The MINI Clubman is the latest car to join the Mini stable, and was launched in December 2016. The Clubman is essentially a station wagon version of the Mini Cooper. And, this vehicle is targeted at those buyers who prefer their Mini to have a balanced diet of practicality in addition to the inherent distinct styling and performance-oriented nature.
We had the opportunity to drive the Mini Clubman for a few days and here’s how it fared.
Just like any other Mini, the Clubman carries-on with the striking design that can be spotted from a distance. Everything from the circular head lamps, a nose that’s highlighted in chrome along with the busy design cues of the lower bumper that houses the air dams and fog lamps, all scream exclusivity. However, it is from the profile section that the Clubman begins to stand out from its siblings. You will notice that it is the stretched boot and wheelbase portion that lends the Clubman its estate stance.
And if that wasn’t enough, be prepared for the most unique bit of the Clubman. The barn-doors are unmistakably the Clubman’s most eye-catching feature. A set of windows, wipers, door handles and tail lamps adorn each door, and they open wide enough for one to load the boot with ease. To add some drama to the rear portion, the twin exhausts clearly portray that this people carrier is no slouch in the performance department.
Once you’re seated in the Mini Clubman, you will appreciate the characteristic compact and upright windscreen which reminds one of an aeroplane’s cockpit. This feel is further accentuated by the cockpit influenced toggle switches. The windows are a tad high but the cabin feels airy thanks to the twin sunroofs. Taking prime position on the centre console is a massive circular screen that keeps you updated on the various functions of the car’s settings, navigation and infotainment requirements. Additionally, the lower centre console has enough space for you to store your knick-knacks, two cup-holders and there’s even a double decker centre armrest with an in-built mobile holder. However, what needs some ‘getting used-to’ is the rear split-windscreen that blocks the rear vision.
We felt that the cabin looks very attractive and premium thanks to the eye-catching design that also incorporates some striking grains and superiors fit and finish. There’s a lot of soft touch points on the dashboard, centre console and door pads too. Now, despite the all-black interiors, you’ll find every detail highlighted by chrome inserts which makes it look classy. Slide into the firm manually-operated front seats, and you will find generous head, shoulder and knee room with lots of lateral support to hold you in place for a snug feel. You also have the option of manually adjusting the lumbar and thigh support for attaining an appropriate seating posture.
At the rear, the bench has lesser contours and can comfortably accommodate two thanks to a perfect backrest angle that’s coupled with a decent knee, head and shoulder room. That said, thigh support is in short supply, and squeezing a third passenger would be uncomfortable due to the tall tunnel running through the middle. There’s no arm-rest here either. Now this brings us to the Clubman’s unique barn-doors. Since the car is low, one doesn’t need to lift their baggage much to place it in the square 360-litre boot enclosure. However, you need to watch your head while you bend over to access the boot as we bumped our heads onto the spoiler on more than a few occasions. Nevertheless, this boot can easily swallow two medium sized suitcases and some soft bags.
Features that find their way on to the Mini Clubman are 18-inch alloys with 255/40 section rubber, contrasting roof, DRLs, rain sensing wipers and a twin sunroof. There’s also push button start, 60:40 split-folding rear seats, manually adjustable lumbar and thigh support, a multi-function steering wheel, heated external mirrors, Mini’s central display with LED ring, two rear wipers (one for each door) and an infotainment system with six speakers, AUX, USB, Bluetooth and navigation. Safety features include eight airbags, tyre pressure warning system, brake-pad wear indicator, child seat ISOFIX attachment with anchorages for up to three ISOFIX child seats, and ABS with EBD and corner braking control
Under the hood of the Mini Clubman is the 2.0-litre petrol motor that’s capable of making 191bhp, along with 280Nm of torque from as low as 1250rpm. This engine works in close association with an eight gear automatic transmission that also comes with paddle shifters behind the steering. Off the mark, there is a wee bit of hesitation from this turbocharged engine, but once past that there’s a surge which can be felt at about 1700rpm. Thanks to the enthusiastic nature of this free-revving motor, the mid-range and top-end can get to be quite entertaining. Any keen throttle input is also rewarded with some sporty acoustics from this motor. There are three modes on offer- Sport, Mid and Green which alter the responses from the engine, steering and suspension.
