Mini Cooper Clubman road test and review
HEART over head. That's the premise the Clubman, and to some degree the whole Mini brand, operates on.
Mini is renowned for its compact dimensions, with the modern interpretation emerging as a premium niche offering under the BMW umbrella.
In recent years there have been various Mini offshoots that have pushed the boundaries. While not all have survived, the Clubman has evolved to have a foot in both the performance and common sense camps.
During initial introductions we were unconvinced about its appeal. But a week behind the wheel managed to sway opinion.
The Clubman managed family duties well, paying credence to the marque's marketing pitch where funky families are the primary target.
While there is the more punchy $42,900 Cooper S derivative with 141kW, we climbed aboard the more family friendly 100kW $34,900 three-cylinder model.
While this is a pseudo wagon, don't expect to be climbing into a Commodore or Falcon sized cabin. It's a Mini. Things are compact.
You sit low - typical of the Mini's go-kart-like appeal. Four adults can fit but there is limited leg and knee room in the back. Our two boys had no dramas, one still in a booster seat, but three across the back pew is a stretch.
Our experience was improved by an extensive options list, including leather trim, electric adjustable heated sport seats and a panoramic sunroof.
Nowadays Minis give the vital information in the driver binnacle, much better than the previous system where it was located centrally as a tribute to the formative years. Sitting in the middle of the dash is a groovy circular display where the circumference changes colour depending on moods…like green for economic driving and red when things get spirited.
The centre dial provides full control of the various tasks, such as satnav, phone and radio functionalities.
Collectively everything is simple to navigate, although during our test a bugbear during daylight hours was a virtually constant reflection of the driver's face in the driver's instruments.
On the road
Low-slung and honed for cornering, the Mini offers a firm ride. You certainly feel corrugations and nasty bumps although drivers who love the sporty characteristics of the Cooper S won't mind the trade-off - and that is when you throw it into a bend. Embracing all forms of cornering, it relishes being pushed to the limits as you test the traction when sawing left and right on the steering wheel.
The turbocharged three-cylinder is a punchy little unit that feels much quicker than the figures dictate, although partnered to a six-speed automatic box you do get a longing for manual control via steering wheel-mounted paddles - but for those really keen you can choose cogs via the shifter.
Remarkably fun to drive for a three-potter, it punches well above its weight. The 100kmh sprint takes 9.1 seconds, two seconds slower than its Cooper S counterpart. It falls slightly short of the three-door's driving prowess, nonetheless it sprints, ducks and dives with youthful enthusiasm.
What do you get?
The basic Cooper comes with 16-inch alloys, 16.5cm colour 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, fog lights front and back, cloth trim and keyless start via a dash toggle.
But the options list is massive, and our test machine had near $20,000 worth of extras including special paint ($1300), silver roof and mirror caps ($200), leather in carbon black ($2200), Chilli pack including 18-inch alloys and automatic tailgate ($5000), as well as a multimedia pack with satnav and heads-up display ($2700).
Competition can be varied up against wagons and SUVs, but among them are Alfa Romeo Giulietta hatch ($35,000), Mercedes-Benz B180 ($41,700), Peugeot 308 Wagon 1.6 ($34,689) and Renault Megane GT-Line Premium ($34,000).
Not typically a concept associated with Minis. Even though the modern Mini is quite large compared to early models, its three doors does limit its appeal. The not-so-mini Clubman, with its six doors, has barn-style rear doors which fling open via the handles or key fob (stand clear as they fire with enthusiasm), with enough boot room for a weekly grocery shop, and functionality aided by 40-20-40 split-fold rear seats courtesy of the $2600 convenience pack. It's not a massive space at about 340 litres, so a large suitcase will fill the space.
Parts can be expensive, but for just under $1000 the Clubman can be covered by a transferable "TLC" servicing plan, covering your maintenance for five years or 70,000km.
Our fuel use was just over 6 litres/100km: pretty good going for a small turbo.
It's certainly something different. The elongated version of the Mini is brimming with character, with the modern shooting brake styling and typically squat look that makes it a standout for those looking to cut a swathe through the SUV humdrum. Having six doors is also quite the talking point.
The more time spent in the Clubman, the fonder we grew. It's certainly something different in terms of styling, and it takes the best of Mini yet ousts the greatest inconvenience by having the six doors and internal flexibility.
Those options can get crazy though, and while the sub-$35,000 price is reasonable, the $53,490 on our test offering would be too hard to swallow.
What matters most
What we liked: Practicality without losing Mini sporting characteristics, full of character inside and out, fun three-cylinder performance.
What we'd like to see: Improved rear vision, driver instrument angle changed to avoid reflection, cheaper options.
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.
Model: Mini Cooper Clubman.
Details: Six-door front-wheel drive compact wagon.
Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 100kW @ 4400rpm and peak torque of 220Nm @ 1250rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 5.4 litres/100km (combined average).
Performance 0-100kmh: 9.1 seconds.
Bottom line plus on-roads: $34,900.