Mini’s once-quirky Clubman grows an extra door for this generation, making it more family-friendly. But is it truly a Mini?
WHAT IS IT?
The world's first six-door wagon! Yep, Mini's ditched the wonky, single rear door of the previous Clubman and thrown in better packaging and more space for good measure. This Clubman is so big, Mini says families can use it as their primary car.
WHY ARE WE DRIVING IT?
To see if Mini's right, about the family-sized thing. And to check if all that extra space and practicality has ruined the Clubman's go-kart handling.
Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3, Ford Focus
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Bigger, better packaged and more practical than before, the new Mini Clubman is a much more convincing ownership proposition. And importantly, one that still handles like a go-kart.
PLUS: Quirky styling; improved packaging; spacious interior; zingy engines; still handles like a go-kart
MINUS: Firm ride; artificial steering; interior lacks the polish of German rivals
THE WHEELS REVIEW
LET'S face it, the previous Mini Clubman was an oddball. A cool one, yes, but it was cramped inside and had that wonky, single rear suicide door that opened on the driver’s side into traffic. Things are much more conventional with this new model. Longer, wider and better packaged than before, the Clubman now boasts six doors – four conventional openings and two spring-loaded portals at the rear.
Underneath it rides on the same transverse-engine, front-drive architecture as the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, and thus measures 270mm longer and 90mm wider than the Mini 5 door hatch. Significantly, its wheelbase is also 100mm longer.
Outside you notice the new Mini family face and redesigned, horizontal taillights, and while the interior is typical Mini funky, there are dashes of Clubman uniqueness. This is due to the Clubman's extra width which meant copying and pasting a normal Mini interior wouldn't fit. As ever, the large dial-like central screen dominates proceedings, but there are new square air vents, plenty of standard equipment (reverse camera, rear parking sensors, cruise control and Bluetooth) and a different wrap around dash. There's also an armoury of safety systems, some optional, like forward collision warning, radar cruise control and high beam assist.
Mini's penchant for gimmicky design touches remains, however, and while the interior feels well-built, hard plastics and sub-par materials lack the premium feel of German rivals.
This being a Mini, the list of options is vast and peppered by a wide range of visual and equipment upgrades. One worth noting is the $910 adaptive dampers, that promise to improve the Clubman's firmly spring ride.
Engine-wise, the $34,900 Cooper uses Mini's lovely 100kW/220Nm three-pot, which is paired to a six-speed automatic as standard. A six-speed manual is a no-cost option.
Power junkies will prefer the gruntier 141kW/280Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged four in the $42,900 Cooper S. Mated to an eight-speed auto as standard, it shoots from 0-100km/h in 7.1 seconds.
But is the Clubman, as Mini says, practical enough for a young family? Well, kind of. The rear seats are high and lack thigh support, and while the 360-litre boot is decent, it's on the small side for this class. But this doesn't mean Mini has wasted the Clubman's space. It really is roomy inside. Two tall adults are easily accommodated in the rear pews, which are equally commodious for two sprogs and a dog.
And don't fret that all this extra space and practicality has compromised the Clubman's handling. All the usual Mini character traits are there. The steering is sharp and the front axle quick to turn in. And while the Clubman isn't quite as frenetic or responsive as the Mini five and three-door hatches, its longer wheelbase gives it a more planted feel when pushed hard. Downsides are a ride that is overly firm and unsettled, and the steering that, while sharp, is artificial and springy off-centre. For Cooper S money, a Golf GTI is a more convincing all-rounder.
Still, there's no denying the new Clubman is a vast improvement that now has the space, packaging and driver appeal to steal a swag of sales. It feels more grown up, like the Mini family's older, more mature sibling. An oddball it isn't.
Model: Mini Cooper Clubman
Engine: 1499cc 3cyl, dohc, 12v, turbo
Max power: 100kW @ 4400rpm
Max torque: 220Nm @ 1250rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 9.1sec (claimed)
Fuel economy: 5.4L/100km
On sale: now
Click here to the read full range review of the Mini Clubman