Published: 21st April 2008
MINI Cooper Clubman

MINI Cooper Clubman Review

The new MINI was launched in 2001, to much acclaim. Although bigger than the original Mini, what it lacked in rear legroom, it made up for in unusual styling and a vast array of personalisation elements, much loved by a local estate agent.

The MINI Clubman has the same raft of options but its main benefit is the extra length, which should make rear passengers happier.

Based on the second generation MINI hatch, introduced between the end of 2006 and the beginning of 2007, the Clubman is 24cm longer, which is taken up by an extra 8cm between the front and rear seats and an increased boot capacity of 260-litres with the seats up and a maximum 930-litres with the seats folded. The best the MINI hatch can offer is 160- to 680-litres, so there is a fair increase in luggage space.

But all is not as rosy as it would first appear. The rear double doors, which are clearly a nod at the previous Clubman, are cleverly hinged as far out into the corners as possible. This is so that the rear light cluster is visible at all times, which is a legal requirement but they seem to be lacking in substance and the join point is wide enough to hide a motorcyclist, when using the rear-view mirror. MINI tells us that a flat load floor is an optional extra and, to be honest I have no idea what that means or why it would have an uneven floor in the first place - further investigation is needed.

The Clubman is the first MINI to have five seats, with two rear seats as a no-cost option. In reality having three rear seats is not an advantage as they still come with a 50:50 split and fold and there is definitely not enough room for three people; even if they are size 0, supermodels. The centre seat of three is no wider than some armrests and if your rear passenger in either of the outer seats is even a little on the plump side, they will have difficulty fastening their seatbelt because they will be sitting on the catch.

To make access to the rear seats easier, MINI has added a so-called Clubdoor. It is a 40cm, half-door. It has no outer handle to spoil the looks, because it hinges towards the rear of the car and interlocks with the full-size front door, that has to be opened first - similar to those in the Mazda RX-8. Please note the singular; the Clubdoor is only fitted to one side - the driver’s. While this is great in countries where they drive on the right, in the UK it means either parking on the ‘wrong’ side of the road or opening the front door wide into on-coming traffic, before getting the baby from its child seat or letting Granny out.

And therein lays another problem. Not surprisingly, Grannies are not as sprightly as younger people and they find it difficult to negotiate the driver’s seatbelt, which although it slides along a rail at the base, is attached to the top of the Clubdoor so it has to be held out of the way. The driver’s seat does move forwards, of course, to allow for more room to manoeuvre but, when it comes to getting granny out, she has nothing to pull against.


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MINI Cooper Clubman Review Road Test Data
Model ReviewedMINI Cooper Clubman
  
Body Type Estate
Colour Nightfire Red Metallic
  
Performance ~ manufacturers figures
  
0 - 62 mph9.8 Seconds
Top Speed 125 mph
  
Transmission6-Speed Manual
  
Fuel TypeUnleaded Petrol
  
Economy ~ manufacturers figures
  
Urban39.8 mpg
Extra Urban62.8 mpg
Combined51.4 mpg
  
Insurance Group8
Euro NCAP RatingTBA
  
  
Warranty3-Year / Unlimited Mileage Warranty
  
  
Price
when tested on the 21/04/08
£14,235

 

 

MINI Cooper Clubman

This I know for sure as the Granny I used a guinea-pig, who is not that old and infirm, ended up sitting in the rear footwell with arms and legs flailing inelegantly - bless her! Of course younger people and children might not have such a problem but the Clubdoor is still on the wrong side for us. That said, the fuel filler cap on the other side prohibits a swap.

The MINI Clubman is the same as the Hatch from the bonnet to the B-pillar. The leading edge of the roof, therefore, is still a good way forward and quite low, so the driver feels as if he or she is driving a pillar-box: even when the seat height-adjustment is at its lowest point. However, the £680, panoramic sunroof should alleviate the effect, somewhat.

One of the interior features that made the new MINI so different was the toggle switchgear. Understandably, these flip-switches have been retained in the second generation Hatch and therefore the Clubman, continuing the ‘cockpit’ ambience. The main row, comprising switches for the windows, central locking and front fog lights (where fitted), sits below the very large, centrally positioned, speedo, which dominates the cabin and causes distracting reflections. If the Interior Light Pack is ordered another row of toggle switches are fitted to the roof panel above the rear-view mirror.

