What is it?
Much-maligned attempt to cash in on Mini’s heritage while making a slightly more practical version of the lovely but hopelessly cramped regular Mini hatch. In truth, the Clubman isn’t that practical at all, chiefly because it’s still tiny in the back, and access to the rear is, um, awkward. To make matters worse it’s not as good to drive as the standard car, even though Mini will tell you that it is. And it’s rather costly.
Although not as far removed from the brilliant three-door Mini as the Countryman, the Clubman has still lost some of its smaller sibling’s dynamic sparkle. It’s quite a lot longer in the wheelbase, meaning turn-in is less crisp and that vital element of responsiveness to small steering inputs at speed has faded off a fraction.
The upside to a longer car like this though, and it’s something that might make regular Mini owners’ ears prick up, is that the Clubman rides better over lumpy surfaces. This makes it a markedly more capable cruiser, but only in relative terms.The ride is still firm and refinement isn’t great.
Engine choices are as you’d expect – 1.6-petrol and diesel options, with a turbo on the S and John Cooper Works sports models. These are a waste of money in this car though. Go for the Cooper D diesel with its stonking fuel returns and low, low CO2: the Cooper SD adds in 2.0-litre performance.
On the inside
Considering the Clubman is meant to be practical, it’s amazing just how impractical it is, particularly for those who got so excited about this car at launch. As we did.
The Clubman has a hidden ‘suicide’ door on the right-hand side which, when you’re in Germany, is great, because it’s not behind the driver’s seat and opening on to the road. But Mini’s refusal (down, doubtless, to entirely logical bottom lines) to re-engineer this so that right-hand drive models have the rear door on the left means exiting into traffic, and there’s insufficient room for a child seat behind a taller driver. It’s a massive shame and means the Clubman is just a lifestyle car, not something for a small family.
Mini owners are broadly speaking a very satisfied bunch (did that sound like we meant smug?). The engines these days are excellent, both petrol and diesel blending high fuel economy with low CO2 emissions, and build quality and reliability seem sound. Even so, you might feel let down by the Clubman though. It’s even more expensive than the already massively pricey three-door, but fails to make up for its inherent shortfalls in dynamic ability with a sufficient increase in practicality.