Baby got back!

WKND - - On The Road - 24 june 2016

The 3- door MINI is a famed hatch­back with his­tory span­ning 50 years and cer­tainly needs no in­tro­duc­tion. Through the years, the MINI range has grown to in­clude the likes of the Coupe, the Cabri­o­let, the all- new 5- door — the soon- to- bere­placed Coun­try­man — the Pace­man and the Club­man. To­day, we’re look­ing at that last one, with an em­pha­sis on the Cooper S trim.

The first- gen­er­a­tion Club­man, launched in 2007, was a 5- door rein­car­na­tion aimed at po­ten­tial own­ers seek­ing more cargo and peo­ple- haul­ing ca­pac­ity. But its asym­met­ri­cal door lay­out and pe­cu­liar styling made it prob­a­bly the least favourite of the MINI fam­ily. This time around though, it has tra­di­tional doors and im­proved styling. But is it a bet­ter car? And does the in­creased wheel­base take away some MINI magic from the driver’s seat? We find out!

DE­SIGN & AES­THET­ICS

For the most part, the 2016 MINI Club­man is a cute and lov­able car like the sub- com­pact hatch it is based on. The over­sized head­lamps en­cir­cled in chrome — which lends it that sig­na­ture bug- eyed look — the gap­ing air in­takes, plas­tic wheel arches, chrome fuel filler cap and that trun­cated rear end are all char­ac­ter­is­tic and present. What the Club­man adds to this cute dumpling of a car is greater length — it is the long­est MINI yet at 4,253mm. It also adds two proper tra­di­tional doors for the rear cabin, re­plac­ing the sin­gle rear hinged “sui­cide” door. You also have two barn- style or cup­board- style doors in­stead of a sin­gle hatch in the rear, mak­ing this not a 3-, 4- or 5- door but a 6- door hatch­back. The other sig­nif­i­cant char­ac­ter­is­tic is the new set of hor­i­zon­tal rear lights that have lovely con­cen­tric de­tail­ing, in­stead of the usual ver­ti­cal lamps — a first for a MINI.

The Cooper S model we drove came with a few vis­ual en­hance­ments as well, such as the hood scoop and larger air in­takes, a grille that has the sem­blance of a honey- comb mesh and a sporty twin ex­haust. This is def­i­nitely the trim to have!

Now, die- hard fans of the MINI may cringe at the no­tion of hav­ing a “big” MINI, but the reg­u­lar folk would only re­joice at the added space for peo­ple and par­cel. Our ver­dict on van­ity is that the Club­man, even with its lengthy body, is as beau­ti­ful as any reg­u­lar MINI.

Of course, as with all MINIS, cus­tomi­sa­tion is im­per­a­tive to set you apart from the reg­u­lar Joe and, in that process, you may weave your­self quite a web, thanks to the elab­o­rate op­tions list. It be­gins with chang­ing paint schemes — there are four solid colours and nine metal­lic ones to choose from. You can also colour the roof and mir­rors, black, white or sil­ver. And to keep you rolling in style, MINI pro­vides seven dif­fer­ent al­loy de­signs, some 17” and some 18” in di­am­e­ter, but all of which are chunky, sporty and el­e­gant at the same time. And to com­plete the pack­age, you can paste black or white rac­ing stripes right down the mid­dle of the bon­net to im­prove street cred.

For 2016, the Club­man’s key­fob al­lows for smart ac­cess, but if you choose to click un­lock man­u­ally, pud­dle lamps come on in the shape of the MINI logo be­side the front doors — an in­ter­est­ing gim­mick we have seen on both Mercedes and Hyundai, too.

At 1,441mm tall, it’s still a car of small stature, but get­ting in isn’t mu­chof a has­sle and, once in­side, there is a good dis­tance be­tween you and the front pas­sen­ger. Things are as not as in­ti­mate as be­fore. The car’s width has been in­creased to 1,800mm, mak­ing it also the widest MINI yet. Two 6ft tall adults will eas­ily find space and com­fort, cour­tesy the many seat ad­just­ments. The other thing about the seats is that they come up­hol­stered in blue di­a­mond quilted leather, usu­ally seen

AU­THOR’S RAT­ING

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