Mini has re-invented its Clubman model as a Focus-sized family hatchback. And it makes a fun and practical choice in volume Cooper D diesel guise.
So what’s it like on the road? A little different from the Mini norm is the answer – but thankfully, not too different.
No, it doesn’t feel quite as sharp and frisky as the five-door Mini Hatch model to drive, but then this is a larger, heavier car. Anyway, compensation comes with better refinement and far superior ride quality thanks to a purpose-designed multi-link rear suspension system.
If you want to tweak the damping, an optional ‘Variable Damper Control’ system allows you to do it, working through the ‘Green’, ‘MID’ and ‘Sport’ settings of the ‘Mini Driving Modes’ system, another extra-cost feature.
Engine-wise, the bulk of the range is based around 2.0-litre power that gives buyers the option of an eight-speed auto box as an alternative to the standard six-speed manual. Most buyers will want the 150bhp Cooper D diesel we tried, a car that makes 62mph from rest in around 8.5 seconds.
There’s no disputing that from the outside, the Clubman still looks like a Mini, even though it’s quite a substantial thing, almost identical in height and width to a Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus.
Two distinctive side-hinged split rear so-called ‘Clubdoors’ mark this model out from any other on the road. They open via a dual-section chrome handle or, with the optional ‘Comfort Access’ feature fitted, by waving your foot beneath the bumper if, key in pocket, you approach the car, laden down with bags.
Inside, you’ll find 360-litres of luggage space. If that’s not enough, then flattening the rear bench frees up more space than any Mini model to date has ever provided – 1,250-litres.
Mini isn’t troubling to address the budget end of the family hatchback segment here, instead targeting this second generation Clubman at Volkswagen’s Golf and better-specified mainstream Focus or Astra models in this sector. That means pricing in the £20,000 to £25,000 bracket.
Here, we’ve been trying the volume 2.0-litre diesel Cooper D version which at the launch of this car was the least expensive diesel variant you could have, priced at just over £22,000. We reckon it’s the one to go for, offering punchy 150bhp performance at a premium of around £2,300 over the 1.5-litre petrol-powered base ‘Cooper’ derivative.
Equipment levels are pretty generous, with the Cooper receiving 16in alloy wheels, sat-nav, Bluetooth handsfree phone connectivity, a central display with LED ring and start/stop with keyless start.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: this Mini won’t be the cheapest car in its class to run. The big 2.0-litre engine you get on Cooper D and Cooper S models makes sure of that. That’s not to say the Cooper D won’t be frugal; official figures suggest it’ll get 68.9mpg, while chucking out 109g/km of CO2.
That isn’t much worse than some smaller 1.6 litre rivals.In summary, if you need a practical car from this brand and find the five-door Hatch model too small and the Countryman Crossover too quirky, then Clubman ownership could be tempting, particularly in this Cooper D guise.
Forget the compromised and poorly executed first generation version of this car: this MK2 Clubman model is a very different proposition. Some other family hatches still offer a little more practicality but there’s no doubt that the prospect of going Club-class and enjoying this car’s eager uniqueness will seem very appealing to many of the new buyers Mini is seeking to target.
Of course, Clubman customers must still be people unafraid to fly in the face of convention. If that’s you though, then a bigger Mini adventure beckons.
Model: Mini Clubman Cooper D
Price: £20,000 to £25,000
Engine: 150bhp Cooper D diesel
Performance: 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds; top speed 132mph
CO2 rating: 109g/km