Have you ever had one of those moments where you finally catch a glimpse of a car you’re determined to hate and think – realise – that perhaps the manufacturer has got it right after all?
For me, this happened with most BMWs about 18 months ago, primarily as Chris Bangle’s ‘flame surface’ styling was refined. These days, I lust after the latest 3-series coupe, whereas I wouldn’t have given the previous generation a second glance.
And now the same has happened with the Mini Cooper. I don’t ‘get’ Mini, generally; it’s style over substance, a decent drive with virtually no practicality sitting on top of it. And I loathe the centrally mounted speedometer, which is proof that ergonomics were thrown out of the window when it came to reinventing British motoring’s most famous icon.
And yet, last night I drove home in the new Clubman. It had room for a decently sized suitcase and half a dozen bags full of shopping, and if I’d wanted to take a couple of mates along it could have coped with them at the same time. It was nippy, good to drive, and as it sat gleaming under artificial light in the supermarket car park, I actually thought its proportions were quite attractive. There’s some beautiful detailing and engineering to enjoy, too.
It was, I must admit, a bit of a revelation. I still hate the speedo, though; I guess that proves that even the best cars can only redeem themselves so much.