Mini's Clubman might be gimmicky but in typical Mini tradition it is a lot of fun. The extra space and versatility, although not too significant, gives the Clubman some extra appeal without compromising the Mini's funky or sporty attitude.
But whereas the normal Mini hatch is sporty, the Clubman is cute…
The extra "Clubdoor" and the vertically split hatch doors drew comments such as "adorable", "sweet" and "charming". So, if these kinds of comments will make you feel insecure, then stay away from the Clubman.
Like its hatch sibling, the Clubman is a niche vehicle aimed at those seeking trendy wheels. Yes, the extra space helps a bit, but it is still not a family runabout or people mover. It is basically just a "must-have" car that will be attractive to the café society and city slickers.
Whether you like it or not, the Clubman grabs attention and BMW deserves recognition for successfully expanding the Mini range as this car as that pull factor.
On the inside the Clubman is pure Mini sharing its interior layout with that of the hatch. There's a feel-good aura and the perceivable fit and finish are of a high standard.
It is quite a safe car too as there are six airbags, with the curtain airbags extending further back than in the hatchback. There are also three-point seatbelts and Isofix child seat mounting points on the rear seats.
Clubman buyers also have a vast list of options to choose from to individualise their wheels. However, like other Mini models, be aware that one can hike the total price significantly once you start speccing it up.
The Clubman is positioned as the more versatile option in the Mini range.
Naturally it boasts some extra space as the Clubman is longer and has an extended wheelbase. It is 24cm longer than the hatch and the wheelbase is stretched by 8cm, which boosts rear legroom and boot space.
Of course its most distinctive feature is the extra door. Behind the driver's door is the rear-hinged "Clubdoor", which is aimed at improving rear access.
But it isn't necessarily as practical as Mini's marketing talk would want one to believe. Firstly, it is positioned on the wrong side for safe use in South Africa since the door opens into traffic. Secondly, if you are parked in a tight spot next to another car or wall it isn't easy to access either. Furthermore, the Clubdoor's window pillars create some really nasty blindspots.
The rear twin swing-out doors deserve a thumbs up as they are not only funky but quite practical. It is easy to load goodies and boot space is of course slightly better than on the Cooper models.
However, like the Clubdoor there is a downside to these barn-style doors too as rear ward visibility is restricted due to the split rear window.
With a 260-litre boot it is still small and folding the rear seats down is an easy process which boosts load capacity to 930 litres.
The Clubman's overall DNA is basically the same as that of the hatch. It comes with a complete safety package too which includes stability control, cornering brake control and hill-start assist
The Clubman S's 1.6-litre four-cylinder power unit develops a maximum output of 128 kW at 5 500 r/min with the help of a twin-scroll turbocharger and direct petrol injection.
Torque is 240 Nm all the way from 1 600 to 5 000 r/min, with a further brief increase to an even more significant 260 Nm by means of the Overboost function.
Performance is almost on par with that of the hatch and the Clubman does 0-100 km/h in 7.6 seconds instead of the hatchback's 7.1 seconds.
With BMW's EfficientDynamics technology the Clubman S has outstanding fuel economy with a claimed average petrol consumption of 6.9 litres/100 km. Its CO2 emission rating, at 150 grams per kilometre, is as impressive.
What is great about the Clubman is that the Mini spirit is still there. The three-door Mini is renowned for its poise and balance, and the Clubman doesn't disappoint…
Handling remains tops and the longer wheelbase gives a better sense of stability. But what is more is that it actually improves the overall ride quality.
Then of course the Clubman is an agile number too with the car keeping its pose though corners. Also, an optional limited-slip differential on the Cooper S improves grip, road manners and balance.
So, basically the Clubman succeeds to combine its agility with added stability.
Why would one buy a Clubman? Well, as with the other Mini products conventional thinking doesn't apply. It is an exciting small car with added versatility while retaining the go-kart feel of the Mini hatch.
Yes, it might be pricey and not sensible, but the Mini recipe succeeds as the Clubman not only feels exclusive but is thrilling too.
- Fun to drive
- Build quality
- Not too versatile
- Blind spots