Its rear doors may be a bit tricky and its high price tag doesn’t quite make sense, but this Mini possesses a host of attractive features, a “well ironed-out ride” and performance that rocks, writes The Nation’s Kingsley Wijayasinha
Over the years, Mini has raced to boost its portfolio in a move to hook a wider range of customers.
Apart from the regular 3- and 5-door hatchbacks, Mini now has a station wagon too and it’s called the Clubman, which is the largest Mini available.
The most notable of the Clubman is the rear cupboard doors, but it also has several other attractions that make it a stylish and practical compact wagon.
We’re used to seeing shorter versions of the Mini, so at first glance the Clubman Cooper S High Trim featured here may appear a little strange. But with the wheels being positioned right at the end of the corners just like the other models, the Clubman doesn’t look too awkward when being driven around.
What you will like is the high-quality interior that sets it apart from cheaper Mini models that have plasticky interior. The Clubman’s cockpit oozes style (a la Mini, of course) and it now feels like a real car rather than a go-kart.
The circular air vents are gone, though, and although the leather upholstery looks great, the seats aren’t that comfortable, being on the sporty/firm side.
The cabin is larger than regular models and can comfortably fit a family, and with the rear seat backrests folded, you get decent cargo space – for a Mini, that is. The driver will find that visibility is significant all around except for the rear: you can thank the pillars of the rear closet doors for that, which is irritating.
The rear doors open nicely with spring assistance, but they also require some effort to close. They may look stylish – which is actually the point – but aren’t as practical as the normal hatchback. You have to open them twice, and walk around them to load stuff. Reminds me of the Ford Ecosport’s rear door that opens on the wrong side (for RHD models), you have to walk around this door too.
Apart from the glossy trim, the interior lighting system is pleasing to the eyes. The red engine toggle switch in the lower centre console blinks until you engage it, and the lighting around the circular centre console display changes colours depending on the driving mode.
But the best surprise comes courtesy of the outer door lights, which beam a large MINI logo on the ground. Very classy indeed.
The Clubman is based on the BMW 2 Series platform and they share lots of things, starting with the engine. Power comes from a twin turbo 2.0-litre engine that develops 192hp and 280Nm of torque at just 1,250rpm. It’s mated to an 8-speed automatic that’s supposed to help lower fuel consumption. Mini claims an average 16.9km/litre, but in real life I was getting about 10km/litre, which is just mediocre.
But talk about performance and the Clubman still rocks. Acceleration from 0-100km/h takes just 7.1 seconds and its top speed is above 220km/h. This feels way beyond Mini territory and more like on BMW turf.
When you drive the Clubman you won’t have much of that go-kart feeling, with the 2,670mm wheelbase wanting to provide a comfortable and stable ride rather than razor-sharp cornering and fidgety straight-line driving. But it is still good to drive, with the Sport mode that stiffens up the steering/suspension and adds aggressiveness to the throttle.
The Clubman runs on 18-inch alloy wheels with low-profile tyres, but the ride has been ironed out pretty well and long drives aren’t exhausting.
Both front and rear brakes are vented discs, with all sorts of electronic assistance.
There are plenty of attractive features starting with a head-up display and including a navigation system, an 8.8-inch colour display screen, a 20GB entertainment server, Mini Connected and powered front seats. You also get Park Distance Control, but there’s no camera and the graphics are outdated. Something more useful would be appreciated here.
The Mini Clubman is a nice, stylish wagon to own, despite its gimmicky rear doors. But the big problem for many is the Bt3.288-million price tag that doesn’t make much sense.
For less than that you can get a 252hp BMW 330e M Sport (Bt3.099 million) and for a little more, the BMW 520d M Sport (Bt3.599 million).
Perhaps it would be wise to look down the Clubman choices, with the price of the entry-level standard Clubman priced at Bt2.388 million. Other locally assembled models from Mini like the Countryman could be a better choice too, with prices ranging from Bt1.87million to Bt2.59 million.
Mini Clubman Cooper S High Trim specs
Engine: 4-cylinder DOHC 16-valve with turbocharger
Bore and stroke: 82.0x94.6mm
Compression ratio: 11.0:1
Max power: 192hp/5,000rpm
Max torque: 280Nm/1,250rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Final drive: 3,200
0-100km/h: 7.1 secs
Top speed: 228km/h
Average fuel economy: 16.9km/l (Mini’s figure)
Suspension (f/r): McPherson strut/multi-link
Steering: powered rack-and-pinion
Turning circle: 11.3 m
Brakes (f/r): vented disc/vented disc
Track (f/r): 1,564/1,565
Wheels: 18-in alloys
Tyres: 225/40 R18
Fuel tank capacity: 48 litres
Price: Bt3.288 million
Distributor: BMW Group Thailand