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REVIEW: Mr Bean’s Mini lives on in the Clubman JCW

2017-12-15 11:41

Charlen Raymond

Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond

Cape Town - Remember that classic television programme we all couldn’t get enough of? That show about that dim-witted, tall man that’s as clumsy as a puppy after a long nap. Yip, that’s right. I’m talking about Mr Bean: the Englishman with the vocabulary that only covered the word “Bean”.

But what Mr Bean had was that little green Mini. The car he drove to every conceivable destination and event, with his on-off “girlfriend” occasionally riding shotgun. That green Mini became a legend. It added to the character of the show. Where Bean would find himself, chances were that little green Mini was somewhere within close proximity.

The show, sadly, is dead now, but the memory of Mr Bean and his green Mini lives on. And it lives on in Mini’s modern-day vehicle offering, too. Like this Clubman JCW (John Cooper Works), for example.

Red with black stripes

The Clubman JCW has an endearing look about it, but it’s not in everyone’s taste. Especially those big headlights: they can be overwhelming, very bug-like. Be that as it may, that is classic Mini. These lights have become a signature design trait of this brand that it would almost be unfathomable to imagine these cars without it. The red colour is as striking as it is good to look at.

And why shouldn’t it be? Mini’s are supposed to exude a sense of occasion, fun, and liveliness. That’s what Mr Bean had with his Mini, so why can’t we. And with the black stripes that’s been added to the pattern, the JCW looks ready to race and ready to impose itself on the driver. 

The Clubman, like the Countryman, is much bigger than the Cooper. It has four doors, seating for five, and a boot that is both practical and usable. At just over 4.2m, the Clubman is not as long as it seems. It looks lengthy at first glance, but the dimensions are compact. Yet it seats five adults in comfort.

Seating five passengers

An attribute of the Clubman JCW is its ability to transport five occupants in comfort. One has to slump into the seats because of how low the car is, but that’s fine. It’s not an uncomfortable process. The same red and black theme on the body runs on the seats as well. It looks sporty too and it hugs the front passengers the moment you slip into them. In the middle of the centre console sits another Mini classic: that big, round information cluster.

Back in the day it used to display only the speedometer, but nowadays it houses a truckload of information that ranges from media, vehicle data/settings, and navigation. And in front of the driver sits the speedometer and rev needle.

What definitely adds to the aura of this car is that the interior lighting can be set according to the driver’s preference (or the passengers’, if they are so bold to take over the controls). The interior will light up like a Christmas tree and the vehicle will have an almost youth-like persona. Because why not, hey. Mini’s were never made to be too mature, too grown-up, too… serious.

Driving a go-kart

What Mini has become known for over the years is how playful their vehicles are to drive, without feeling too light and off-beat. And this Clubman JCW is testament to that. Sporting big optional 19” wheels, the car has an air of solidity about it. It clings to bends, creating a sense of a never-ending supply of grip as it is pushed to the limit. Power is, of course, sent to all four wheels, and the 2.0-litre engine has no problem to continuously supply the tyres with 170kW/350Nm.

These figures may not seem like much, but the playfulness that accompanies the drive is addictive. Especially when the driving mode is flicked into Sport (I didn’t even bother with ‘Normal’ or ‘Green’). Then the JCW becomes alive to the extent that it’d be a sin to get out of the driver’s seat. Because once you’ve set off and the car shoots off the line, it wants to keep going. And going! In just over six seconds the 100km/h mark fly’s past and only at a claimed 238km/h will the car lose steam. But find a decent stretch of road with an overdose of twisties (like I did), and the car becomes something else.

The Mini’s engine will roar as it chases the rev counter’s red line while at the back, with every gear change and lift off the throttle, it burbles to the ears’ delight. Letting the car flow through the bends and always maintaining a racing line will bring out the best in this Mini. It surges forward, it sticks to the road, and it indulges the senses with every passing moment.

And that is what Mini does best. It may have shortcomings in terms of practicality and be slightly less inclined towards a family orientated nature, but it is a fun car of note. It’s no wonder, then, that Mr Bean held onto his green 'Wonder' for all those years. Not because it added to his personality and that clumsy persona of the character, but because it was an experience every time he got behind the wheel. An experience viewers got to share and be a part of.

Even though by a long shot, I’m glad to have met Mr Bean’s Mini.

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