The new MINI Cooper Clubman sits outside the Car and SUV offices proudly showing off a stylized two-tone rump with double cargo doors. It’s a very different rear end to the regular MINI. In fact there hasn’t been a rear end since Jennifer Lopez’ that has caused so much talk around this office. However unlike J-Lo’s universally praised study in design excellence, opinion is still divided about the MINI Clubman’s bum.
I believe that you either get the ‘booty’ concept or you don’t. Personally when I first saw photos of the Clubman, I wasn’t taken with the styling, but seeing one in the flesh has made me reconsider to the point that now I think it looks alright. I can imagine the hotter Cooper S Clubman with a loud exhaust and big wheels making speedy deliveries through tight city streets. Awesome.
The interior is a strong point for all MINIs and this one is a nice place to be with a quality feel that seems to pervade all BMW stuff. The leather seats look sporty and are comfortable while the adjustable steering wheel provides a sporty, low driving position. Even the backseat is ok for 180cm+ people, which is partly why BMW decided to stretch this MINI.
The collection of circles that make up the interior is very cool while the ‘mood lighting’ control is interesting as you can change the colour of the lights on the interior door handles and next to the rear view mirror. The interior door handles hinge to the side and you have to pull them backward which is a bit awkward.
‘Funky’ is the adjective used by most who saw the Clubman, though some who saw the ‘Incredibly Mini’ tag on the number plate suggested a less flattering adjective to follow ‘Incredibly’.
We tried the cooking model Cooper Clubman with an 88kw engine and 6-speed automatic transmission.
The engine while feeling a bit lethargic, sounded rorty and really liked to rev and of course we let it. The engine note even sounds a little similar to the original Mini, with a hint of Ford Escort BDA rally car thrown in.
MINI quotes figures of 5.3 and 9.4 l/100km for highway and city driving respectively for the auto though we couldn’t verify this as there’s no trip computer.
The handling hasn’t been affected by the increased length in the Clubman (24cm) and it is still as chuck-able and secure as a regular MINI. It craves curves and rewards the driver with sublime composure on all but the most rutted roads where mid-corner bumps can produce a hint of understeer. The darty front end does give the feel of a big go-kart and grip through 205/45/17 tyres is impressive. Brakes are very good and pull the Clubman up well. Just make sure any loads are secure!
The Clubman definitely still has that sporting MINI DNA and is an absolute hoot to drive on twisty roads. It would be great to try the faster Cooper S Clubman with a manual gearbox.
Less inspiring is the 6-speed automatic transmission which around town with the auto in ‘Drive’ likes to go directly to 6th gear. This combined with the lack of fireworks under the bonnet means it needs to be revved to keep up with traffic. If you flick the gear level to the left to activate ‘sports mode’ things get much better. Paddles behind the steering wheel make for much more effective and satisfying progress although how they work can be a little confusing at first in that left and right do the same thing. Thumb the top of the paddle forward to change down, and pull back to go up. Once you get used to this, though, it is very easy to use — more intuitive in fact than having one paddle for up and one for down – and although the changes aren’t Ferrari-fast they do the job.
The MINI Clubman is different to the regular MINI as it is heavier and a little longer to add backseat space. The ‘Clubman door’ is an interesting concept that, like the Mazda RX-8, swings out after the front door is opened to help rear seat passengers enter and the driver to stash gear in the back. Why it is only on the drivers side I’m not sure, as I wouldn’t use it to let passengers out the drivers side for safety reasons. It seems that it would be better to have the door on both sides.
The double doors at the back are the main feature of the Clubman and are the main criticism of those concerned with the Clubman’s aesthetics. As a functional idea they are good but the space in the boot is ‘handy’ rather than huge. The doors also limit rearward visibility but this is something that you get used to.
It is a great handling car, fantastic fun to drive, easy to park and has a funky interior.
So it all boils down to whether the look of the Clubman appeals to you or not. Like I said at the beginning, you either get the ‘booty’ concept or you don’t.
Price: From $40,900
What we like
- Rorty engine
- Great handling
- Quality interior
- Sporty driving position
What we don’t like
- Mood lighting was distracting
- Standard automatic mode
- Long list of options can make it expensive
- Love it/hate it styling
MINI Cooper Clubman
From: Manual $40,900
Type (cylinders / valves) In line / 4
Effective Displacement (cm3) 1598
Power output kW (hp) 88 (120) at (rpm) 6000
Max. torque (Nm) @ rpm 160 / 4250
C02 emission -EU (auto) 163 (143)
Exhaust emissions classification (auto) EU4
Drag coefficient (Cd) 0,34
0-100 km/ h (sec), (auto) (9,8)10,9
Maximum speed in km/h, (auto) 201(195)
EU, in town Litres/100km (Auto) 8,1(9,4)
EU, out of town Litres/100km (Auto) 4,8 (5,3)
Fuel consumption / Range (ltr /100km / km) 6,8 / 590
Technology & Information
3-way catalytic convertor fully controlled, heated lambda sensors
Cornering Brake Control
Power steering, electronic speed related
Manual 6-speed transmission
Dimensions – MINI in Millimetres
Length (mm) 3937
Width (mm) 1683
Height (mm) 1426
Luggage capacities (m3) 0,260 – 0,930 0
Fuel capacity (litres) 40
Safety & Vehicle Protection Features
Electronic vehicle immobilization (EWS IV)
3rd Headrest in rear
Runflat indicator with passive monitoring of all 4 wheels with status indicator light
Crash sensor, to activate hazard warning lights and interior lighting and to unlock doors
Follow me home function
Airbags for driver and front passenger, 6 airbags as standard; 2 front, 2 side and 2 curtain airbags
Electronic Braking Force Distribution control
Pyrotechnic belt buckle tensioners, for automatic belts front
Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)
Sports suspension settings
Emergency spare wheel (3 1/2J x 15 tyres (deletion of MINI Mobility system)
Alarm system; for monitoring doors, engine-compartment lid and tailgate, including interior- movement sensor, tilt sensor and siren with emergency power supply
Warning triangle with first-aid kit
Park distance control rear (PDC)
Fog lights integrated into the front bumper
Front passenger airbag deactivation
MINI tlc ( 5 Year / 80,000 kilometre Scheduled Servicing)
Words Ben Dillon, photographs Darren Cottingham