Friday 9 December 2016

Mini Clubman is bigger, better and still just quirky enough to be different

The increase in size makes the Clubman very appealing but the price may dampen enthusiasm, writes Geraldine Herbert

Published 18/10/2015 | 02:30

Conventional: The characteristic split rear doors are retained but the Clubman now comes with four side doors and lots more room, so you can bring your kids and the luggage
Conventional: The characteristic split rear doors are retained but the Clubman now comes with four side doors and lots more room, so you can bring your kids and the luggage

While MINI purists may still consider the new MINI far too big for its name plate, for some it was still simply too small with cramped space and a tiny boot.

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The solution was the Clubman; launched in 2008 this odd looking, van-like MINI came with a rear-hinged "suicide" door that controversially opened into the traffic, rather than onto the footpath.

Despite the fact that is was only slightly bigger than the hatch and offered very little extra rear legroom or boot space, BMW sold over 200,000 Clubmans - or should that be Clubmen?

Essentially the Clubman is an estate version of the Hatch and is 90 millimetres wider and a significantly 293 millimetres longer than the previous version but still remains the smallest vehicle in the premium compact segment.

On paper the growth may sound modest but inside it is very spacious so you can now take the kids and your luggage, you no longer have to choose which is more important.

The boot space is a decent 360 litres, which expands to 1,250 litres with the rear seats folded down. The rear doors can be opened remotely by swiping your foot under the rear bumper which is particularly useful if you return to your car with arms piled with shopping.

From the front end it is all very recognisable with the shapely bonnet and cute round headlights while the oversized rear lights that are integrated into the tailgate are unique to the Clubman.

The inside looks like a typical MINI from the large circular dial in the centre of the dash to the snappy toggle switches - it's all very funky and retro and the new LED lighting ring now changes colour briefly as different driving functions are selected.

We drove the Cooper S version which had plenty of grunt thanks to the very latest turbocharged BMW Group engines lurking under the bonnet. With 2.0-litre, direct injection, turbocharged four cylinder engine it packs quite a punch with 192bhp of power and 280Nm of torque. Official figures suggest it returns 48.7mpg with CO2 emissions of 134 g/km.

Other engines in the line-up include a 148bhp 2.0 litre four-cylinder diesel and a 134bhp 1.5 litre three-cylinder petrol. Both manual and auto transmissions are excellent but the automatic is particularly impressive for city driving. A new eight-speed Steptronic is also offered.

Dynamics and the characteristic go-cart handling are the key criteria for MINI buyers and with this in mind the Clubman certainly doesn't disappoint. While it is not as sharp as the Hatch and the extra weight is apparent, any fears that the go-kart handling would be diminished were soon laid to rest as it negotiated the twists and bends with reassuring ease.

Overall, it's a more mature and comfortable ride than the Hatch but good fun all the same. For those seeking a little more performance, a John Cooper Works version will join the range next year.

Prices for the Cooper Clubman start at €29,560 (OTR), €32,570 (OTR) for the Cooper D, and €35,760 (OTR) for the Cooper S version. Emissions are as low as 109g/km, with fuel economy of up to 68.9mpg.

MINI hasn't scrimped on equipment and the entry level Clubman comes with a generous standard specification which includes 16" Revolite Spoke alloy wheels, MINI Navigation, Bluetooth handsfree, interior lights pack, central display with LED ring, MINI Excitement pack, start/stop with keyless start among many other features.

MINI Cooper S Clubman adds 17" Vent Spoke alloy wheels, twin exhausts, sports seats for the driver and front passenger and Performance Control.

Gone is the single rear "suicide" door and some of the zaniness of the previous version but the Clubman still manages to bring something a little different to the conventional estate market. Overall the build quality is vastly improved and it feels very classy.

It may not be the most practical estate but for a two-child family it certainly makes buying a MINI a viable option. However, the real issue is the price, when you consider a MINI Cooper 5 door starts at €23,490, the Clubman starts to look expensive.

Sunday Independent

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