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MINI Clubman Cooper 1.5

Click to view picture gallery“Now in its third generation,
  the new MINI Clubman proves
  that bigger is definitely better...”


BACK IN 2007 the BMW Group-owned MINI range was expanded with the Clubman estate — an interpretation of the former Austin and Morris Mini Traveller estates. The main drawback of the first MINI Clubman was the fact that it was cramped for rear passenger space, had little boot room and it had only one half-sized rear passenger side door!

For UK motorists this single rear door had a serious downside: it was positioned on the offside of the car so we Brits had to get out of the rear seats and step into the road instead of on to the safety of the pavement. Quite a design oversight given that the Clubman was, and still is, built in the UK.

However, that was then but now, using the new and larger platform for third-generation MINI models, the Clubman has a full set of four conventional passenger doors while retaining the signature side-hinged, barn-style twin boot doors.

The new Clubman
is substantially larger
than its predecessor,
with seating for five at a
pinch or, more
comfortably, four adults.
The boot space has been
increased to 360 litres
and this jumps to 1,250
litres when the rear seats
are folded...”
The new Clubman is substantially larger than its predecessor, with seating for five at a pinch or, more comfortably, four adults. The boot space has been increased to 360 litres and this jumps to 1,250 litres when the rear seats are folded.

The overall length has also gone up, to 4,253mm. The width is 1,800mm and the height is 1,441mm, so it can still fit into the ever-shrinking public car park spaces and, for the minority of householders not actually using them as a utility room or ground floor loft, a domestic garage.

MINI says the increase in size allows the new Clubman to compete in the family car class against the likes of the Audi A3 Sportback and the Volkswagen Golf. And, unlike its niche-selling predecessor, MINI is convinced the new Clubman will, this time around, be able to compete in the all-important fleet and company car sector.

At launch the new Clubman has familiar derivatives of Cooper and Cooper S turbo petrol models and Cooper D and Cooper SD turbodiesel versions. Prices start from 19,995 and will rise to 27,410 for the Cooper SD ALL4. Naturally there is the vast array of MINI options and other personalisation accessories to further push up the prices. Transmission-wise you have the choice between a six-speed manual or an automatic there's also an eight-speed Steptronic auto option that's new to the brand.

Standard equipment across the range is high including such things as the MINI navigation system, AirCon, cruise control, Bluetooth, keyless entry, front and rear electric windows, power door mirrors, electric parking brake, and powered front seats. Every new Clubman model gets the intriguingly-named MINI 'Excitement Package' which features a projection of the brand logo on to the ground beneath the driver's side mirror when the door is opened or closed, as well as extended interior lighting.

All four current engine options use BMW's TwinPower technology which includes turbocharging and direct fuel injection. The Cooper has a three-pot 1.5-litre petrol unit kicking out 134bhp; the Cooper S gets a 2.0-litre petrol engine with 189bhp. The Cooper D comes with a 147bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel; Cooper SD versions also use a 2.0-litre but with 187bhp. The ALL4 Cooper S has the 189bhp petrol unit in its engine bay and offers both manual and auto gearbox options.

Also a sales booster is
the 1.5-litre, three-pot
turbocharged petrol
engine.
This unit is truly refined
with none of the usual
triple-cylinder engine
growl and, to be honest,
if you didn’t know it had
three cylinders
you really would think
it was a four-pot...”
The expected best-selling versions will be the Cooper 1.5 petrol for retail customers and the Cooper D for fleet and business user-chooser drivers. My test version was the likely most popular (and the current range-starter) the Cooper 1.5-litre petrol with a manual gearbox and a 19,995 price tag, although sporting a long list of must-have goodies its on-the-road price was a hefty 27,355.

Some of the many options included 17-inch alloys (570), black bonnet stripes (100), a much needed, because of the restricted rear visibility, reversing-assist camera at 310, interior Piano Black styling (320), heated front seats (270), heated windscreen (125), LED headlights (735) and cloth-and-leather combination upholstery at 900.

Externally, the core design of the Clubman starts with its familiar MINI front-end with the circular headlights framed in oval surrounds, the immediately recognisable hexagonal grille, and slightly sculptured power dome bonnet.

A high waistline and relatively low height windows (that while looking good don't help visibility) enhance the longer side silhouette. Adding individuality to the tail are the Clubman's signature side-hinged, 50:50-split rear doors.

Inside it is pure premium-quality MINI with the trademark huge, centrally-positioned round dial which operates various functions, from the SatNav and radio to the on-board computer; these are used via a controller sited between the front seats in the centre console. The speedometer and rev-counter are incorporated into the instrument cluster on the steering column, as they are with the latest third-generation MINI Hatchbacks.

Customers fresh to the new Clubman will appreciate the conventional rear side doors that now make it a 'proper' family car — something the original MINI Clubman models were not.

Also a sales 'booster' is the 1.5-litre, three-pot turbocharged petrol engine. This unit is truly refined with none of the usual triple-cylinder engine growl and, to be honest, if you didn't know it had three cylinders you really would think it was a four-pot.

With 134bhp and 162lb ft of torque from 1,250rpm it is responsive despite the transmission's high gearing. However, significant gearchanging was necessary to drive it in a lively manner and that wasn't the best driving experience because I found the manual gearshift to be heavy and not that slick.

Handling-wise the
Clubman is similar to its
smaller three- and five-
door MINI Hatch
stablemates. It generally
felt ‘glued’ to the road
although with its extra
bulk and weight it
seemed less agile —
more cruiser than cut-
and-thrust bruiser!”
Driven in a relaxed manner, in commuter traffic for instance, with the ample torque from low engine revs, the engine was surprisingly flexible. Top speed is 127mph and zero to 62mph takes 9.1 seconds.

On the demerit side the real-life fuel economy during my week long test was 40.8mpg, which looks good enough but it was well below the official 55.4mpg Combined Cycle figure. My driving included around 300 miles of motorway and dual carriageway and another 100 miles or so of local driving on B roads and short stop-start trips.

With CO2 emissions of 121g/km (due to the optional 17-inch wheels, rather than the slightly lower 118g/km you get with the standard ones) there's no road tax payable for the first year but from year two onwards it's 110. Incidentally, the 118g/km figure means road tax at 0/30 — my advice would be to stick with the standard alloys, save yourself 570 on the purchase price, and pay less road tax. Probably the ride will be slightly more compliant on the smaller wheels as well.

In all other respects the MINI Clubman is similar in handling characteristics to its smaller three- and five-door Hatch stablemates. It generally felt 'glued' to the road although with its extra bulk and weight it seemed less agile — more cruiser than cut-and-thrust bruiser.

Plus points include more space and better practicality than its predecessor, immaculate build quality, premium quality, plush and comfortable interior, low-ish running costs and a refined engine. Definitely enough to make you want to join the Club! ~ David Miles

MINI Clubman Cooper 1.5 | 19,995
Maximum speed: 127mph | 0-62mph: 9.1 seconds | Test Average: 40.8mpg
Power: 134bhp | Torque: 162lb ft | CO2: 121g/km