- We like...terrific to drive, classy
- We don't...'suicide' door on offside
Newest Mini delivers extra space, extra doors and a dollop of added charmThey’re expensive, impractical and so quirky that it’s daft. But we love ‘em: Mini can barely make cars fast enough to meet demand. The Clubman is the latest spin-off from the original - we’ve already got the convertible, and an off-road Mini is due soon.
The Clubman stays true to Mini heritage, taking up where the Countryman left off 40 years ago. So it’s a mini-estate with twin doors at the back although, this time around, there’s no wood frame to see. But it’s still pretty quaint.
Should you get one, given that it’s £1200 dearer than the regular Mini? Well, you get extra luggage space, it’s a five seater where the others take only four and it holds great pose-value – for now. That’s enough to win us over, particularly since it drives as cheekily as other Minis and feels even smoother across the bumps. The 120bhp 1.6 in our Cooper makes it no fireball but it is smooth and revs easily, rasping nicely from its exhaust when pushed. Despite its extra bits and pieces, the Clubman is scarcely heavier than a regular Mini. So it remains a real fuel sipper, managing up to 51mpg, and it’s aided by a stop-start economy system. Pull up at traffic lights, apply the hand brake, slip the gears to neutral, release the clutch and the engine dies. Dip the clutch and it revives in a moment. Very neat.
Inside, the classy chrome and plush fittings convince that it’s worth its lofty price, although the soft, poo-brown leather seats in ours cost £1345 extra. And it would be easy to whup the sticker price of yours up to £18,000 by picking a few choice add-ons from the long-long list.
The pencil lights that shine into the cabin from the roof as you drive are a great touch, though. They give just enough light to see the switch you want, without distracting. Fantastic.
But you need them because the controls for lights, windows and radio are scattered. Those controlling the temperature settings are awkward to use and look cheap. Mini’s owner, BMW, ranges buttons and switches in its other cars with masterful logic, so the way they sit here has to be intentional. Puzzling.
Curiously, too, the Clubman has one rear side door, on the driver’s side, It’s rear-hinged and short, so you must still tip the front seat for those in the rear to enter or exit. Then, of course, they step into the path of passing traffic, having first dodged the driver’s belt, which is anchored to the bottom of the door. That’s no-way great.
As estate cars go, it’s definitely Mini: there’s too little space for it to serve as a dog hauler and £50 spent in Tesco will cram its boot. True, the seat backs drop to create a sizeable and flat load platform. But if you want to lower just one, you must first remove the centre rear head rest.
Then again, no one buys a Mini because it’s practical. Like other Minis, the Clubman is weird and wonderful. Just the way we want it to be.
- 0-60 mph9.8sec
- Insurance groups9
Motors.co.uk value verdict: