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Mini Clubman 2011 Review

A WAGON version of the Mini is not the first vehicle that comes to mind when evacuating in the face of raging floods. However, that is one of the cars at our disposal recently in the Brisbane drama.

Packed to the gunwales, rear seats down, no passengers, just my wife and much of our worldly possessions the Mini Clubman was on its way to higher ground when stopped by police. The officer was stunned by how much we had managed to pack inside the little car.

The Clubman is not exactly huge. It stood in our garage next to my daughter's Suzuki Swift and was only a little bit longer. But it has enormous capacity for cargo. It would be even more cavernous if the rear seats folded down lower and flatter.

VALUE

Considering it is a similar size to the Swift, but costs double, it is difficult to argue the value case for the Clubman. However, Mini is put together by BMW so it has good build quality and driving dynamics, although certainly not double that of the Swift. For most people Mini is a decision of the heart, anyway.

Now the range comes with more standard features and customisation options with a modest price increase of $400. But who could put a value on the fact that you can now choose from 756 interior light colour combinations!

The most important new standard feature is the inclusion of Bluetooth, although music streaming is an optional extra. Other new standard features include rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights, fog lights, and velour floor mats.

TECHNOLOGY

"S" used to stand for supercharged. But some time ago Mini did away with the whining supercharger that sounded like a Morris gearbox in reverse. Instead, the S stands for turbocharger. Go figure.

Last year the Cooper S turbo petrol engines received technical upgrades lifting power 2kW (7kW for S) with a slight decrease in emissions, plus better economy and acceleration figures. It's a wickedly powerful little unit that lights up around 2500rpm.

In the test car it was mated to a slick six-speed manual gearbox, although you can also get a six-speed auto. A "sport" button sharpens the steering and throttle response and is standard on all Mini Cooper S and JCW models.

STYLE

Some say it looks quite odd and out of proportion. I say it looks a bit like a pie van with its double rear doors. But it is still undoubtedly a Mini and will have its fans, especially with its extra versatility and carrying capacity. The way those rear doors open and leave the taillights behind is quite a tasty little feature.

Inside, the layout is much the same, with the iconic centrally located dishplate speedo, but trim quality has improved and the volume knob is now where it should be. The car is designed for left-hand-drive markets which means the door configuration is opposite to how it should be.

This is a five-door car with two rear doors and a "suicide" door (front-opening door) on the right behind the driver. The suicide door cleverly takes the front seat belt with it and is designed to allow easier access to the rear seats. However, it opens out into traffic on right-hand-drive models. It should be on the left for footpath access. (By the way, manufacturers hate people calling it a suicide door, for obvious reasons.) Also, the right rear door opens before the left; again a left-hand-drive preference. At least it pops open with the remote which is handy.

DRIVING

If you think the Clubman is great for driving on flood-affected streets, think again.

On several occasions it banged into massive potholes and felt like it wouldn't emerge from the other side. And the wild torque steer and huge volumes of power going through the front wheels make it difficult to keep traction and control on the slick mud-coated streets. For these conditions you might be better waiting for the soon-to-arrive Countryman SUV.

Like all Minis it drives like a go-kart, but it also rides a bit like one so beware those potholes. I love the driver's door extra visor which is a great idea when driving with the afternoon sun belting in through the side window. Why can't other manufacturers add this simple, cheap, but handy device?

Interior accommodation belies exterior dimensions. There is plenty of room front and back except it's a bit of a tight fit around the pedals for size 11 feet.

VERDICT

A fun little car with an added touch of practicalilty.


MINI CLUBMAN COOPER S

Price: $43,800
Engine: 4-cylinder 16-valve 1598cc turbo petrol
Power: 128kW @ 5500rpm
Torque: 240Nm @ 1600
Economy: 7L/100km
Dimensions (mm): 3958 (l), 1683 (w), 1432 (h), 2547 (wheelbase)
Turning circle: 11m
Kerb weight: 1205kg
CO2: 166g/km

Pricing Guides

$15,180
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$10,010
Highest Price
$20,350

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Cooper 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $10,010 – 13,750 2011 Mini Clubman 2011 Cooper Pricing and Specs
Cooper Chilli 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $10,890 – 14,960 2011 Mini Clubman 2011 Cooper Chilli Pricing and Specs
Cooper S 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $13,750 – 18,150 2011 Mini Clubman 2011 Cooper S Pricing and Specs
Cooper S Chilli 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $14,080 – 18,480 2011 Mini Clubman 2011 Cooper S Chilli Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$10,010

Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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