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Mini Clubman Cooper S 2010 review

Mini Clubman is surprisingly practical and has a funky control panel but opinion is divided over its design.

There were motor shows coming, Mini's retro look-at-me originality was becoming a little ho-hum and there was a niche or two still to fill. The answer for BMW was to track the path of the original Mini ... move from the idea of a small passenger sedan to a small everything van in the style of the quirky little Traveller.

Thus was born — or reborn — the Traveller Concept, an ultra-compact two-seat load carrier with the Mini's funky front-end and cabin and a bread van at the rear. A couple of years on the show circuit and the idea was tweaked and refined. A second row of seats added along with a rearward-opening “suicide” door in the style of Mazda's RX-8 — just one, in this case — and the modern rendering of the Clubman was born. What is really interesting about the Clubman is how cleanly it divides opinion.

It is a love-it-or-hate-it proposition, even among those enamoured of the little sedan. My 15-year-old daughter, already plotting ways to get her hands on a Cooper S, turned away in disgust. “It's gross ... how could they even do that?” she said. Evidently the opinion only bore depth if one was outside looking on or sitting to the rear of the B-pillar. Everything about the cabin and the front of the car still passes muster. The funky bits ... oversized dials, tactile switchgear and huggy seats still push the right buttons.

However, it appears that the rear seats and the admittedly Mini-sized load area are going to win favour from the practical set — those stable, left-brain utilisers of society. That is strange because practical and sensible are not catchwords that go hand-in-hand with Mini. Look under fad in the dictionary and you will find Minis in general and the Clubman in particular. Yet, perversely, to a goodly degree the Mini Clubman is practical — particularly if you pretend it doesn't have rear seats and fold them out of the way. In that case you are going to be able to fit in a bike, a huge weekly shop or lots and lots of nice things to drink. The rear barn doors swing wide on clever hinges to ensure unfettered access to the load area. Coupled to the car's natural low ride height, this makes for very comfortable loading.

You just have to be careful when closing the doors that you do so in the correct order — something you would probably get used to as an owner.

What you are less likely to brush aside any time soon — particularly if you are using the rear seats for the children — is the self-centred design team that made those seats accessible only from the traffic side of a right-hand drive model. The criticism will carry little weight in Germany and continental Europe but for the Australian owner it's a biggie.

All that aside, Clubman buyers will still know they have bought into what the manufacturer will have us believe is the most fun club in the country.

And driving the Clubman is fun. Despite its longer body and the 80kg of extra bulk, the go-kart qualities of the original brick-on-wheels still shine through. While it may not be as sharp through the really twisty bits — or even around the cones at a gymkhana — it still has the ability to bring a smile to your face and leave a host of beefier, bulkier rivals wondering which way you went, as we discovered in testing with the Cooper S. The sports suspension tended towards being harsh but it did all that was required of it to maintain connection with the road.

That impression of a firm ride is not helped by the use of run-flat tyres — but that is nothing new in the BMW stable. But under the bonnet the Clubman is exactly the same package as the basic Mini. In the Cooper S test car that means a punchy turbo 1.6-litre four-cylinder with 128kW of power and a noticeable 240Nm of torque there for the asking.

The engine is a real treat. It provides more than enough punch to explore the well-sorted Mini chassis and brakes that allow you to dive deep into corners without any sense of fade.

You will be able to find a touch of torque steer, particularly if overly enthusiastic on the throttle while the steering is loaded.

But it is not snappy and merely acts as a reminder to wait through the corner before getting stuck in again.

It is, after all, a front-driver.

In the test car, drive was through a snicky six-speed manual — which begs the question: why anyone would want to dull the performance by paying a $2200 premium for the automatic.

The bottom line 

Does anyone really need a Clubman? Probably not, but there are going to be more than a few who will want one ... and the extra space won't hurt when putting forward a business case.

Pricing Guides

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Range and Specs

Cooper 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $9,020 – 12,650 2010 Mini Clubman 2010 Cooper Pricing and Specs
Cooper Chilli 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $9,680 – 13,200 2010 Mini Clubman 2010 Cooper Chilli Pricing and Specs
Cooper S 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $11,770 – 15,730 2010 Mini Clubman 2010 Cooper S Pricing and Specs
Cooper S Chilli 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $10,450 – 14,300 2010 Mini Clubman 2010 Cooper S Chilli Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide


Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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