The last Mini Clubman was a fairly silly car, and I liked it more than I should have done. The idea of having only one rear door and placing it on the wrong side of the car, so it forced you either to park on the other side of the road or discharge your children directly into the traffic, was absurd. But it made me think of the gratifyingly fallible men and women who signed it off – and that made the car more human to me.
To make sure the new Clubman could never blunder that way again, Mini has decided to chuck all the doors it could at it: six in total. That’s two down each side and two at the back in the style of the original Mini Countryman. The first Clubman, you will remember, was not an estate at all, but a 1970s facelift designed to push the Mini brand upmarket.
Indeed the whole car is more sensible in size and general deportment than the old Clubman. With external dimensions similar to those of a Golf, this Mini may still claim to be quirky but, in reality and despite all those doors, it is the most mainstream Mini ever produced. And there is nothing wrong with that, so long as the car still delivers on Mini’s unwritten promise to keep the driver entertained at all times.
Happily the Cooper S honours its obligations if not quite to the full, then at least to general all-round satisfaction. Don’t expect typical Mini-style rollerskate handling, however: the Clubman is too large, too heavy and too long in the wheelbase for that. What it will do, however, is get you down a difficult road far faster than its 189bhp output and almost tonne and a half weight might suggest. Performance is reasonable for the money, but the chassis is one of rare composure that will allow you to maintain pace in tricky conditions long after drivers of theoretically faster but actually less reassuring cars have backed off. The BMW influence is clear.
Inside you’ll find an all-new cabin, albeit one that retains Mini’s unique look and individual design language. It won’t win any packaging awards, but it’s a comfortable enough place for four adults to cover a decent distance.
In fact there’s little to dislike here. I’d have preferred better ride comfort, but only if it didn’t come with even more sensible handling. That leaves slightly disappointing refinement from the 2-litre turbo engine as my most serious gripe. And yes, those back doors are a gimmick and no, it’s no kind of estate car at all, but I don’t really think anyone expects a Mini to be a load swallower. Its abilities in this area, as so many others, are broadly comparable to those of a Golf.
So on balance I welcome the new Clubman. It’s probably the most po-faced Mini to date because even in Cooper S trim it’s more of a giggle than a riot to drive, but it would prove easy and effective transport while allowing its owner to stand out somewhat from the crowd. In other words, for Mini at least, mission accomplished.
Engine 2.0 litres, 4 cylinders, petrol turbo
Power [email protected]
Torque 221lb [email protected] rpm
Transmission eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Power to Weight 129bhp per tonne
Top speed 142mph