It’s time to join the Clubman
MINI HOPES TO APPEAL TO TRENDY FAMILIES WITH ITS NEW OFFERING JUST LAUNCHED IN AUSTRALASIA
The new-look Mini range tends to put people into the “love them or hate them” camps. The Clubman seems to define that mindset towards the latest generation of Minis with its six doors and unconventional Mini look.
It slots between the new 5-door and the biggest Mini — the all-wheel drive Countryman — being 27cm longer and 9cm wider than the 5-door, which it more closely resembles. That said out of the larger Mini range it does have the best proportions at any angle hands down.
Pricing starts at $39,900 for the 1.5-litre Clubman Cooper, while the Cooper S comes in at $49,900 before you hit the extensive options list.
Our day started at the Penfolds winery at the foot of the Adelaide hills. To say Adelaide is a city of two extremes is the easiest way to put it. On the one side, you have the lush, green wine region next to the city and atop the hills. Head over the hills east as our route (plotted into the GPS by Mini Australia) took us, and you come into a vast bleak dust bowl.
My co-driver and I agreed the only place that could match it in this country would be the North Canterbury plains in mid-drought. It’s a good thing the new air vents on the new Clubman are now nice big rectangular units compared with the smaller vents on the previous model, so it was easy to direct cool air where needed.
The interior of the Mini Clubman Cooper S
There is a noticeable difference between the interiors of the two specifications we’ll be getting in New Zealand. The entry Cooper spec Clubman has all the usual bells and whistles you’d expect from a new car.
The standard Mini centre unit houses the infotainment system, with the option to spec up to a huge 8.8-inch screen.
Standard interior features include a reversing camera above the screen, and fold-down rear seats, which open up luggage capacity to 1250 litres over the normal 360 litres. Plenty of room to smuggle out some of that lovely red Adelaide is known for ...
But the Cooper S is where things get interesting. Electric seats enter the cabin along with paddle shifters for the automatic gearbox, a heads-up display is added to the dash, as are upmarket Harmon Kardon speakers for the infotainment system. While Harmon Kardon are known for brilliant-sounding speakers, the placement of the tweeters in the Clubman’s a-pillars seems clumsy to say the least.
Cruising down the strictly enforced highways in the Cooper S, it was a simple push of the cruise control to set the speed to a constant 99 km/h. It’s small but simple features like this that make the Mini a joy to drive.
A six-speed manual gearbox is available on the Cooper S for drivers who want the full driving experience, while the Clubman Cooper will arrive in the country in manual form only. The new 6-speed Steptronic automatic is a $3000 option. That’ll put the price of the Clubman Cooper at $42,900 if you want the ease of the automatic.
In the hills around Adelaide, the 141kW/280Nm 2-litre turbocharged engine shone in the low end of the rev range, propelling the Clubman Cooper S at a decent pace up and around the tight corners.
The smaller, 1.5-litre three-cylinder unit in the Clubman Cooper has a totally different personality. While it puts out a healthy 100kw and 220Nm the smaller capacity reveals itself when you’re trying to move off from a standstill, being noticeably slower to get up to the legal limit than the bigger, sportier Cooper S, which does the dash in 7.2 seconds.
Mini hopes to attract trendy families as well as early adopters with the Clubman and the new car is well set up to take on duties as the family wagon.
Isofix child seat restraints come standard on the rear seats, while there is plenty of space for shopping and other bits and bobs.
Research by the BMW Group, owners of the Mini marque, shows 41 per cent of potential buyers buy on the styling of a vehicle, and both Clubman models come with plenty of style to attract them.
Inside, you’ve got the Mini dash with the big circular infotainment unit, previously the gauge cluster, front and centre. It’s a stylish interior with hints of BMW group class. The Cooper S model also gains electric seats over the manual units of the base Clubman.
With the six-door configuration unique in the segment, buyers have plenty of style points to cash in on. Those rear “barn doors” are very practical, allowing you to reverse park into spaces but still have access to the boot. We should definitely start to see a few of these funky big Minis decked out in signwriting hitting the delivery scene — they’re an attention-grabbing drive.
2016 MINI CLUBMAN
|ENGINE:||1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo (Clubman Cooper) 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo (Clubman Cooper S)|
|PRICE:||From $39,900 (Cooper) $49,900 (Cooper S)|
|PROS:||Enough scope for multiple potential buyers, plenty of space, family friendly, Clubman Cooper S has the looks|
|CONS:||Blindspot in rear mirror thanks to barn doors, 1.5-litre low on torque at lower speeds, Harmon Kardon tweeter speakers in S model look ugly mounted on A-Pillars|