This Clubman arrived in August last year, fairly fresh out of the box. It’s a Cooper D, meaning its on-the-road price back then was £21,810 before options (it’s £23,035 now). But BMWs and Minis are easy to option up should you want to, and the biggies on this one were a Media Pack (£1010), which includes sat-nav and enhanced connectivity, and the £2785 Chili Pack, which brings seat upgrades, climate control and separate drive modes. Other options important to me were a throughloading system (£200) and a luggage separating net (£155), given the amount of photography kit I carry.
First impressions were good from a fit, finish and design perspective. I’m a big fan of Mini interiors, with their funk and intelligence, but, from a ‘stacking-it-with-kit’ perspective, the Mini, as you might expect, lags behind those class rivals.
Its boot floor is a touch high and the roof a touch low, and, at 360 litres with seats up, the luggage capacity is smaller than I was used to. But, then, I had at the time just stepped out of a Skoda Superb estate.
But over time, the more cars I try, the more respect I have for the Mini’s entertainment, communications and sat-nav systems. You get a speedo and rev-counter in front of the diddy steering wheel, while the navigation and other infotainment options take up position in the centre of the dashboard. They are bespoke Mini items but the controller is very clearly derived from iDrive system of Mini’s parent company, BMW.
Which means it works splendidly well, and is a lesson in how you can get a system to work without reverting to a touchscreen set-up, thus leaving no grubby finger marks on the dashboard. It integrates really well with a smartphone too; or at least it seemed to with mine. Some cars disable their own navigation when you hook up a smartphone – basically admitting yours is better, which it will be, but it might not be free. Anyway, the Mini let me access my music app but still use its other systems, which seems ideal.
There are also cool ambient lights in the doors and trim. You can choose your hue to make the Mini’s interior feel very special. Although one thing went slightly wrong with it: the collar around the base of the gearlever, which is a switch for the variable drive modes, developed a slight rattle.
Just as impressive is the drivetrain. Obviously, a Cooper of any sort should be brisk, so it gets a sprightly 2.0-litre diesel making 148bhp and, more crucially, 243lb ft from just 1750rpm. The engine has a broad powerband, too, and a slightly rubbery but positive enough manual gearshift. Mini claims all of that is good for a 0-62mph time of 8.6sec, which is utterly believable.