Baby got back!
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