The force is strong with this one . . .

Macclesfield Express - - SEARCH -

IRE­CENTLY took a real trip down mem­ory lane - far back in time to the launch of the very first Star Wars film in 1977.

To­gether with the same two pals I saw the orig­i­nal block­buster movie with all those years ago, I trav­elled to a Galaxy not that far away (a much posher mul­ti­plex on the front at Thorn­ton Cleve­leys) to recre­ate the mo­ment and see the very lat­est in­stal­ment of the hit film fran­chise.

And to make our sci-fi pil­grim­age com­plete - as al­most 40 years ago I was driv­ing around in a lovely lit­tle red Mini 1000 - our trans­port was the very lat­est Mini, the Club­man Cooper Diesel.

Just like the lat­est Star Wars film the new Mini is (much) big­ger and bet­ter and has been brought bang up to date with the very lat­est tech­nol­ogy.

For this 2016 gen­er­a­tion the Club­man (the largest Mini ever) keeps some nods to its her­itage with those quirky dou­ble rear doors (now with dinky lit­tle wipers) and a big cen­tral dash­board bin­na­cle… but un­like the orig­i­nal this no longer houses just the speedome­ter and tem­per­a­ture gauge, but does have a big in­fo­tain­ment screen for the DAB ra­dio and sat nav plus ve­hi­cle mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems (all things un­dreamt of in 1977).

Gone from the pre­vi­ous model is the equally quirky but im­prac­ti­cal rear-hinged side door and all now come with ba­sic sat-nav and key­less go. Our test car also had a moviein­spired fea­ture - pud­dle lamps below the door mir­rors which pro­ject a winged Mini logo onto the pave­ment in a very ‘bat-sig­nal’ way.

Mini ex­pects this 2.0-litre Cooper diesel and the en­try-level petrol to take the lion’s share of sales and it’s not hard to see why. Well fit­ted out and al­most spa­cious (well it is still a Mini) the diesel en­gine pulls well and feels faster than the of­fi­cial 0-62 time of 8.6 sec­onds.

In ad­di­tion Mini say the car will re­turn around 68mpg, while lower CO2 emis­sions of 109g/km mean that this Club­man has com­pet­i­tive run­ning costs for pri­vate and com­pany car buy­ers.

The roads to Cleve­leys were far from smooth but the ride was, de­spite the car still hav­ing a low stance and a sporty sus­pen­sion set up. And the test model was fit­ted with 18in al­loys and ul­tra low pro­file tyres (an ex­tra £570) which would have made the ride harsher than the stan­dard 16in ver­sions.

Mo­tor­way cruis­ing was no prob­lem (es­pe­cially with the stan­dard-fit adap­tive cruise con­trol) and once we hit the (badly flooded) coun­try lanes the typ­i­cal Mini ‘chuck­a­bil­ity’ was still ev­i­dent.

The steer­ing in­spires con­fi­dence when push­ing through the cor­ners, while not prov­ing too heavy around town, al­though the very upright steer­ing wheel po­si­tion takes a lit­tle get­ting used to for those who have not driven re­cent gen­er­a­tion Mi­nis be­fore.

While the Club­man has grown con­sid­er­ably it still has that go-kart feel – al­though it’s not quite as much fun as the three and five-door mod­els. Nev­er­the­less, in sport mode, the en­gine is par­tic­u­larly brisk with sharp­ened throt­tle re­sponse helped by a very pos­i­tive six-speed man­ual gear­box.

The 2016 Club­man Cooper D ba­sic on the road price is £21,690, not bad for a car with bags of char­ac­ter that stands out on the road while still be­ing a prac­ti­cal fam­ily run­about.

Our test ver­sion, how­ever, had vis­ited the ex­tras depart­ment big time and boasted a long list of op­tions which took that fi­nal price up to a shade over £30 grand.

Some were bet­ter value than oth­ers and in­cluded a lovely cross-stitched ‘Ch­ester Indigo Blue’ leather in­te­rior (£815); Me­dia Pack (£1,010) with en­hanced sat-nav and Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity and a CHILI Pack (£2,785) which had things like those larger 18” al­loys, sports leather steer­ing wheel, front and rear park­ing sen­sors, spe­cial in­te­rior light­ing and park as­sist.

It was also in a very strik­ing spe­cial or­der pur­ply-brown colour with grey roof which added £515 and had a fea­ture I have never seen in a car be­fore - a flash­ing red light atop the roof aerial show­ing the alarm was armed and mak­ing the mo­tor par­tic­u­larly easy to find on the shop­ping cen­tre car park.

All-in-all I re­ally liked the Club­man diesel for its han­dling, per­for­mance and slightly quirky looks. It’s a car you can use ev­ery­day which will stand out from the crowd… the force is still strong with this one.

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