There are many things to like about Mini Coopers. There are also many reasons to not like them. But one of the reasons people do not like them is that the Mini is, well, too mini. And that is where the Mini Cooper Clubman steps in
I must point out that the Mini brand is very strong, unique, full of heritage and inimitable. It offers exceptional build quality, tonnes of exclusive fine-tunings, premium components and, of course, a matchless driving experience.
There is a certain tautology to a Mini being small. Well, of course it is. It says so in the name. What do you expect? On the other hand, from Mini’s standpoint, if a larger Mini Cooper could attract more buyers to the brand, why not maximise the Mini. And so that is what Mini did by creating the Mini Cooper Clubman. If it were a skirt it would be just above the knees.
We all know where some of the mini-skirts start and end. They are more like belts. Let me not digress.
The Mini Cooper Clubman is a bigger Mini Cooper, bigger in that its wheelbase, the distance between the front and rear axle line, is 23 centimetres longer, which greatly improves rear seat room. Greatly, of course, means that by adding about eight centimetres of legroom, adult occupation of the back seat goes from improbable to uncommon.
Seriously, the back seat of the Mini Cooper Clubman is habitable by the average adult and I even managed to insert a six-foot-plus passenger for a 45-minute ride without hassles. He knew it was better than walking. There is a limit, however, to how far anyone can stay there before they start screaming human rights abuse.
The Clubman’s 360-litre boot is 100L larger than before and now betters the A-Class, matches the 1 Series and is just shy of the A3 and Golf. A false boot floor with a handy flip-up and clip-in system allows you to maximise cargo space, while the individually folding rear seats allow long thin items like skis and surfboards to be stowed down the middle, while still keeping four seats in place.
Making the cargo area even more usable is that with rear seatbacks folded forward the cargo floor is flat. In part that is because the main cargo area’s floor is raised to match the folded seat backs, which would seem to reduce capacity.
However, an under floor cargo bin adds secure stowage so the raised floor detracts little from total cargo volume, just repositions it. Not surprisingly, the added length makes the Mini Cooper Clubman look longer than the standard Mini because, well, it is.
The build of this Mini does not block rear vision as much as it would seem, however, thanks mostly to the large size of the rear windows. It means, however, that the Mini Cooper Clubman needs two rear wipers. (But they are little, so if the guys at the auto parts store snicker at how short your wipers are — wink, wink, nudge, nudge — try to ignore it. Size does not matter).
Otherwise the Mini Cooper Clubman is a Mini Cooper, which will either amuse or annoy, depending on one’s outlook.
The Mini Cooper Clubman has the Mini Cooper’s huge speedometer in the middle of the dash, with the tachometer standing solo atop the steering column. And that is just the beginning.
The radio, by the way, defaults to the scan mode flipping through the pre-sets. Excuse, please. Is that not the purpose of pre-sets, with scan reserved for looking for other, non-present stations?
Operationally, anyone who has driven a standard Mini Cooper and liked it will like the Mini Cooper Clubman as well. The Cooper’s 1,5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine produces 100kW between 4400-6000rpm and 220Nm from 1250-4300rpm. Available with six-speed manual and automatic transmissions, the Cooper accelerates from 0-100km/h in 9,1 seconds and consumes 5,1-5,3 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle.
As with the Cooper, the Cooper S Clubman inherits its two-litre four-cylinder turbo from those existing models, pumping out a meatier 141kW between 5000-6000rpm and 280Nm across a broad 1250-4600rpm band.
Once again there is a six-speed manual available, though the big news is the introduction of the new eight-speed automatic transmission — another first for the brand.
The extra size of the Clubman adds a few pounds, and that cuts into the efficiency the standard Mini relies on to get away with its relatively low power output. Put a couple of adults in the back seat and the standard Mini Cooper Clubman will spend more time with the pedal pressed into the carpet.
At least it is entertaining as the engine charges up to its 6500rpm redline, accelerating hard with a raspy snarl . . . Just do not rely on a burst of power for salvation in knickers-twisting merge situations.
The Mini Cooper Clubman’s ride is firm, and rear seat passengers complained that the ride was rough, no doubt because the rear seat is so close to the rear axle.
While road noise on smooth pavement was par for the class, it increased more than average when the pavement was coarse. The engine, however, is subdued at speed, turning only about 2800rpm at 110km/h.