4th January 2016
The purists will always say modern Mini cars aren’t ‘the real McCoy’. Admittedly, I have grown to like them. But there is no denying BMW has done a fantastic job of creating a 21st century brand while retaining the fun of the original.
It was clear from the moment I walked into the super-cool ‘urban’ buying experience of my nearest Mini showroom in Durham that the new Mini Cooper D Clubman body is easily larger than all the other cars – although not in a ‘juiced up’ way like the Countryman.
This is not the first time Mini has moved into a new market; the Clubman launched in 2007. I was glad to find this new version has had all its predecessor’s inhibitors ironed out and now the 2015 version is rightly pitted against the likes of a Mercedes A-Class, Volvo V40 or Audi A3.
Does its size compromise the fun?
Stepping into the new Clubman, I was wondering if it would still offer the quirky styling cues and fun of its siblings. But as soon as I was inside, I was in no doubt as to what brand of car I was in.
The now distinct toggle-switched dash with round display comes with Sat Nav and cruise control in the Clubman as standard; it is nice to find a manufacturer that doesn’t charge extra for these modern-day requirements. The centre dash is also navigated by an iDrive (a rotary dial usually found in BMWs), which is intuitive and easy to use.
I found the driving position good and, at 193cm tall, I found it easy to get comfortable. The biggest surprise was that somebody could still sit behind me … in a Mini!
Space and practicality are the big story in the new Clubman – along with the quirky details like funky interior lighting that make this Mini different from the 2007 version. A growing family or even four adults will have no problem in this car, with good rear legroom and headroom available.
The boot was actually one of my favourite parts of the Clubman, with what defined the original in 1969, the split ‘barn doors’, giving a different and practical approach to loading the shopping. Hanging your foot under the rear bumper while your hands are full will open one door and you repeat for the other – giving unobstructed ease to load plenty of your packed 5p bags from the supermarket or the suitcases for the family holiday… yes, the boot is that big!
On the road, the new Clubman feels taut, with the customary lack of body roll, similar to all other Minis – although it’s not quite as pointy as the smaller variants. You can definitely have fun behind the wheel. The only attempt to temper your mood (perhaps just mine) is with the Green mode.
In the past I’ve been skeptical about these ‘modes’ but technology is so advanced now that you can actually feel the difference between them. The Green mode disengages the auto transmission with its coasting feature, optimises fuel delivery and moves gear shifting to gain those extra mpgs. At £20 you can also tax this diesel version for a year for less than a family trip to the cinema.
For me, though, I would probably only use the Green mode if I was 12 miles from the petrol station with ten showing left in the tank!
As the owner of a go-kart track, I felt obliged to try the other end of the scale: the Sport mode – seeing as it says ‘maximum go-kart feel’ on the dash next to it. Even though I wasn’t driving the fastest engine in this range it dodged around town with ease and I cruised along the open road in comfort. However, I’m sure for the real ‘maximum’ go-kart feel, the Clubman ‘S’ petrol would hit the mark.
Puppy dog looks
The new Clubman’s external looks do stand out in a crowded car park and I can see why people would get attached. It almost feels like having a new puppy; the only thing missing is a wagging tail!
I see this Clubman as helping to keep customers in the brand. It will appeal to young and old and now the family in a fully practical way, too. My five-year-old was especially sad to see it go.
The Countryman may have morphed closer to standard design to gain extra space but there is no denying it is still a Mini and that equals… fun.
Guy Wilks tested the Mini Cooper D Clubman from Durham Mini – Inchcape UK, Broomside Park, Belmont Industrial Estate, Durham, DH1 1HP