Mini Clubman road test and review
DURING the heyday years getting attention was always a challenge.
Mother maintained "good things come in small packages", but a small man in a world of singledom always had to fight the tide of "heightism". It was the plight of small blokes dealing with those searching for tall, dark and handsome.
For years one motoring brand has dealt with a similar fate. But after some serious surgery, Mini is looking to find new love from those who had previously looked beyond its brand on the grounds of convenience.
Funky families and mature folk with a contemporary edge are the target for Mini with its all new Clubman.
The pseudo wagon with rear barn doors falls into the premium small car brigade - but prices have dropped with the entry level Cooper now starting from $34,900, which is $2350 less expensive than its predecessor.
Far from being a micro-machine it now sits among some tough competition in the plush compact segment, including the Audi A3, Mercedes-Benz A-Class and even the BMW 1 Series brethren.
Compared to the old model, this Clubman is longer (+292mm), wider (+117mm) and sits on an extended wheelbase (+123mm) despite a similar height.
Expanded cabin dimensions make the back seat viable for adults, able to handle two down back without those in the front having to virtually perch themselves on the dash.
The big circular colour display is prominent in the dash (a customary Mini feature which used to feature the speedo back in the early models), and the extensive use of horizontal features is designed to offer a more elongated look.
Control of the main computer system is via a console knob, while the roof-mounted and dash toggles maintain some differentiation from the competition.
On the road
Sling into a bend and there are trademark Mini qualities on show.
The low centre of gravity and the power-to-weight equation has always ensured these modern Minis are an enjoyable steer, and the Clubman maintains the ethos... albeit with a softer edge.
The extra length and weight takes its toll, and surprisingly we most enjoyed our experience in the base model three-cylinder rather than the more potent four-cylinder Cooper S.
Feeling robust with a lovely exhaust soundtrack, the Cooper boasted more linear power delivery and was slightly more composed.
Both variants are still lively and appeal to those who love to steer and embrace the driving experience.
Push into a bend and you still find the predictable understeer, and depending on rubber choice too much vigour is accompanied by some tyre squeal, yet it still cuts a swathe through the twisty stuff.
For those who love to shift cogs themselves, they can order a manual transmission without cost - although most buyers in this genre will be happy to stick with the self-shifter.
What do you get?
Among the givens are 16-inch alloys, 16.5cm screen, reversing camera and rear parking sensors, bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, dual zone air-con with rear air vents, forward collision warning, six airbags, along with fog lights front and back.
The Cooper S gains larger 17-inch alloys, leather sports steering wheel, sat nav, performance package to reduce understeer and improved traction, three driving modes, cloth/leather trimmed sport seats and bigger colour screen.
There are still a plethora of options, although Mini has packaged many of the most alluring extras which collectively can save between 20-30% over the standalone retail price.
Buyers can take packs which accentuate the exterior, interior, stereo system or functionality, but tick a few of those boxes and the base price can quickly climb by five figures. One of the Cooper S vehicles we sampled at the launch had climbed to a price of $55,000.
For less than $1000 the Clubman can be covered by a "TLC" servicing plan which looks after the maintenance for five years or 70,000km and that can be transferred to new owners if the vehicle is sold.
Fuel consumption should be pretty thrifty, expect real-world figures in the vicinity of seven litres for every 100km using premium unleaded.
There are two cup holders in the front, but none in the back, although there are bottle holders in each door. Rear barn doors take some elbow grease to close but make for easy loading access, although boot space remains compact at 340 litres - which is about on par with other hatches in this realm. Drop the rear seats via the 60-40 fold and that space expands to 1250 litres.
Mini owners typically like something different, and everything from racing stripes, contrasting roof and mirror caps, through to groovy interior combinations can be optioned.
There are eight colours available (burgundy and silver are new additions), metallic hues will cost an extra $900, and nine wheel variants up to 18-inch.
The Clubman is certainly distinctive, and in profile it looks long with the designers using the modern interpretation of a shooting brake with the roof line.
At the front and back it looks muscular and squat, with the wide hexagonal grille typically Mini.
Convenience has traditionally been the bugbear of Minis. Nonetheless they have a loyal following.
The Clubman, along with the Countryman SUV, are treading a new line for the brand which is Mini in name but not in nature.
Eyeing growth opportunities in the premium compact sector, the lure is something different in what they are calling a standout in a "land of conformity".
The Clubman certainly possesses key Mini hallmarks, and while it may not possess the renowned go-kart characteristics, the commonsense trade-off could be what buyers are chasing.
Model: Mini Clubman.
Details: Six-door front-wheel drive compact wagon.
Engines: 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 100kW @ 4400rpm and peak torque of 220Nm @ 1250rpm; 2.0-litre twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder petrol 141kW @ 5000rpm and 280Nm @ 1250rpm.
Transmissions: Six-speed or eight-speed automatic.
Consumption: 5.4 litres/100km (combined average); 5.9L/100km.
CO2: 125g/km; 138g/km.
Performance 0-100kmh: 9.1 seconds; 7.1 seconds.
Bottom line plus on-roads: Cooper $34,900, Cooper S $42,900.
What matters most
What we liked: Barn doors are cool, three-cylinder Cooper sounds good and feels strong, distinctive looks.
What we'd like to see: The Cooper S to be more hard-edged, rear cup holders.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year 100,000km warranty. It has condition based servicing, but bank on about 15,000km or annually. Basic servicing pack costs $980 which covers scheduled maintenance for five years or 70,000km.
Driving experience 15/20
Features and equipment 16/20
Functionality and comfort 16/20
Value for money 16/20
Style and design 15/20