We’ve had fast and focused (Works GP and John Cooper Works Challenge), pumped-up and alternative (Countryman, Paceman), funky and fun-loving (Coupé, Roadster), sensible and even quietly good value (Mini One). Now it’s time to aim for grown-up. Ordinary, even.
The new Mini Clubman may look like an estate version of an upmarket supermini, but it’s actually more interesting and less niche: it’s Mini’s first attempt to lure customers out of a sensible five-seat family hatchback.
Since the launch of the ‘new’ Mini in 2001, the company has wondered what to offer customers who’ve grown out of their Cooper hatchbacks and convertibles. The Countryman has done its bit, although it isn’t a mainstream solution, and the five-door hatch helps slightly on the practicality front but isn't really the answer to the conundrum.
In place of the first-gen Clubman, with its limited added practicality and its extra side door misplaced in right-hand drive markets, comes a ‘mature and sophisticated’ family car.
It’s ‘a premium vehicle of first-rate materials, excellent luggage capacity and the highest level of ride refinement seen in a Mini’, they say.
Significantly longer and wider than both the previous Clubman and the current five-door hatch, the new Clubman also has a dedicated suspension set-up and is the first Mini offered with an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Engines include three and four-pot turbo petrols and diesels, ranging from 134bhp to 228bhp, as the low-powered One D was quietly dropped from the range. Prices start at £20,730 – putting the car within £500, 5mm on overall length and 20 litres on seats-up boot space of Volkswagen’s SE-trimmed five-door Golf 1.4 TSI.
So can Mini tone down its trademark ‘go-kart handling’, turn up the quality, comfort and usability, retain its charm and take one of the biggest hatchback market segments of them all by storm? Let’s find out.