Having attended the Mini Clubman launch back in November, I managed to test drive one the Friday before Christmas. Though picking up a car from Boucher Road at lunchtime on the day that everyone escapes from work early wasn’t the best idea of the year! And leaving it back at 5pm was even worse.
(I didn't take any photos of the car - but then discovered it was one of the launch models and I'd some handy snaps from November.)
The alpine white Clubman I drove was 24cm longer than the standard Mini Cooper that I’ve been driving for the last four years. The extra side door beside the drivers door – often dubbed the suicide door – gives much better access to the back seats. Combined with the extra 8cm of legroom, it’s particularly useful for fitting a car seat and getting a toddler in and out. (Big hit with a three year old!)
The split back doors give good entry into the boot. Despite the extra length, you’ll only fit the smallest of buggies into the diminutive boot. You can accommodate a regular one by putting down one of the split back seats – but it brings a bit more road noise into the car interior.
I’d wondered if the split door wouldn’t badly obscure the view out the back window ... but the door frame is thin enough that stereo vision (two eyes looking at slightly different angles) compensates and you’ll not miss anything – other than a very slim signpost!
There’s a new BMW engine in the Clubman – it’s a lot quieter than the Cooper from four years ago, and allegedly less thirsty for petrol. Not sure why it needed a sixth gear though? The petrol model I test drove features eco-start/stop. So when its out of gear and travelling less than a couple of miles an hour the engine cuts out. And then when you put your foot down on the clutch it starts up again. Causes you to be a bit heavy with your right foot at the start, but I adapted within an hour.
There have been a few other less favourable “improvements”. The indicators no longer move up and down properly, making it hard to cancel or just blink briefly. And radio’s been integrated into the central dial, creating oodles of buttons but much harder to control.
But it drives well, and it is tempting to order one in the New Year to replace the Cooper that has to go back on its fourth birthday in January to be sold on some lucky punter.