If it’s the best performance you’re after, ‘Sport’ is the mode to select and the driver also gets the option to manually configure the settings. Through this, one can opt to isolate the ‘Sport’ setting to just the engine, only the suspension, or both the engine and suspension. In ‘Sport’ the engine becomes more responsive as the gearbox is holding a lower gear to feed instant response when the driver pushes the throttle. Gearshifts are much quicker and it automatically upshifts at the 6000rpm red line (6400rpm while manually shifting). We’d like to add that this gearbox also downshifts to the red line. The ‘Green’ mode, as the name suggests, is the mode to slot into if all you’re interested in is the best fuel economy. It also allows the driver to opt for the coasting function.
In this mode, engine responses are a lot more relaxed and the gearbox isn’t as quick to shift gears like in the ‘Sport’ mode. Once the driver gets off the accelerator pedal, the transmission quickly upshifts in a bid to save fuel. On the other hand, the ‘Mid’ mode strikes a fair balance between the ‘Sport’ and ‘Green’ modes by offering the best of both worlds in terms of response and fuel efficiency. If at any point you are not in ‘Sport’ mode and need an extra dose of power, just tap the gear lever from ‘D’ to ‘S’ or use the paddle shifts to get the motor into the power band.
Let’s talk about ride and handling now. The Clubman continues with Mini’s lineage of offering a spirited drive and hence you will find that the ride is on the stiffer side. It gets adjustable dampers that alter the ride quality depending on the modes selected (Sport, Mid and Green). While ‘Sport’ mode allows the user to configure the ride to being stiff or not, Mid and Green modes are pre-set by the car maker to not have a stiff setup. At slow speeds and regardless of the mode, going over road imperfections and potholes can be felt within the cabin with a sharp edge.
As the speeds increase, the Clubman absorbs bumps better but there’s no doubt that the noise and ride from the low profile tyres amplify the road imperfections. This in-turn keeps you alert and makes you go easy over bumps to prevent a loud thud from filtering into the cabin. Since the Clubman has a longer wheelbase than the regular Mini’s, you have to negotiate speed breakers with more caution, and the low profile tyres don’t exactly help either. As the driving modes also alter the steering responses, we noticed that the steering got heavier in ‘Sport’ mode and responses felt a whole lot crisper too. This inadvertently made the car more involving to drive, especially around bends.
Mid and Green modes calm the steering responses and make for a more relaxed driving experience (especially in traffic) thanks to it being a lot lighter too. At the wheel, there’s no running away from the fact that you feel like you’re driving a longer Mini, and despite the Clubman rolling a bit, the driver is always in control and it doesn’t dilute the driving experience by a large margin. A small price to pay for the extra rear seat comfort and boot space over the regular Minis. Furthermore, we noticed that the brakes on the Clubman are good with just about the right amount of feedback from the brake pedal.
|Variant||Clubman Cooper S|
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||191 @ 5000|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||280 @ 1250|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||48|
|Tyre size||225/40 R18|
|18-inch alloys with 255/40 section rubber||Yes|
|ABS with EBD and corner braking control||Yes|
|tyre pressure warning system||Yes|
|brake-pad wear indicator||Yes|
|60:40 split-folding rear seats||Yes|
|Mini’s central display with LED ring||Yes|
|Infotainment system with six speakers, AUX, USB, Bluetooth and navigation||Yes|
Let’s stack up what we learnt about the Mini Clubman. Some things that go against it is the absence of electric operation for the seats, a rear split-windscreen that blocks some of the view, seats that are on the firmer side, the absence of a rear armrest, the stiff ride and the high-set windows which tend to restrict the visibility.
On the flipside, buyers will enjoy the unique and feel-special design of the car (both inside and out) plus the barn-doors, twin sunroofs that add an airy feel to the already spacious cabin, adequate boot-space that swells when the seats are folded, an enthusiastic free-revving engine and crisp steering response. If you always wanted to buy the Mini Cooper but felt that it wasn’t practical enough, then the Clubman with its spacious cabin and boot is unquestionably the car for you.
Photos By : Kapil Angane