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Be­tween unloved facelifts and weirdly im­prac­ti­cal doors, the Club­man name has rarely adorned great Mi­nis. Will the new fam­ily hatch­back change all that? By

CAR (UK) - - Contents - Chris Chilton

Good­bye Civic Type R , hello Mini Club­man

MI­NIS? I’VE HAD a few. Bought ’em, sold ’em, raced ’em, crashed ’em, crushed ’em. Ev­ery­thing from a ’64 Mk1 with slid­ing win­dows and floor-mounted starter but­ton to an ’01 Mk1 of the BMW va­ri­ety, and many in be­tween.

But never a Club­man. Not the square-front orig­i­nal, Bri­tish Ley­land’s awk­ward at­tempt to mod­ernise and glam­or­ise Is­sigo­nis’s blob 10 years into its life. And def­i­nitely not the style-over-sub­stance BMW Mini Club­man in­tro­duced in 2006 with the sin­gle rear sui­cide door that, for the Brits, de­canted your kids into on­com­ing traf­fic (though, like any par­ent, in grumpier mo­ments


MINI COOPER CLUB­MAN Price £21,045 As tested £29,805 En­gine 1499cc 12v 3-cyl, 134bhp @ 4400rpm, 162lb ft @ 1250rpm Trans­mis­sion 6-speed man­ual, front-wheel drive Per­for­mance 9.1sec 0Š62mph, 127mph, 130g/km CO2 Miles this month 51 To­tal 998 Our mpg 34.9 O icial mpg 49.6 Fuel this month £121.89 Ex­tra costs None

I’ve won­dered if this was ac­tu­ally such a bad thing).

For the cur­rent Club­man, how­ever, I’m happy to make an ex­cep­tion and break my duck. Even if you think the whole Mini cutesy retro style thing couldn’t be more stom­ach-churn­ing if the bon­net stripes were printed by Cath Kid­ston and there was a two-me­tre-tall Hello Kitty perched on the roof, you’ll have to grudg­ingly ad­mit BMW’s de­sign team has got this one bang on. The long, low roofline makes it far sleeker than the dumpy Coun­try­man SUV and five-door Mini hatch, and it’s cer­tainly more in­ter­est­ing than ri­val small fam­ily cars such as the Golf.

And that goes for the in­side, too. It looks fun and feels tough, and be­cause it rides on the same 2670mm wheel­base as the Coun­try­man (175mm longer than the Mini five-doors), there’s plenty of room in both the front and the rear. Get­ting into the back seats is also eas­ier this time be­cause this Club­man has a pair of con­ven­tional front-hinged rear doors in­stead of a sin­gle rear-hinged one. Which might not look as cool, but not hav­ing to open the front door be­fore you’re able to un­latch the back one gets old quickly when it’s pour­ing with rain.

So it’s a gen­uine fam­ily-sized Mini, but don’t be mis­led by the squared-off rear. De­spite the es­tate-car styling the 360-litre boot is ac­tu­ally 20 litres smaller than a Golf’s. It’s okay, but noth­ing more, though the eter­nally sen­si­ble Golf doesn’t get the funky barn­door rear doors. There might be a rea­son for that. Is it a gen­uinely use­ful fea­ture or an ir­ri­tat­ing gim­mick? Time will tell, and not much of it, I imag­ine.

The most pop­u­lar Club­man is the £21,045 Cooper, which is what we’ve got. That makes it £3k more than the five-door and £2300 less than the Coun­try­man. Your ba­sic Cooper comes with a ver­sion of the now-fa­mil­iar 1.5-litre triple BMW fits to ev­ery­thing from the 2-se­ries MPV to the i8 sports car. Here it makes 134bhp, gets you to 62mph in 9.1 sec­onds and is the­o­ret­i­cally ca­pa­ble of 49.6mpg.

The Cooper’s ba­sic spec is rea­son­ably strong: al­loy wheels, nav­i­ga­tion, DAB ra­dio, cruise con­trol and a leather­wrapped mul­ti­func­tion wheel are stan­dard. But BMW helped usher in the idea of per­son­al­i­sa­tion when it launched the re­born Mini in 2001, so nat­u­rally, we’ve got a few op­tions on ours.

The big­gest of those is the £3500 Chili Pack (leather trim, park­ing sen­sors, key­less en­try, LED lights), but we also have 17-inch wheels (nor­mally £670, but £100 if or­dered with the Chili Pack), adap­tive dampers (£450) and var­i­ous other giz­mos.

We’ll cover those in the com­ing months, ask­ing whether they’re worth the spend, while also ask­ing some big­ger ques­tions.

Namely, is this big­ger Mini ac­tu­ally big enough to cut it as a fam­ily car for four Chiltons and dog, whether it can do it while still feel­ing like a Mini, and if it can help me get over my life­long square face- and odd door-based dis­taste for the Club­man brand?

HOW MUCH?The Club­man Cooper on­the-road price is £21,045 but we’ve added the ubiq­ui­tous £3500 Chili pack, an inch on the wheels for £100 and £450 adap­tive dampers. No ex­traUnion Jacks though.

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