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First Drive: MINI Clubman

By / 5 years ago / Road Tests / No Comments

Sector: Lower medium Price: £19,995–£24,255 Fuel: 48.7–68.9mpg CO2: 109–144g/km

When businesses are thinking about a Golf or Focus-sized car for their fleet, it would be highly irregular for MINI to come into the reckoning. However, this might well be about to change with the new MINI Clubman.

But it is going to take some work, as MINI director Chris Brownridge recognises.

He said: “This is the first real car in this segment for us. It does all the rational stuff that a family hatch does, but we believe offers something unique in the sector. It is fresh, innovative and different, and we will have to establish its credentials.”

It certainly looks unique, and this will be the biggest challenge MINI has to overcome to get it onto choice lists and under consideration. The fact that the Clubman retains all the strong MINI design cues, but with a stretched wheelbase and extremely long roofline confuses the eye: it appears at first glance as an estate verso8ns of a standard small MINI.

However, measurements suggest otherwise. The Clubman is the same length as a Golf (give or take a millimetre or two), slightly lower, yet slightly wider. You must avail yourself of these facts to convince your eye.

The latest generation of MINI TwinPower Turbo Technology engines have been installed under the bonnet, with four units available from launch – the MINI Cooper Clubman, MINI Cooper D Clubman, MINI Cooper S Clubman and MINI Cooper SD Clubman. CO2 emissions are as low as 109g/km, with fuel economy of up to 68.9mpg. New to MINI is an eight-speed Steptronic transmission, available as an option on the Cooper S, Cooper D and the Cooper SD Clubman.

This will not be a high volume fleet car, even if many of the metrics point to its suitability. Brownridge reckons that corporate sales are only around 15% of MINI sales, but may rise only as high as 25% within a few years (still a third of BMW 1 Series sales and a seventh of Gold numbers), making this very much a user chooser car, with strong residuals, unique character and sporty handling central to the offering.

The new MINI Cooper D Clubman we drove should be very strong on that front, featuring a 2.0-litre engine – installed in a MINI for the first time and with 150bhp – and OTR pricing from £22,265.

It drives exactly as you would expect of a MINI, which means wonderfully snicky gearbox, excellently supportive seats, sharp steering and stiff suspension. In this car, the diesel engine is also very well installed, sounding gruff rather than rattly and quiet in a cruise, and the cabin is a little more grown-up than in the smaller car, and flees more everyday usable as a result.

As a MINI, there are of course some quirky elements. Gone is the suicide side door to be replaced by more standard items, but the two rear boot doors offer a solution nobody else has thought of, while the MINI Excitement Pack features an light display activated when unlocking the car that projects the MINI logo onto the ground on the driver’s side.

Verdict:

Drives well, has lots of standard spec, a strong diesel engine and is a quirky alternative to a Golf or A3. It should be popular among user choosers.

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Steve Moody

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