With Fiat’s new 500 receiving a rapturous reception from the press ahead of its UK launch next year, you could forgive MINI for being worried.
BMW’s reinvention of the iconic city car has been massively successful over recent years, but the 500 looks like being a serious contender. What MINI needs, therefore, is something new.
And here it is – the Clubman. It’s essentially new MINI Plus.
From the front to the B-pillar is virtually unchanged from the hatch, but 8cm of legroom have been added for rear passengers, and the “shooting brake” style boot – complete with split rear doors – means more storage room and an overall increase in length of 24cm.
Much has been made of the rear suicide door, designed to allow passengers easier access to the back seats, but only on the right-hand side.
Fine in continental Europe, but in the UK it means embarking and disembarking into the road.
Fleet and retail sales are likely to echo the split of the hatchback, and MINI expects Clubmans to make up 25% of the total cars sold to corporate customers.
Power in the Clubman comes from the familiar units found in the hatchback MINI.
The Cooper D is likely to be the main fleet choice, with 110bhp and 109g/km of CO2.
Also available is a petrol-powered Cooper with 120bhp and a 175bhp turbocharged Cooper S.
Behind the wheel
If I didn’t know I was in a Clubman, I wouldn’t have guessed.
The Clubman retains the same direct handling of the hatchback, and you’d be hard pressed to tell any difference.
Compared to the normal MINI, the extra legroom in the back really makes a difference, although I wouldn’t want to be there for long journeys.
The boot space is up to 260 litres, but still isn’t particularly spacious.
The Clubman is less a utility vehicle and more a variation on a theme. If the hatch is simply too common a sight for you, then the Clubman fills a similar role with more striking looks.
I was struggling to see the point of a MINI with a bigger (yet still small) boot, but now I get it.
If you like the MINI hatch but want to stand out from the crowd, then the Clubman lets you do that while keeping the famed character and dynamics of its older brother.
Model Cooper D
Max power (bhp/rpm): 110/4,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 177 (192 with overboost)/1,750
Max speed (mph) : 120
0-62mph (secs) : 10.4
Fuel consumption (mpg): 68.9 CO2 emissions (g/km): 109 Prices: £15,400 On sale: Nov 10