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The Top Gear car review:Mini Clubman
For:Distinctive looks, gorgeous cabin, proper rear doors at last
Against:Distinctive looks, safety-first chassis
1.5 Cooper 6dr
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What we say:
Big new Mini aims to be less of a curio and more of a family hatch alternative
What is it?
The biggest Mini ever, and a supposedly properly resolved successor to the Mk1 Clubman oddball. No asymmetric ‘Clubdoor’ opening out into traffic here – there are four conventional front-hinged doors for passengers, and still two cupboard doors at the back. It’s not the 270mm increase in length that’s the critical stat, however. Nope, it’s the 30mm width growth spurt. That betrays this is no stretched Mini Hatch, but in fact a BMW 2-Series Active Tourer wearing a Mini suit. A wider platform, more space, and a more utilitarian family car as a result. Well, that’s the idea anyway.
All the usual Mini elements are here – snickety manual gearshift, low-slung driving position, weighty steering and so on. However, the 125kg weight penalty versus a standard Mini, and the longer wheelbase, means it’s less playful. That’s right and fit for purpose, but a bit of a shame that Mini’s much self-lauded ‘go-kart feel’ has been lost in translation. The Cooper S version is the hottest at launch but, despite its BMW-sourced 2.0-litre four-pot, it’s too sluggish to be classed as a hot hatch.
You’re better off with the regular Cooper, with its gem-like 1.5-litre turbo triple out-delivering its entry-level price. A great 170lb ft torque slug means it’ll cope OK fully laden – important given the Clubman’s new raison d’etre.
On the inside
Notebooks at the ready, pub fact fans: the Clubman is the first Mini ever to get a proper solid centre console between the front two seats. We know: wow, right? That means you not only get a useful storage cubby, but the iDrive controls are lifted out of the trench between the seats so you can actually operate it without the concentration (and patience) of threading a needle. It’s worth noting that all Clubmans get BMW-grade sat nav as standard.
Build quality throughout is BMW-beatingly exemplary. Materials and finish smack of really thoughtful design. Less thoughtful, the thick rear doors eat into visibility (there’s a stonking great bar down the middle of your rear-view mirror vision) and boot space – at 360 litres, you’ve only got as much area as a cramped 1-Series. So it’s bigger than before, but still a car you buy in spite of its practicality, not because of it.
If cheap running costs are the order of the day, you’ll want the Cooper D, which returns a claimed 68.9mpg and emits 109g/km. If you just want the cheapest way in, that’ll be the 1.5-litre Cooper, which costs a fiver under twenty grand (it still does over 55mpg and emits sub-120g/km). Not that such a car will ever exist, of course. Mini expects every single owner to add at least a handful of options to the Clubman. The goodies-packed £2,785 Chili pack is apparently a virtual default, for starters.