Car reviews - Mini - Clubman - 5-door
22 Feb 2008
MINI Australia has launched its important third model, which it hopes will draw new customers to the brand from next month.
The Clubman is longer than the standard Mini R56 hatch and features and extra side door to assist with access to the rear seats, plus unique rear ‘barn-doors’ instead of a regular hatch.
A modern version of the Mini Clubman Estate and Austin Mini Clubman that sold from 1960 to 1982, the new Clubman is aimed at people who feel the existing Mini hatch is just too small.
It will be offered in both Cooper and Cooper S form.
From a global perspective, the more spacious Clubman is seen as crucial to Mini’s goal of tapping into the US market to significantly boost the brand’s sales.
Mini Australia is confident the car it calls the “other Mini” will add 300 sales to its tally this year, countering slowing sales of the ageing Mini convertible, which will not be updated until next year.
It doesn’t expect the Clubman will take too many sales away from the Mini hatch.
“We think there will be some substitution, but not much. We have had a lot of conquests with the Mini brand and we expect that to continue with the Clubman,” said Mini Australia marketing manager, Jason Miller.
Pricing for the Clubman starts at $34,400, which represents a $3300 premium over the standard hatch.
The Clubman is 244mm longer than the standard hatch for a total of 3973mm, with an 80mm longer wheelbase.
It is the same width, but 21mm taller than the regular hatch.
The Clubman features 77.5mm more legroom for the rear passengers, along with 16mm more headroom.
All of this adds 80kg to the Mini’s weight tally, which still comes in at a respectable 1145kg.
While the Clubman comes standard as a four-seater, a third rear seat can be ordered for an extra $500.
Access to the back seats has been made easier thanks to a slim, rear-hinged door, located on the right-hand side of the car.
Why did Mini not also include a matching rear door on the left-hand side as well?
Mini said it was a combination of production issues caused by the fuel filler system located where the extra door would go and the fact that it wanted to be unique by offering a door on just one side.
The brand has been criticised because the extra door opens out into traffic in right-hand drive markets, including England - the home of Mini.
Mini Australia played down the issue, stating other cars have doors that open on the traffic side, adding that the driver’s door sticks out far wider when open than the narrow rear door.
Clubman bootspace stands at 260 litres, which is less than the Honda Jazz, more than the Holden Barina and Toyota Yaris and the same as the Ford Fiesta.
It is certainly much better than the standard Mini hard-top, which makes do with 160 litres of boot space.
Rear 50/50-split folding seats can lie flat to open up a much larger space (930 litres), which Mini says will contain a full-size mountain bike.
Below the floor is a spare wheel well, which is empty for Australian cars because they all wear run-flat tyres.
The rear ‘barn doors’ swing open using gas struts to ensure ease of use.
The front of the Mini, from the A-pillar forward, is exactly the same as the hard-top. There is no B-pillar on the right-hand side - it is replaced by the narrow rear door.
Mini decided to make a design feature of the C-pillars, offering them either in black or silver and contrasting with the body colour.
From behind, the different C-pillars draws the eye to the rear barn-doors, clearly differentiating the Clubman from the standard hatch.
Just like its standard sibling, the Cooper Clubman runs a 1.6-litre engine that is part of a joint-venture between Mini parent BMW Group and Peugeot-Citroen.
The four-cylinder engine, with variable valve timing, generates 88kW at 6000rpm and 160Nm at 4250rpm.
It comes standard with a six-speed manual or an optional six-speed automatic for an extra $2200.
By no means a performance car, the Cooper Clubman records a 0-100km/h time of 9.8 seconds in manual form, while the automatic takes an extra 1.1 seconds.
Its fuel consumption number is far more impressive as the Mini Clubman uses just six litres per 100km in manual guise and 6.8L/100 as an automatic.
The Cooper S runs a boosted version of the same 1.6-litre four-cylinder using a twin-scroll turbocharger, with power rising to 128kW at 5500rpm and torque rising to 240Nm at a low 1600rpm.
It dashes from 0-100km/h in 7.6 seconds (the auto takes 0.2 seconds longer).
Fuel consumption is still quite respectable given the performance of the vehicle, with the Cooper S manual using 7L/100km and the auto using 7.8L/100km.
The Clubman is built off the same base as the nimble Mini hatch models, which means it uses MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link rear with aluminum longitudinal arms.
The steering system is rack-and-pinion system with electric assistance, which saves fuel over a hydraulically-assisted set-up.
In the Cooper S model, flicking the Sport button adds weight to the feel of the steering, as well as sharpening the throttle response.
Standard Cooper Clubmans come with 280mm front brake discs, while the Cooper S runs 294mm discs at the front. Both models run 259mm rear discs.
Anti-skid brakes, with electronic brake-force distribution, are standard.
Electronic stability control is standard on all Clubman models, as are six airbags, including front and side driver and passenger airbags and two curtain airbags that protect both the front and rear passengers.
The standard Cooper Clubman costs $34,400 and comes with 16-inch alloy wheels as standard, which is a step up from the standard 15-inch alloys on the Cooper hard-top.
Other standard gear includes parking sensors, air-conditioning, a CD sound system with MP3 player input jack, cruise control and a trip computer.
A Chilli pack is available for the Clubman at $3800 and adds Bluetooth connectivity, 17-inch wheels, Chromeline interior, cloth/leather sport seats, front foglights, premium sound, floor mats, a front armrest and cargo compartment floor.
The Cooper S Clubman costs $43,200 and can be distinguished by the bonnet scoop, honeycomb radiator grille and chromed exhaust pipes.
Over the Cooper specification it adds 17-inch wheels, chequered sports cloth seats and a chequered design for the instrument panel and door trim.
A $3800 Chilli pack adds Xenon headlights, 17-inch light alloy wheels, sports suspension and automatic climate-control.
As with any Mini, there is a plethora of options available to customise your car, at the risk of giving your wallet a pounding.
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