The old Mini Clubman was no oil-painting, but this one could easily earn its place on the podium. It’s a looker alright.
The brand new MINI Cooper S Clubman must have been breast fed at birth, because it’s far bigger than its siblings. That doesn’t mean it’s fat – no way. This car is well formed and its proportions are just right. And because it’s not exactly a shrinking violet, the Clubman is likely to win over quirkier types who might otherwise have gone for mid-size family car choices, such as the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus.
Model driven: Mini Cooper S Clubman 8-speed sports automatic
The story hasn’t always been good for the Clubman, though. The first generation was no oil painting and it had a useless, single rear door that meant UK passengers were forced to step into the road. This didn’t help sales and the Clubman therefore wasn’t exactly the rock star that BMW, Mini’s owner, was expecting.
But the Germans have seen the light and the previous rear-hinged ‘clubdoor’, has been kicked to the kerb in favour of two ‘normal’ back doors. They make it far easier for passengers to get in and out of the car. Then there’s the barn-door boot. You’ll remember that from the last model. Well, that stays put, but now the doors can be released manually, or if you ticked the hands-free tailgate option, a sassy little kick under the rear bumper will open them up.
Inside, the comfortable seats are kind to your backside and feel supportive, especially during long periods on the road. The car’s uncluttered dashboard is dwarfed by a massive screen that sits where the speedometer on older Minis used to be. The controller on the central console manages most of the Clubman’s systems, so there are fewer buttons on the dash to confuse or divert you.
As the Clubman is the largest of the current Mini litter, it has, predictably, the most capacious cabin. To be frank, with a big load area too, the word ‘mini’ seems rather outmoded. The whole motor is 270mm longer than the five-door Hatchback, allowing for oodles of room in the front and respectable space for two adults in the rear. The boot is about the same as a VW Golf’s, so you’ll get the family shopping in – and a toddler’s buggy.
The Cooper S Clubman Auto is easily the most gratifying to drive. Out at the Mini’s media launch on the roads surrounding San Sebastian in northern Spain, the most powerful petrol drove go-kart-like on the straights – just as a Mini should. It’s a shame the slightly pulpy suspension can drizzle on your chips in the corners, with body roll kicking in if you enter the twisty bits too hard. But that can be forgiven, because the Cooper S generates more than enough pull to keep you cheery.
189bhp can be squeezed from the S’ 2.0 litre turbocharged four-cylinder lump, and with the eight speed auto box, a zero to 62mph sprint in 7.1 seconds is easily achievable, finishing up with a top speed of 142mph. Even though these figures might make the car sound insatiable for fuel – it’s not. With the superb automatic gearbox you can officially get an average of 48.7mpg out of the Clubman – and the CO2 emissions are 134g/km, meaning road tax is a trifling £130 per annum.
The state-of-the-art 2015 Mini Clubman is a gargantuan step-up from its forerunner, and it puts right pretty much everything that was awry. The Clubman now has more doors, better space, good looks, and it really is exciting to drive. The Cooper S version is especially guaranteed to bring a grin to the face of anyone who slips behind its wheel.
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