While the latest Mini Cooper Clubman station wagon, released here in November 2015, is larger and more conventional in styling than before it remains unmistakably a Mini with its squat shape and distinctive grille.
The most significant change is in its length, up by 292 mm to 4253 mm while it is now 117 mm wider (1800 mm) with the wheelbase extended by 123 mm. Height remains at 1441 mm.
Gone, thankfully, is the small rear-mounted passenger door which was a talking point with the old Clubman and, because it opened onto the traffic side of the road in Australia (and the UK) and gave real meaning to its ‘suicide door’ nickname. New Clubman now has conventional rear passenger doors while retaining the previous side-hinged ‘barn doors’ at the rear making it the first ever six-door Mini.
We ageing baby boomers grew up with the Mini. Sadly most of us have subsequently grown out as well as up so the extra doors and increased interior space are welcome. Rear legroom has improved noticeably courtesy of the extended wheelbase with the flat roofline ensuring reasonable rear headroom despite the car’s height being unchanged.
There’s also extra storage space with the boot now up to a reasonable 360 litres, out to 1250 litres with the rear seatbacks lowered. The car’s party piece is the optional kick-motion automatic opening of the barn doors, one kick opens the right-hand door, two kicks open both. The left-hand door must be closed first and there’s a large piece of rubber on the lock to avoid damage if they’re closed in the wrong order.
Once inside the new Mini Clubman there’s no doubting that you’re in a Mini with its iconic large central circular dial, big instruments, toggle switches. Though we don’t remember mood lighting being a feature of the original Mini.
The big dial houses a wide but narrow screen to display the various features including satellite navigation (standard on the Cooper S but optional on the base model).
The engine start/stop is by a red-lit toggle switch on the lower part of the dashboard while the old conventional handbrake is replaced by a small electronic lever. No more handbrake turns…
There’s also an optional head-up display that projects onto a pop-up screen rather than the windscreen.
In true BMW fashion (the German company owns Mini) there’s a long list of options to push the price way up.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
Two variants are available in Australia, Cooper and Cooper S. The standard Cooper uses a three-cylinder 1.5-litre turbo-petrol that generates 100 kW of power and 220 Nm (at 1250 rpm) of torque. The Cooper Clubman S is powered by a 141 kW / 280 Nm (at 1250 rpm) four-cylinder turbo-petrol with a capacity of 2.0 litres.
A diesel engine is available in overseas markets but Mini has no immediate plans to add it to its Australian range. However we can expect to see the more powerful and sportier John Cooper Works (JCW) version within the next 12 months.
The Cooper has a six-speed automatic and the S an all-new Aisin eight-speed. The Cooper S gets paddle shifters, the Cooper doesn’t. A six-speed manual is available in all models but only on special order and at the same price as the autos.
Fuel consumption from the Cooper is rated at 5.4 litres per 100 kilometres and 6.4 L/100 km from the Cooper S.
If you’re looking for the latest and greatest in technology and connectivity it will come at a price. The standard infotainment features are modest with Bluetooth, a 6.5-inch colour monitor, six-speaker audio; and Aux, USB and 12V sockets.
We feel most buyers will opt for the Multimedia Pro package which will add $3650 to the price of the Cooper and $2700 to the S. It increases screen size to 8.8 inches and includes satellite navigation; voice recognition; Harmon Kardon 12-speaker HiFi; head-up display; and DAB+ digital radio.
Safety equipment on all Clubman models includes six airbags; ABS with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution; front and rear foglights; dynamic stability and traction control; forward collision warning; electronic differential lock control; reversing camera; Rear Park Distance Control; tyre pressure warning system; and Isofix child seat mountings on the two outboard rear seats.
Clubman S also gets Performance Control to reduce understeering and increase traction in hard cornering,
Our Mini Clubman test car was the Cooper S and what a delightful little car it is to drive in a variety of conditions. Even around town its sharp acceleration and nimble handling can take the grudgery out of the daily commute while it’s quite at home on the motorway.
Get it out onto the open road and, despite its extra size and weight, the performance is exhilarating with the pin sharp steering and willingness to grip hard through bends that keen drivers love.
Adding to the variety the Clubman Cooper S has a feature called Mini Driving Modes which has three different settings operated by a rotary switch at the base of the gear selector lever. ‘MID’ mode is the default setting for routine driving; while ‘Green’ mode tones everything back to minimise fuel consumption.
And then there’s ‘Sport’ mode which switches to a sportier set up with changes to the throttle, steering and suspension for livelier performance and an crackling engine sound. Even with the firmer suspension on the Cooper S its ride remained comfortable enough for long trips.
Fuel consumption during our week-long test in the Clubman Cooper S averaged out at 6.9 litres per 100 kilometres including plenty of time in the ‘Sport’ mode. Switching down to ‘Green’ mode, we were able to get below 5.0 L/100 km at times.
One downside is the restricted rear visibility caused by the combination of a small rear window that’s parted in the middle by the twin rear doors.
AT A GLANCE
Clubman 1.5-litre turbo-petrol six-door wagon: $34,900 (six-speed manual or six-speed automatic)
Clubman S 2.0-litre turbo-petrol six-door wagon: $42,900 (six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Mini dealer for driveaway prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Mini Cooper S Clubman 2.0-litre turbo-petrol six-door wagon)
Capacity: 1.998 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 141 kW @ 5000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 280 Nm @ 1250 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 98ROM
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 5.9 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 138 g/km
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4253 mm
Wheelbase: 2670 mm
Width: 1800 mm
Height: 1441 mm
Turning Circle: Not supplied
Kerb Mass: 1332 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 40 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc
Three years / unlimited km