Review: Mini Clubman

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Author: | Updated: 28 Nov 2019 09:52

The Mini Clubman provides a near-perfect balance between modern and retro. It takes what makes a Mini a Mini, adds in some extra practicality, and ends up being just good enough

Boris Johnson is getting closer to his wish of pulling the UK out of the EU, so I like to think that he’s quietly eyeing up a replacement for his ageing Toyota Previa and quite fancies the Mini Clubman. Why? Because he’s seen the light.

P90367239_highRes_the-new-mini-clubman

More specifically, he’ll have seen the rear lights of the Clubman, proudly illuminating an interpretation of the Union Jack, a bright red Rule Britannia signature for others to follow behind. There’s enough material there for a metaphor, I’m sure.

P90344426_highRes_mini-cooper-s-clubma

More subtle than those lights are the other updates to the ‘sensible’ family Mini. They may be optional extras, but the alloy wheels fitted to the Cooper-spec model tested here also hide the flag motif in their spokes, although you’d probably need it pointing out initially. Elsewhere there a new set of headlights surrounded by an LED ring for daytime use, and there’s been a little bit of cosmetic surgery around the car to tidy it up a little, and get it matching the recently refreshed hatchback model.

Stylishly bold. Waves the flag.Leasing.com five-word review

The result is definitely a hit, with a near-perfect balance between modern and retro (to this reviewer’s eyes, at least). Ok, the rear doors get some criticism, not least because the ‘CLUBMAN’ lettering isn’t centred perfectly, but that’s the only real clanger.

Mini Clubman rear

Style rules over function inside the Clubman...

Style rules over function inside the Clubman, with a dashboard that houses a huge circular feature in the centre. That, in turn, houses the infotainment display which, being rectangular, jars somewhat with the 360-degree curve surrounding it. When it’s the standard 6.5-inch screen, it looks lost in the middle of a sea of high-gloss plastic, but it does look better when it’s the optional 8.8-inch screen that’s fitted to this particular car.

Mini Clubman interior

It’s a long time since a Mini has been a small car, and the Clubman literally expands on that.

Heating and ventilation controls are mostly conventional and sit below the central disc, but above some stylish toggle switches that control traction and other systems. The instrument binnacle is really just one single dial for the speedo, with a small digital screen slotted inside to display trip information. A rev counter has been squeezed onto the side but looks a little like an afterthought.

Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, but most of the unscientifically selected sample of people I spoke to seem to think it looks fantastic, but it’s not as easy to use as the cabin of a BMW 1 Series or Audi A3.

Mini Clubman rear seats

Mini’s Clubman all but matches those cars in terms of being useable as an actual family car, despite the ‘mini’ name. It’s a long time since a Mini has been a small car, and the Clubman literally expands on that. There are five-doors, with rear seats offering just about enough room for a couple of adults. Children will certainly be happy, and there shouldn’t be any issue getting a child seat in place.

It’s comfortable enough once you’re in, although the ‘go-kart’ handling of the Mini means it’s firmer than other rivals.

Opening the rear doors to access the boot throws up one minor problem. Apart from flinging open at a spring-assisted speed that could catch out the unwary, they stick out further than a traditional hatch so you’ll need to park a couple of extra inches away from a wall.

Inside you’ll find 360-litres of space, which is less than you’ll find in the Audi or BMW, but not by much.

Mini Clubman boot

The Mini Clubman takes what makes a Mini a Mini, adds in some extra practicality, and ends up being just good enough

It’s comfortable enough once you’re in, although the ‘go-kart’ handling of the Mini means it’s firmer than other rivals. It’s a real pleasure to drive but could use a little more power. The 136hp on offer here isn’t quite enough to pull 1,350kg of Mini around with any alacrity, but in any places where you don’t need speed - such as corners - the Clubman comes alive.

It’s fine on the motorway too, where that 1.5-litre engine is enough to keep up with traffic. It’s also surprisingly frugal, with the official economy figure of 52.3mpg not being entirely unrealistic. Strong residuals should keep leasing costs down too, while low tax rates for company car drivers will add extra appeal.

Mini Clubman lead

The Mini Clubman takes what makes a Mini a Mini, adds in some extra practicality, and ends up being just good enough that you can forgive some of its failings in return for the design and excitement you’re given.

Boris will be happy if he orders one but, as the British brand is German-owned, uses a platform it shares with the BMW X1 and 1 Series, is designed in Munich and built in Oxford just over the road from where the originals were made 50 years ago, the Mini Clubman is the perfect demonstration of European cooperation. So, it looks like the Previa might be in action for a little longer.

Model tested: Mini Clubman Cooper Exclusive Auto

Exterior

The Mini Clubman provides a near-perfect balance between modern and retro. Subtle exterior tweaks include a reworked grille, updated badging and alloy wheels. Don’t worry, the Union Jack rear lights remain.

Interior

Style rules over function inside the Clubman, with a dashboard that houses a huge circular feature in the centre. Rear seats offer just about enough room for a couple of adults.

Driving

The ‘go-kart’ handling of the Mini means it’s firmer than other rivals. It’s a real pleasure to drive with the 1.5-litre engine powerful enough to keep up with traffic.

Space

Split-rear doors open to the side and the boot offers 360-litres of space, which is less than you’ll find in the Audi or BMW, but not by much.

Efficiency

Official economy figure of 52.3mpg is achievable, but it could use a little more power.

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