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£27,410 when new
Not got any better looking, the Mini Clubman, has it? Oh stop. For one thing, Mini’s six-doored long-roof is now potentially more useful. For £1,415, Mini will supply it with driven rear wheels, and a pair of enormous ‘All4’ badges for each front door. With a manual gearbox and 192bhp Cooper S engine, that’s a £24,310 bill. Wouldn’t I just have a Countryman if I wanted a four-wheel drive Mini? Maybe several years ago, but in 2016, the Countryman crossover is a six-year old, dated-feeling car. And for Mini’s cognoscenti, that’s hardly chic, is it? So, if you’re looking to sneak under the me-too-soft-roader radar and drive an all-season alternative to say, an Audi A3 Quattro, the quirky Mini now has the ego-massaging security of four-wheel drive.
What sort of 4x4 are we talking? An electro-hydraulic system, which, as the name suggests uses an electronically managed hydraulic pump to adjust the clutch sending power to the rear wheels in what Mini calls ‘fractions of a second’. Rather than simply bunging torque rearwards once you’re already slipping, Mini’s calibrated the system to talk to your steering angle, throttle position, road speed and engine torque, so in theory it can pre-empt when you’re likely to lose traction and step in before the fronts light up. Meanwhile, an electronically controlled locking front diff stops the inside front wheel from spooling up in a tight bend. On paper, it’s a pretty comprehensive system. In a Cooper S, eh? Is this some sort of stretched Golf R now? Nope. ‘Cooper S’ it may say on the right-rear cupboard door, but it’s more of a mildly brisk wagon than a proper hot, erm, non-hatch. This is true of the regular Clubman, which weighs 215kg more than the Cooper S hatch and leaves the 192bhp 2.0-litre turbo motor feeling strained, reedy and out of puff. Spec All4 drive and you’re hauling around another 165kg, in a car that rarely struggled for traction anyway. That’s a lot of lard to lug around every day on the off-chance the prep school car park might be a bit slippery… The figures bear this weight problem out: 0-62mph takes 7.0 seconds – not quick for a Cooper S-badged machine. The top speed’s 142mph, and Mini claims a modest but not wholly unrealistic 40.9mpg and 159g/km. And as you’re testing driving it in the height of summer… …yes, it wasn’t exactly the best time for All4 to shine. Even British summers have off days when it’s uncannily sunny and dry.
In fairness, the Clubman might be a heavy old tool but it just about can be flung around with a modicum of Mini chuckability, though we’ll be making no mention of small, lawnmower-engined amateur racing cars here. Go-kart feel? Forget it. Does All4 rob any of the Mini’s space? Hardly roomy in the first place… It might surprise you. The All4 keeps a 360-litre capacity despite the extra gubbins lurking around the rear wheels, and retains a useful slug of underfloor stowage for valuables. Flip the rear seats down to ape the old Clubman’s utility and the 1250 litres you’re left with actually trumps the seats-down Audi A3 Sportback by 30 litres, and a BMW 1-Series by 50 litres. Yup, like the rear seats, the Clubman’s boot looks pokey, but on closer inspection the space on offer is fairly respectable. You can’t have a spare wheel, mind. Maybe Mini should offer one clamped to the back door, Nineties RAV4-style. Because lifestyle.
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