Another Clubman review by our friends to the North.
Performance and room to move
Graeme Fletcher for National PostThe Clubman offers some much-needed cargo space without sacrificing the quality of the performance
The single biggest knock against the regular Mini is the lack of a usable back seat and the nonexistent cargo capacity. The Clubman counters these concerns by stretching the base Mini by 240 millimetres and adding a third, suicide-hinged door to the right side of the car. The differences are manifold.
The upsides to the stretch are all found in the rear. The 80-mm stretch in the wheelbase is dedicated to the rear-seat riders, adding more legroom -- enough for a longer drive. The third door then allows those climbing in to do so with a little decorum.
The rest of the stretch is found aft of the rear wheels. The 160-mm addition boosts cargo capacity from negligible to useful. No, one cannot carry a home's worth of belongings, but there is 9.2 cubic feet with the seats upright and 32.8 cu. ft. when folded down, and the floor is flat and devoid of the gaps between the seats that punctuate so many vehicles. The limiting factor is the size of the opening afforded by the double barn-style rear doors -- it's less than a metre wide and only 620 mm tall. The other drawback is what is not seen through the rear-view mirror. Rather than seeing the road and the cars behind, one gets a close-up of the joint formed by the twin doors. The rear-seat headrests further compromise the view, encroaching from the left and right.
The Clubman's front seats are comfortably bolstered and both have manual height and lumbar adjustments. For the driver, the addition of a tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustment means it's a cinch to establish the correct driving position. The layout is also logical for the most part. The quibble is the number of knobs and buttons scattered across the dash, centre stack and those found above the rear-view mirror. The confusion is best illustrated by the audio system, which is, by the way, a very good one. The knob in the middle of the audio controls is not for volume; it scrolls through the preset channels. To change the volume, one must reach down below the CD slot in the centre stack. Thankfully, there are steering-wheel-mounted controls.
As for the rest of the interior, well, if you have a circular fetish, the Clubman is nirvana. Everything from the headlights to the tailpipes and from the speedometer to the pedals is round or a derivative thereof. Even the key fob that pushes into the dash is round.
Where the Clubman really surprises is that the stretched platform matters not a whit when it comes to handling. The base Mini is famous for its go-kart-like handling and the Clubman is that and more. There is less pitching on rough roads, so the Clubman's demeanour has a more dialled-in feel to it. Factor in the steering feel, optional sport suspension and P205/45R17 tires, great brakes and an electronic nanny that's far from intervention crazy and you have a decidedly sporty drive. Of course, the fact the ride quality is plusher is a bonus.
The 1.6-litre turbocharged four is a sweet little mill that loves to rev and it does so with a willing eagerness. With all the extra sheet metal mandated by the stretch, I expected the launch to feel less enthusiastic and the top end to be lazier. Neither is the case. The 172 horses run the Clubman to 100 kilometres an hour in 7.4 seconds ( just 0.2 seconds slower than its stunted sibling). This speaks to the energy the turbo adds to the engine, especially when the sport mode is engaged (it ramps up throttle response and brings 192 pound-feet of torque in the overboost mode).
The six-speed manual box is great. The gate is defined, the throws are short and the ratios are perfectly matched to the engine's character. Similarly, the clutch pedal is feather light and its bite point is perfection. I also learned to appreciate the hill start assist. Depressing the clutch and brake together activates the assistant and holds the Clubman on a hill for a second or two, which is enough time to get from the brake to the gas before the car rolls backward.
I expected the Clubman to be a watered-down version of a very likable car. It is not. I came away very impressed, and the more I drove it, the more I liked it. One piece of advice: If you're contemplating a Clubman purchase, opt for the double sunroof -- the front panel tilts and slides; the rear tilts. It opens up the cabin enormously, which eliminates the claustrophobic feel the low-slung roof and narrow side glass might otherwise impart. Mind you, it and myriad other packages and options drive the price up quickly.
Type of vehicle: Front-wheel-drive, compact wagon
Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder
Power: 172 hp @ 5,500 rpm; 177/192 (with overboost) lb-ft of torque @ 1,600/1,700 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Brakes: Four-wheel disc with ABS
Tires: P205/45R17 (optional)
Price: base/as tested: $31,500/$36,430
Destination charge: $1,595
Transport Canada fuel economy L/100 km: 7.7 city, 5.7 hwy.
Standard features: Air conditioning, power door locks, windows and mirrors, cruise control, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with six speakers
Options Comfort package ($1,500, includes dual sunroof and heated seats), Convenience package ($650, includes rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights and auto climate control), Sport package ($1,200, includes firmer suspension and P205/ 45R17 tires), Chrome package ($390), media connect ($490, includes Bluetooth and USB connectivity), Travel package ($450), hood stripes ($130), brushed aluminum interior trim ($120)
Source: National Post