We’ve had fast and focused (Works GP), 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.
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 114bhp to 227bhp. Prices start at £20,105 – putting the car within £55, 2mm on overall length and 20 litres on seats-up boot space of Volkswagen’s cheapest 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.