Mini but mighty

by Michael Moroney
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I’VE re-lived the Mini experience in the new generation Mini Clubman in recent weeks and it has rekindled a warm relationship with the iconic British car brand.
Those who were reared with the original Mini as their first driving experience will appreciate the transformation that the Mini brand has undergone.
Younger drivers will take the car for what it is; a solid small car with great driving ability that despite its size always pervades a feeling of strength.
This Clubman version plays on a van-type design with twin opening rear doors and that design feature gives stand-out identity to the car that’s anything but a van in image and driving experience.
The Clubman version of the Mini gives it a more male perspective, because the standard Mini has become seen as more of a female desire car. This Clubman with its extended wheelbase adds a different sense of appeal, while it uses all of the design features and more to change how you look at the car.
What you get from a Mini Clubman is more space and more flexibility with a different boot access through the twin opening rear doors.
The rear legroom from the extended wheelbase (that’s 100mm longer than the standard Mini) gives impressively more rear legroom, even if the headroom remains a shade challenged. That rear space seems less crowded and the enhanced legroom is instantly noticed.
Mini, which is owned by the BMW group, has the benefit of BMW diesel engine technology and that’s seen first-hand in this Mini One D version of the Clubman, powered by an impressive twin-turbo diesel three-cylinder engine that’s very powerful.
The engine’s smoothness under the cramped bonnet area has to be driven to be appreciated. The power output at 115bhp and 270Nm of torque is so impressive, while its performance in acceleration terms at 10.4 seconds in a 0 to 100km/hr race, is very acceptable.
I took the car across a range of conditions and I was equally impressed with its fuel economy figures. The official rated economy level is 26m/litre (3.9/100km or 60mpg); my 600km test drive returned a 30% lower figure.
The fact that the car could cruise at 120km/hr on motorways at just shy of 2000rpm on the engine, made this economy level possible.
This level of economy could give me a range of about 950km with the car’s 48 litre capacity fuel tank. Anywhere close to the 1,000km range on a full fuel tank is where I believe a modern car should be, and this new Mini Clubman meets that challenge.
The car came with the standard six-speed manual gearbox that seemed to have some high points in terms of ratios that took a little getting used to.
I found that the gear change was a little less smooth than I would have liked, and the clutch pedal a shade heavier, not exactly what you want if you’re planning a drive to a night out in your best ‘car-to-bar shoes’.
The additional boot space in the new Mini Clubman is one of its key selling features. The boot space at 360 litres – which extends to 1250 litres – is impressive and deceptive for the relatively small car. I tested the extended load capacity with a stepladder and the flexibility of the space impressed.
The boot area is deeper than other Mini models to give a depth of load space that surprised me. Despite this, the Mini does not come with a spare wheel, which I consider one of its very few drawbacks.
This new Mini is a solid-feeling car that scores highly in terms of safety too. The car has a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.
Mini claims that in addition to the stiff, rigid and light-weight body structure, a complete set of standard safety features also gives enhanced occupant protection of the new Mini One D Clubman.
Fitting that child seat takes a bit of bending down, but that’s because of the low stance of the car itself.
The standard specification features of the new Mini Clubman are impressive, including Mini Navigation, a sport leather steering wheel with multi-function control and 16in alloy wheels and alarm with immobiliser.
The entry price for the petrol version is €28,278 while the new diesel option that I drove adds another €2,000 to the price.

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