The oversized speedo also contains an unusual fuel gauge, seatbelt warning light and the audio functions for the single CD/radio unit. Satellite Navigation and other audio systems are available.

Atop the rake- and reach-adjustable steering column the circular theme continues in the form of a clock-like rev-counter, into which is set a small information screen covering range, average fuel consumption and in cars with 6-speed manual transmission, it also suggest the best time to change up or down a gear.

Outside, the Clubman is the same width as the Hatch but has a different roof, which adds 2cm to the height. This so-called ‘Dune Line’ has slightly raised edges, which run the full length of the car. The idea is that it balances the proportions and makes the car look smaller. The roof can be ordered in silver or black, as can the C-pillars and rear bumper panels. Body- colour is also an option for the roof but not the rear panels, but tends to make the car look boxy.

Of the three Clubman versions, the MINI Cooper and Cooper D look the same from the back. The Cooper S, on the other hand, has honeycomb panels set into the rear bumper, just over the two tailpipes. At the front, both the Cooper and The Cooper D have chromed radiator grilles while the Cooper S has a black honeycomb grille.

Further minor differences are in the bonnet area; the Cooper D has a slightly higher bonnet than the Cooper and a larger lower air intake with a body-coloured crossbar. The Cooper S has an even higher bonnet with an air scoop, it is also more defined. Like the Cooper D, it needs the extra 2cm, height to accommodate the engine and, in the S, a turbocharger.

All MINI Clubmen (?) house a 1.6-litre engine, in various formats. The £14,235, Cooper has a naturally aspirated, 1.6 petrol unit, as was the test car. The Cooper D has a 1.6-litre turbo-diesel engine with a Diesel Particulate Filter. While the Cooper D bears a price tag of £15,400, the Cooper S will set you back £17,210 and is powered by an intercooled, 1.6-litre petrol engine with a twin-scroll turbo-charger. The price also includes a go-faster, Sport button.

 

MINI Cooper Clubman

 

Apart from the inevitable differences in torque and cleanliness, on the whole, the Cooper is just about evenly placed between the other two. Its engine produces 120hp at a lofty 6,000rpm and 160Nm at 4,250rpm and will propel the car from 0-62mph in 9.8 seconds before reaching a top speed of 125mph (where legal).

Unfortunately, if you factor in hills and more than one body on board, these performance figures become disappointingly redundant and the need to keep swapping between the lower of the six gears, increases. And that does nothing for the fuel economy. On the face of it, the official figures are very good at 39.8mpg (U), 62.8mpg (E-U); the combined is 57.4mpg and the CO2 emissions are measured at 132g/km putting the Cooper in VED Band C. These figures are for the manual car and not those with the optional 6-speed automatic with tiptronic and steering wheel-mounted paddles.

The MINI Cooper may not be as athletic as it might, but the handling is very good. Its wide, squat stance ensures stability and ability to cope with swift changes of direction. The suspension is sporty-firm and the steering, precise but I would recommend that anyone buying the Cooper or Cooper D, who enjoys vigorous driving, invest £215 in the optional Sports seats, for extra lateral support.

Along with ABS with EBD, the Clubman comes with Cornering Brake Control (CBC), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) combined with ASC+T, which is a traction control system, and Hill Assist on all manual versions.

There are six airbags as standard; front and side for the front occupants and curtain airbags that extend to protect the rear passengers. Based on the MINI hatch results, the Clubman is expected to achieve a maximum, 5-star rating in the Euro NCAP safety tests.

The Clubman is more about functionality than practicality with a list of standard features that includes an engine start/stop button, where the key-fob fits in a slot; there is a tyre pressure warning system, and for manual versions, an automatic engine cut-out, which shuts the engine off whenever the car is stationary and starts it up again when the clutch is depressed.

I was one of those that sang the praises of the new MINI hatch. It was, and still is, very different to anything else on the road and it had a lot to live up to, if it was to be worthy of the name. However, the MINI Cabriolet has its faults and the Clubman is simply not well thought out. For sure, the extra space is a bonus but its use is limited. That said, I’m certain that die-hard MINI fans will overlook its shortcomings.

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MINI Clubman Road Test Conclusion
Performance
Ride and Handling
Ease of Use
Safety and Security
Comfort and Refinement
Interior Styling
Exterior Styling
In Car Entertainment & Navigation
Build Quality
Value for Money
   
Overall

 

Source: Car Pages UK