Between unloved facelifts and weirdly impractical doors, the Clubman name has rarely adorned great Minis. Will the new family hatchback change all that? By
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 062mph, 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.