Mini Clubman: Joining the club
IN A DRIVEN EXCLUSIVE, WE HEAD TO SWEDEN FOR MINI CLUBMAN LAUNCH
There’s a lot to thank Sweden for — Abba, Ikea, meatballs, the Swedish Chef — while Scandinavian interior design is still the epitome of cool.
So it’s no wonder Mini picked Sweden for the international media launch of its all-new Clubman wagon.
It’s the second-generation Clubman from the BMW Group after it took over ownership of the British-owned brand in 2000.
The six-door wagon goes on sale in New Zealand next month, and will be available in two petrol variants: the Cooper priced at $39,900 and Cooper S at $49,900.
The Cooper has a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder, turbo-charging engine with 100kW of power and 220Nm of torque hitting a top speed of 205km/h and while an average fuel consumption of 5.3-l/100km.
The Cooper S gains a 2-litre, four cylinder turbo charging engine (141kW/280Nm) and with a top speed of 228km/h with 6.3l/100km.
BMW New Zealand’s communications manager, Edward Finn, said the Cooper would come as a six-speed manual (with the $3000 option for the auto) while the Cooper S would have an eight-speed automatic transmission as standard or you could option the manual.
The new Clubman is 4253mm long and 1800mm wide with a height of 1441mm, and a boot capacity of 360 litres, but if you fold down the rear seats you get 1250 litres.
The front-wheel-drive Clubman will sit in Mini NZ’s lineup alongside the five-door hatch and the SUV-style Countryman.
The Mini five-door hatch is 3982mm long and 1425mm high and priced from $37,200 while the Countryman is 1561mm high, 4097mm long and starts at $44,500.
“We envisage the new model Clubman will be complementary to the Mini range and we anticipate it will attract new buyers to the brand, especially people who require enhanced flexibility and versatility with regards to interior packaging options,” Finn told Driven.
“Some new owners will utilise [the Clubman] for commercial applications, and there will be particular appeal for businesses who require a distinctive five-seater, six-door model in their fleet — but also a car which still offers an engaging and dynamic drive.” The new Clubman gains six doors over the previous generation’s five that included a “suicide” half-door by the driver’s side.
But Mini Clubman’s project manager, Faris Gerum, told Driven at the Sweden launch that the second-generation Clubman was always going to move away from the five-door setup.
“From the beginning it would be a six-door,” said Gerum.
The increase in access created a more family-friendly vehicle, especially for the right-hand drive market where rear passengers had to exit the car on to the road.
Attention was also paid to the rear “barn” door. The centre bar between the two glass sections is narrower than the predecessor while the C-pillar was designed to be at as far to the edge of the car panel as possible, resulting in impressive rear vision.
The Clubman has all-new front and rear lights that are striking.
The front headlights have an anime look with a “eyebrow” style semi-circle ring of LED lights.
Gerum showed Driven during Mini’s dinner in Stockholm the special customer-friendly touch for the front headlights. When you open the Clubman with your fob, the LED lights flick on individually around the semi-circle then the main headlight “blinks” at you before coming on fully. It’s a cute touch that will appeal to younger buyers who want to impress friends or just need that reassurance at night.
The Clubman’s design team also focused on the placement of rear lights, a main round light surrounded by two semi-circle facing inwards.
“They were going to be placed vertically but horizontally placed they make the car look wider,” said Gerum.
In a world first, the Clubman has a red blinking light on top of the roof’s antenna “fin” that indicates when the car alarm is on. “That way you know that the car is locked,” said the design project director, Ernst Frake. “Plus I like it because when I get to the airport carpark I just need to look for the blinking red light to find my car.”
The Clubman’s interior is one of the most stylish in the Mini group, with attention paid to customer feedback wanting a cleaner instrument panel.
Mini interior designer Oliver Sieghart said the goal when creating the new Clubman was a car “with lots of character”.
In the centre of the dash is a large circle housing the infotainment functions including satnav, while the speedo sits in front of the driver in a smaller circle.
The dash has a large oval surround, similar in styling to the front grille’s oval surround.
There is impressive head and legroom for rear passengers while, like the five-door hatch, the middle cushion in the back seat is suitable for a child or to accommodate an adult for a short trip only.
But at the Sweden launch, Mini decided to focus on long trips, with day one heading away from the airport to north of Stockholm taking in a combination of motorway, tiny country roads and thoroughfares through main towns.
Only the Cooper S was available to the international media at the launch with the six-speed manual transmission and eight-speed auto available.
First up for the 140km day one trip was the auto, which paired well with the vehicle. When more input was needed I simply switched into sport mode and knocked the gear stick into manual function.
With a speed limit of 70km/h in most of the country roads, it was too easy to go well above and though the 1360kg Clubman didn’t have the go kart-esque drive of the smaller Minis it gained points for sporty steering and firmness on the road.
On day two, it was a chance to try the six-speed manual in a 100km segment out of Stockholm to Uppsala, famous setting for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo novel, then to the airport north of the capital.
As it was a sunny Saturday morning the country roads were busy with cyclists and eager skier on long roller blades using ski poles to propel them.
The frequent decrease in speed along the undulating country roads to make way for cyclists and roller blading skiers meant the gearbox had a work out, with it sitting comfortable in fourth gear and once I hit the 110km/h motorway, I needed to engage sixth.
The Clubman is the first Mini to gain the eight-speed though a BMW project manager couldn’t confirm if other models in the Mini family up would get the transmission.
The Clubman has links to the late 1950s British Motor Corp legends Morris Mini Traveller and Austin Seven Countryman after the famous two-door was extended to more practical vehicles.
But in 1969 the first shooting brake style Clubman was launched and remained in production until 1982. In 2007 BMW Group decided to relaunch the Clubman as again there was a need for a Mini estate to accommodate more passengers and luggage.
But that model was already significantly longer than its classic predecessor, at 3945mm, beating the original Clubman by half a metre.