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Mini Clubman Cooper D Car Review | 25 January 2008

Driven January 2008

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There's nothing like a bit of xenophobia to get people talking in this country.

BMW owns Mini, BMW builds new Mini Clubman, BMW refuses to swap the suicide door on the new Mini Clubman to suit our market. So everyone thinks the nasty Germans are trying to put our children in harm's way because they'll have to exit the car into on-coming traffic.

But people are forgetting one key point here. How often have you seen a Mini doing the school run? And the Clubman, for all its pretensions of being a Mini estate, will be no different. This is still not a well-packaged car.

What it is, in the form of the Cooper D driven here, is a very cool and ecologically sound car. BMW has been talking rather a lot recently about its Efficient Drive systems and the new Mini gets more of the same treatment.

Which means electric steering, brake regeneration system, Start-stop technology, common-rail direct injection diesel engine - all of which combine to make the Clubman seriously economical.

The start-stop works fantastically well around town and never leaves you stranded at the lights, but when you combine this with the 1.6-litre diesel it really starts to make sense.

A lot of this country isn't swallowed up by towns, so the majority of driving doesn't use that start-stop tech. What it does use is the diesel economy and this Clubman is mighty frugal - I averaged over 55mpg in a weekend and CO2 is low at 109g/km.

It's also a pretty refined engine. Yes, it's still a bit rattly at cold (your Start-stop won't work until it gets hot either), but as soon as it's warm it gets quieter. And smoother too - certainly on the motorway, you just don't hear it.

The only trouble is that it's lacking a bit of punch, so you've got to change gear a bit more often than is ideal, especially given that it's a diesel.

Don't confuse this Mini 'estate' with a practical car though. The boot is still pretty small by most standards and the rear seats aren't for two six-footers sitting in line astern.

What the Clubman version has done to the Mini, though, is made it ride slightly better. The longer wheelbase obviously helps and, even though our car was on 17-inch wheels, it still flowed over rough tarmac.

It certainly doesn't feel like it is about to pitch you into the nearest hedgerow. Another good thing is that the Clubman still feels almost as lithe as a standard Mini and you're rarely aware of any extra bulk hung out the back.

Which possibly makes this the Mini to have, if you can ignore the modern cynicism of firing up such an old idea, because you get all the good Mini bits (handling, looks, image) with a slightly more practical interior and hopefully a bit more exclusivity.

Piers Ward

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