Why choose a Clubman over the standard MINI, which in its own right is becoming as iconic as the 1960s original.
I was given a ride in the original Clubman as a child in the mid-1970s by my grandmother. It may have been bought from new when the car first went on sale in 1969.
But I remember it being a little on the small side then for my growing frame.
Fast forward a couple of decades years and I was able to test drive the revised MINI at a launch event in 2001. And I thought then that it was a little cramped for the driver, never mind the poor souls who would have to sit in the back seat.
So, now it was with some interest that I wanted to see the new Clubman.
It’s 24cm longer than than the hatchback and, crucially, eight of those are in legroom for rear passengers. MINI claims there is now space for three people in the back. Boot capacity has increased to 260 litres with the seats upright and folded 930 litres.
Access is through a pair of rear doors and a so-called ‘Clubdoor’ on the drivers side aka ‘suicide door’ by anyone else you talk to.
Now, I have requested a drive in the Clubman for a simple, practical reason. I like the hatchback a lot, but it is too small. So, if I was going to spend my money on the brand it would have to be a Clubman.
Could it carry the large amount of equipment that I have to lug around to play gigs and practise with my band Rift?
This constitutes a Marshall 2x12” speaker cabinet and head, an effects pedal board, a bag of cables and mics and two guitars. I own a Golf and the boot is full and the back seats utilised to accommodate this onerously heavy amount of luggage.
I was sceptical.
A colleague who had a Clubman on test said there was little chance of fitting my gear in.
However, as this video shows, there were no problems. Dropping the rear seats was simple enough. In fact removing the parcel shelf was a greater challenge as unlocking it from its housing was a fiddly task while bending down to reach into the boot.
Everything fitted in easily with no forward jigsaw puzzle planning needed and no scuffed knuckles through forcing unforgiving plastic against unforgiving plastic. The largest item, the speaker cabinet, slided in the back and over the folded rear seats easily.
I had the biggest doubts about the ‘Clubdoor’. I’d be hard pressed to use it to get myself into the backseat.
The front seats fold forward in the traditional way, which makes access easier, but the attachment of the seatbelt – stretching diagonally between the car and the door make it not only additionally difficult, but a potential hazard.
Catching your foot on it could lead to a pantomime tumble on the way in, but something more serious if you fell into a road on your way out.
I did 115 miles in the Clubman in a weekend, the majority of them carrying my load and despite its considerable weight there was no affect on performance or handling.
The Cooper S is powered by a 1.6-litre four cylinder, direct injection turbo petrol engine and it is probably the most impressive part of the car, offering energetic performance, plus plenty of power managed comfortably through the six-speed gearbox.
The ride isn’t particularly forgiving on an uneven road (the A17 was a case in point), but I think you could get used to this. The lower centre of gravity of the car its grip on the road and resulting envigorating drive also make up for this.
CO2 emissions are 150g/km and BIK tax for a 20% taxpayer would be £57.54 a month. The P11D value of this car is £19,180.
The manufacturer’s combined fuel consumption figures is 44.8mpg. I could only get a maximum of 34.9.
There is a diesel available, the Cooper D, emitting 109g/km and with a combined mpg of 51.4. Tax on this would be £37.55 at 20% and a P11D value of £17,330 with the Chili pack.
The Chili pack adds £2,135 to the price and features to the base spec which includes a three-spoke sports leather steering wheel, leather upholstery, front fog lamps, manual air conditioning, 17-inch Pace Spoke alloys, sports seats, flat load floor and passenger seat height adjustment.
I would recommend the Clubman over the hatch if at any point in your time with it you think you will need to transport anything more than a good sized suitcase.
But, be prepared for disappointment. UK dealership allocations on launch were quickly sold out with full-year orders expected to top 10,000.