My dad owned a red 1979 Mini Clubman, when I was about six or seven years old, which I used to play in.
I would flick the toggle switches and pretend to drive it. One day, the biggest spider I’d ever seen came crawling out from behind the sun visor. Needless to say I never set foot into the car again! The latest Mini Clubman doesn't have a spider hiding in it, so I took it for a mini blast around the Western Cape.
The Clubman has always been that "other Mini" that no one really bought. I think it was due to the odd placement of the rear door. The car featured one suicide door on the side, which was a slight inconvenience, to be honest. The latest model on the other hand features four doors and barn-style rear doors, making it rather practical.
Apart from the doors, the new Clubman also features Mini’s latest design elements, which bring it more in line with its siblings. The design comes across as being more mature and more grown-up. This is also reflected in the fact that this new model is slightly larger than its predecessor.
I like the low, long silhouette of the Clubman. The car features newly designed bumpers for both the Cooper and Cooper S models. The rear end is also pretty eye-catching thanks to the introduction of newly designed taillights. These horizontally oriented rear lights are integrated in the wing doors and have chrome surrounds.
Climb into the Clubman and you’re greeted by quality interior. The iconic centre circular infotainment control unit has an integrated display, the size of which is dependent on what options you decide to tick. The model that I drove featured a 6.5-inch colour display surrounded by an LED ring, which changes colour as you change through the menu or driving modes. It's like a disco, especially when the Mini has an array of different ambient lighting options.
The dashboard differs slightly from the other models such as the hatchback in that it now features a neatly designed area for the climate control dials as well as the various toggle switches, which control things like traction control and Stop/Start. The Start Engine button sits in the middle of the switches and glows red - another feature that I quite fancy.
Although Mini is big on practically, space inside is ample and the boot will swallow up around 360 litres of luggage. Fold the 60:40 split seats down and the number increases to around 1 250 litres. One can also expect Isofix seat attachments for child seats as well as six airbags as standard. Other safety features such as ABS, EBD and DTC also come as standard.
The Mini Clubman will be offered with two punchy little engines. The Cooper features a 1.5-litre three-cylinder 100kW/220Nm engine, which is a real little gem and can also be found in the BMW i8.
The Cooper S makes use of a 2.0-litre four-cylinder motor, which develops 141kW and 280Nm (increased briefly to 300Nm with an over-boost function). Both feature TwinPower Turbo technology, which has proven itself in various BMW models. What's more, the Clubman will be offered with a choice of either a six-speed manual or a six-Speed Steptronic; eight-speed Steptronic transmission on the Cooper S.
Different driving modes
The Mini Clubman is offered with the same choice of driving modes as on other models. In addition to the standard Mid mode there is a choice of Sport and Green mode. Each mode alters the car’s throttle response and steering feel.
That Go-kart feel
On the road, the Clubman does offer a rather enjoyable driving experience. It's not as Go-kart as the three-door hatch but it does grip to the road (the same way I gripped onto my mother after that spider came out). The suspension is firm but that can have something to do with the low profile tyres fitted to the car that I drove.
The little three-cylinder found in the Cooper is an eager tyke with a mean little engine note to match. The Cooper S - on the other hand - is even more spirited when pushed. It snaps, crackles and pops which adds to its sporty connotations.
After driving the Mini Clubman I really can't see the point of the five-door Mini hatch. The Clubman offers better practicality and in my opinion, it looks better. As for Mini Clubman in general, well there are endless customization options, at a price - so be careful. From wheels, colours, trim levels and lightning options.
What's more, the Mini has a wide range of digital experiences on offer, from smartphone apps to web-radio.
Article written by Justin Jacobs