and 17-inch al­loys and was $47,665. But per­haps the big­gest change in Club­man from its pre­de­ces­sor is round back.

Twin barn doors bring to­tal num­ber of the car to six — twice as many as pre­de­ces­sor. There’s even a “kick” func­tion (again an op­tion) that will al­low you open hands­free.

“It’s try­ing to ap­peal to dif­fer­ent mar­ket again,” Hor­ton said. “They’re re­fer­ring this as a six-door hatch.

“There’s some­thing for ev­ery­one in the Mini.”

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