- Published: Sunday, 04 October 2015 12:18
Mini’s newly-minted ‘estate’ leaves its impractical history behind, although it’ll still be a niche among niches
Stockholm, Sweden — There is no mistaking the new Clubman for the Other Practical Big Mini, the five-door. While the five door is a stretched out, more practical version of the three-door Mini (in that it shares 76 per cent of the same parts), the second-gen Clubman is quite a different proposition.
Keep in mind, at this point you’re probably still wondering just why the Clubman exists - now it doesn’t even have the excuse of the strangely-shaped doors of before - two on the right side (yes even in left-hand drive Singapore), one on the left and two behind.
The new model is actually a mini-estate, thus it has four conventional doors and a barn-door style rear hatch. So it technically has six-doors, if you’re even counting.
More importantly, it occupies a slightly higher price position that sees it potentially competing with Mercedes-Benz’s CLA Shooting Brake and VW Golf Sportsvan, leaving the five-door to contend with mainstream offerings such as VW’s Golf.
Everything about the Clubman is new, even it’s dimensions. It’s 270mm longer, has a 100mm longer wheelbase and is 90mm wider in comparison to the new Mini five-door, despite all these numbers, it is still, according to Mini, the shortest in its admittedly small segment. It is also 3mm lower than the five-door Mini which means a lower seating position, keeping you close to the road and action. On the outside, the Clubman looks fierce but cheeky. It has 16- and 17-inch light alloy wheels as standard, but you can always pile on the rubber with the optional 19-inch. You could also opt for the ‘John Cooper Works Aerodynamik Kit’ if you’re feeling frisky.
The Clubman is also the first Mini to be fitted with a 8-speed steptronic transmission by ZF and is a clear indicator that Mini is going for "efficient fuel consumption along with comfort and dynamism", says Dr. Ernst Fricke who happens to be the director for ‘Project Mini Clubman’.
We drove the Mini Cooper S Clubman that puts out 192hp and 280Nm of torque. It can go from 0 to 100 in 7.2 seconds, and emits 144g/km of CO2. And despite it being Mini’s biggest/longest model to date, it still drives like Mini.
The engine feels torquey, in Sport mode there is little lag between applying gas and getting smile-inducing results. In ‘Green’ (aka Eco) mode, you’ll have a wait a good few seconds before anything happens, but that’s probably something you won’t do if you’re going Green. There’s also a ‘Mid’ mode which we expect Mini drivers will never touch.
With the eight-speed auto (debuting in a Mini for the first time), shifts are smooth and precise, and gearshifter allows you to easily switch between the convenience of the automatic and the shiok-ness of manual shifting. While our test model did not come with mounted paddle shifters, they are available as an added option.
The Clubman is perfect for people who want a hip cruiser with a lot of space and attitude. While the roads were scenic, we were restrained by strict Swedish speed limits.
We took it easy most of the time, cruising at speeds of about 60km/h, which could feel a little too agricultural in any other Mini, since they’re known for being a little hyper-active, especially in Cooper S trim.
Thanks to the sport suspension and dynamic damper control, with two struts at the front and two additional ones at the back, there is a stiffness in the ride which you can feel even while seated in the rear.
The Clubman has its own character though, refined but not boring. It’s generally stable and solid, although you can dial up the aggression and the chassis will respond to suit (if not there’s driving modes) countering body roll when tackling tight turns. The steering is responsive and sharp, you can feel the smallest road irregularities through the steering wheel, as well as the seat, though on longer cruises it might get tiring, just as it is with any other Mini.
The Clubman comes with all your modern trappings like bluetooth connection and USB (both standard), app integration via smartphone, parking and high beam assist, a rear-view camera, pedestrian warning system, active cruise control and collision warning, though it’s anyone’s guess at this point what locally-specced cars will be like.
At this point you’re probably wondering, again, why the Clubman exists, and no this is not a line reprinting error. The chief points are that it’s larger, has more space and 360 to 1,250-litres of luggage room with practical 40/20/40 split folding seats. That’s considerably larger than the 278 to 941-litres of the five-door Mini hatchback.
Consider the CLA Shooting Brake has a boot only 25-litres larger than its sedan cousin, and it seems the Mini Clubman makes a better case for itself as a different-looking and unique small estate. Still, both cars have front ends belonging to more popular models (the CLA sedan and basically every other Mini, respectively) and back ends that appeal more to taste than anything else.
Mini Cooper S Clubman
ENGINE 1,998cc, 16V, inline four, turbocharged
MAX POWER 192hp at 5000rpm
MAX TORQUE 280Nm at 1250rpm (300Nm overboost)
GEARBOX 8-speed automatic
TOP SPEED 228km/h
0-100KM/H 7.1 seconds
FUEL EFFICIENCY 6.2L/100km
AVAILABILITY Q1 2016