Mini Clubman 2008 review
They planned for 100,000 global sales per year. Last year they sold 222,000 and production is being ramped up to 260,000.
So thousands of people loved it, and a fair proportion of them were the hip young things the brand markets to.
But lots of the hip young things are now hip young-ish parents. And when you have kids, the Mini is not so much fun.
It’s a hassle to get a large stroller plus the other truckload of stuff that comes with babies into the cargo part, especially if you have a capsule in the back seat. And getting the bub into the capsule amount to a short course in pilates muscle-wrenching. When they gravitate to the child seat it’s much the same, except the child is heavier.
So here’s the Mini Clubman, with a longer wheelbase and body, and a suicide door on the driver’s side to give more access to the back row.
That it’s on the driver’s side is a carryover from the left-hand drive markets, and there’s been a bit of grumbling about the door opening into the traffic. But really, unless you’re parallel parking all the time, it’s probably not going to be an issue.
The Clubman is identical to the hardtop up to the A-pillar, but is 239mm longer and the wheelbase is stretched 80mm (which translates to 77mm more legroom).
Rather than the hardtop’s gentle dome profile, the Clubman roof has an upright line that runs to the spoiler lip above the rear doors, which have a contrasting sill colour that harks back to the wood-framing on the early Minis.
The rear door is a split pair - rather than the hatch on the new hardtop - which loses a bit in practicality. But BMW’s Mini has always been about style over stowage, so buyers probably won’t mind, especially since they’re getting 260 litres of cargo capacity, 85 more than the hardtop, plus another 250 if they fold the rear seats. There is an underfloor storage area where the wheel well would have been, as the Clubman is fitted with runflats across the range.
Taillights are attached to the body, so they can still be seen from behind when the doors are open.
To trumpet its grooviness, the newcomer brings a new colour to the range, Hot Chocolate, which is very much the fashion at the moment but runs the risk of being so five minutes ago in about, say, five minutes.
But otherwise there is the same brainfreezing number of paint and interior combinations and options available on the other models.
And like them, the Clubman comes as either Cooper or Cooper S with the additional choice of Chilli spec fit-outs for each.
There are the same front-wheel drivetrains. The Coopers get an 88kW/160Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder, which gets to 100km/h in 9.8 seconds for the six-speed manual and 10.9 for the $2200 six-speed sequential auto with paddle-shifts, and has a top speed of 210km/h and claimed fuel consumption of 6.0L and 6.8L respectively.
The `S’ versions get the 126kW/240Nm turbo 1.6-litre, with acceleration sharpened to 7.6 seconds for the manual and 7.8 for the auto, with a top speed of 224km/h and economy posted at 7.0L and 7.8L.
Standard equipment list for the $34,400 Cooper level features 16” alloy wheels, stability and traction control, anti-skid brakes with brake force distribution, six airbags, parking alert and the usual cabin comforts including the changeable ambient lighting colours that have been a hit in the hardtop.
The $43,200 Cooper S gets 17” alloys, bonnet scoop, sport button to boost steering feel and throttle and shorten shift times, larger front brakes, twin chrome exhaust tips and front foglights,
Shelling out the extra $3800 for the Chillli spec adds things like a front armrest, flat load cargo floor, wheel upgrade and Bluetooth with USB/audio interface to the Cooper, and xenon headlights, sports suspension, better wheels and climate control to the Cooper S.
A number of option choices and packages upgrade to leather, sunroof, TV/nav and more storage options, so you can ensure your Mini is different to the neighbour’s.
But with any spec, the Clubman remains a niche within a niche. BMW sold just under 2300 Minis last year in Australia, and expects to top that plus sell about 300 of the Clubman this year.
BMW spokesman Alexander Corne admits that initially the new arrival is expected to be snapped up by existing owners. Which basically means that 300 households won’t be moving to another brand just because they no longer fit in their current Mini. Which is probably the whole idea.
On the road
The suicide door makes it easier to throw a bag or a passenger into the back seat, but only just. The opening is fairly narrow, but at least on that side there’s no longer the hated squeeze past the tipped front seat.
The cabin is a chic as ever: groovy toggle switches spaced among their tiny `roll bars’, funky shaping to dash and trim, and a speedo the size of an entrée plate. We felt several degrees cooler from the instant we slid in there.
As with the other body styles, the Clubman’s drivetrains are great for the job, with the Cooper’s flattish torque curve and the S’s early turbo thrust giving them plenty of push.
But with the longer wheelbase and 80kg heavier weight the equivalent of adding another adult in the Clubman they’ve got a bit of extra work to do.
It shows most in the combination of Cooper engine and automatic transmission, where you discover that fully auto mode is best left for urban traffic or relaxed highway cruising.
The sport and simulated manual modes wrung the required zip out of the engine although the paddles with their pull-up/press-down action are more awkward than the ones where one paddle is up and the other down.
But the manual transmission is such a sweet-shifting little thing that even with the Cooper engine it offers a lot of fun, while added to the turbo version it’s an absolute joy.
But if the longer Mini is not quite as nimble around the tight corners, it’s also less twitchy in the faster ones and seems calmer over the rougher stretches.
It still feels like a hot hatch, but the heat is less hellish. It’s not yet a family car, but it’s as close as you’ll get in a Mini.
Range and Specs
|Cooper||1.6L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$6,600 – 9,240||2008 Mini Clubman 2008 Cooper Pricing and Specs|
|Cooper Chilli||1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$6,160 – 8,690||2008 Mini Clubman 2008 Cooper Chilli Pricing and Specs|
|Cooper S||1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$8,690 – 12,210||2008 Mini Clubman 2008 Cooper S Pricing and Specs|
|Cooper S Chilli||1.6L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$7,150 – 10,010||2008 Mini Clubman 2008 Cooper S Chilli Pricing and Specs|
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