Prac­ti­cal meets pre­mium

Club­man with ex­tra doors is still an en­ter­tainer, says Craig Jamieson

Herald Sun - Motoring - - PRESTIGE -

MINI has al­ways tugged at the heart­strings rather than ap­pealed to the hip pocket and the new Club­man is no ex­cep­tion.

The Club­man Cooper’s start­ing price is a rea­son­able $34,900 but op­tions can eas­ily kick that out well past $40,000.

It’s the same story for the Cooper S, which starts at $42,900 but can eas­ily top $50,000.

Per­haps that’s why Mini is tar­get­ing the boom­ing “pre­mium compact” mar­ket with the Club­man. The seg­ment has tripled in size over the past five years, led by the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class.

At first glance the Mini ap­pears to have the class to mix it in this com­pany. The cabin is beau­ti­fully trimmed and unique, with (op­tional) di­a­mond-stitched leather and cool switchgear.

It has a dis­tinctly claus­tro­pho­bic feel, though, with a nar­row front wind­screen and poor vi­sion through the bi­fold rear doors.

It’s a shame be­cause there’s ac­tu­ally a lot of room in the Club­man. With am­ple front head­room and a ca­pa­cious boot, the mega Mini is the first of its kind with prac­ti­cal­ity to ri­val five-door hatch­backs.

The pre­vi­ous-gen­er­a­tion Club­man, with a sin­gle rear door that opened into the traf­fic, was scarcely more prac­ti­cal than the smaller hatch.

This model re­dresses its pre­de­ces­sor’s short­com­ings by re­vert­ing to a more straight­for­ward, hatch­back-like setup, with reg­u­lar doors for easy ac­cess.

The Club­man is 270mm longer and 90mm wider than the stan­dard hatch, the ex­tra di­men­sions seem­ingly im­prov­ing the way the car soaks up bumps.

The skit­tish­ness of the small Mini hatch sta­ble­mate is nowhere to be found on the grown-up Club­man, even through mid-cor­ner cor­ru­ga­tions. As is the way with dou­ble-edged swords, how­ever, the peppy dy­namism for which

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