Mini Clubman S 2008 review
The arrival of the Mini Clubman brings the back-seat freedom and luggage space that has been missing since BMW brought the 60s swinger back from the dead.
The maxi new Mini is fatter in almost every area, including price, which will probably be between the existing Cooper S and convertible at $45,000 and $50,000.
Running a tape over the Clubman shows it is 240mm longer, has a 160mm longer rear overhang and sits on an 80mm longer wheelbase than the Cooper.
That means usable rear legroom for the first time, as well as 260 litres of luggage space with the rear seats upright or 930 litres with them folded flat.
BMW believes the cult car following of the born-again Mini will be boosted by the Clubman and Clubman S, which arrive in April.
The bigger Clubman will take the number of Minis to three, sharing the limelight with the Cooper and Cabrio, though the open-air model has not yet had the overhaul of the second-generation model.
The Clubman shares almost everything with the Cooper, including the suspension, interiors and 1.6-litre four-cylinder normally aspirated and turbocharged engines.
Visually, with its rear barn doors and long, flat roofline, it pays homage to the original 1960 Mini Traveller and Clubman .
The roof, the longest of any BMW product, including the X5 four-wheel drive and 5 Series Touring wagon — has a slight hump. A 20mm high dune line along the sides extends from the windscreen pillars to the tail, finishing with an integrated rear spoiler.
The Mini's designers have added a twist with the Clubdoor, effectively a rear-opening suicide door on the passenger side of the car for left-hand drive markets. But the rear-hinged door is on the wrong side for Australia, because there was no way to re-engineer the fuel filler.
High-strength steel ensures the Clubman is as strong in a side impact and frontal collision as the Cooper, which means it should achieve a five-star crash rating.
BMW Group head of driving dynamics Heinz Krusche says the stiff body ensures optimum performance of the steering and suspension. The MacPherson struts in the front and the Z-axle with longitudinal arms and centrally pivoted track arms at the rear have been tweaked a little from the Cooper. Front and rear roll-bar thickness and suspension rates were altered to maintain the sharp, near-neutral driving experience of its shorter-wheelbase sibling.
Australian specifications and prices are yet to be set, but buyers can expect similar equipment levels to the Mini and Mini Cooper S.
BMW Group Australia spokeswoman Laurissa Mirabelli expects the Clubman to make up 10 per cent of overall Mini sales locally. Two hundred are coming to Australia next year.
On the road
The Clubman has the same driving fun that has made the Mini a hit.
It may be 60kg heavier and 80mm longer in the wheelbase than a Mini Cooper hatch, but the Clubman is just as engaging to drive and more user-friendly.
It is agile, composed and, if anything, the longer wheelbase helps smooth out the ride quality over indifferent roads. Particularly on the sportier 17-inch wheels.
The turbo 1.6 on the Clubman S sings as sweetly as the Cooper and provides plenty of low-down urge and mid-range acceleration.
The limited-slip differential fitted in the European evaluation cars aided performance, getting the power to the ground without spinning the front wheels.
At first glance the Clubman looks the same as the Mini, but from the B-pillar back things change. Walk around the car and view it from the side and you can see how it has grown. And almost all of the added length in the wheelbase has gone into rear-seat legroom.
So passengers sitting behind a driver of average height still have plenty of legroom, and the rear seat is still cosy even when the front seats are set to the rear-most setting.
Even though the Clubdoor will be on the drivers side of the car in Australia, it still adds a dash of user-friendliness.
The rear barn doors take some getting used to in a passenger car, but it's a small price to pay for individuality.
Range and Specs
|Cooper||1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$9,240 – 12,980||2010 Mini Clubman 2010 Cooper Pricing and Specs|
|Cooper Chilli||1.6L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$9,900 – 13,530||2010 Mini Clubman 2010 Cooper Chilli Pricing and Specs|
|Cooper S||1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$12,100 – 16,060||2010 Mini Clubman 2010 Cooper S Pricing and Specs|
|Cooper S Chilli||1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$10,780 – 14,740||2010 Mini Clubman 2010 Cooper S Chilli Pricing and Specs|