Vince Pornelos / Vince Pornelos, Brent Co | April 05, 2010 16:51
Trivial PursuitTo be honest with you, I didn't know what to expect with the Clubman. How different will it be from the MINI that we're all familiar with?
From the outset, it was obvious that there are very few external differences from the MINI Cooper. The front end is still the same as the standard Cooper, though the classic tub roof has been swapped for a ridged and recessed one. It's clearly longer from the side by a quarter of a meter and sits slightly higher than the original. The real difference is in the way the doors are designed. The passenger side features a clubdoor that swings out, suicide style, and allows relatively easier ingress and egress for the rear occupants with a wider opening.
Inside, it's classic Cooper. The dashboard features the same unusual layout and design, with recurring motifs of the brands logo, rally inspired two spoke steering wheel and tachometer, aviation inspired toggle switches as well as the huge speedometer in center. It may seem odd at first, but after a few minutes, it's quite easy to get accustomed to the controls and displays.
Being the MPV of the MINI line, it's also a little more practical with more space and storage, though it's really just a shade of gray, not black and white. When you look at it from the outside with the tailgate shut, it looks quite spacious. When you open the 50/50 swing out tailgate it's quite disappointing as the loadspace isn't recessed to offer more than the advertised 260 liters of cargo.
MINI has always been the brand prided itself with having stayed as true to the original three door hatch as possible, and with the Cooper Clubman's four and a half, I thought it might have watered down the MINI Experience even before I fired up the engine. Well, I was strangely surprised.
The Clubman may only be powered by a 1.6 liter engine, but with 120 ps of power and 160 Nm of torque its quite lively. The engine has a willingness to rev and rev hard, and it's matched to a great 6-speed Steptronic transmission (thanks, BMW) with 3 modes of play: D, Ds and M. D is best for everyday driving but if you want to have a little more fun, then Ds or M is for you. Then there's the handling. The Clubman may be quite heavier than the MINI, but does cope well with the extra weight. It's not as sharp as the 3-door, but close enough to wear the proud badge.
They really kept MINI's unique flavor and experience, and that'll always put a smile on your face and everyone who sees you. Insofar as what they were going for in the longer MINI Clubman (space and practicality), it's come up a bit short.