Join the club, man
THE original Clubman was launched in 1969 and probably wasn't a highlight of the Mini's development. Styled by Roy Haynes, it got an uglier face and indicators borrowed from an Austin Maxi. Quite why BMW should have resurrected this badge seems odd, but at the time, they had difficulty securing the rights to the Traveller and Countryman names, but this latter day Clubman is a far smarter piece of kit than the original. Arriving in dealerships in November 2007, the Clubman was initially offered in three guises, Cooper ,Cooper D turbodiesel, and turbocharged Cooper S. The entry-level 1.4-litre MINI One Clubman arrived in March 2009 with the ripsnorting 208bhp Cooper S JCW edition arriving at the end of 2009.
In 2010, the MINI One Clubman swapped its 1.4-litre lump for a cleaner 1.6-litre engine, while power output for the Cooper rose from 119 to 122bhp and the Cooper S model stepped up from 175 to 184bhp. Summer 2010 saw a raft of design changes. At the front, a new bumper with a lower air intake served not only to update the car's look but also to improve pedestrian protection courtesy of larger deformation zones. Revised fog lamps were fitted while the typical round MINI headlights got new light elements, with optional Xenon lamps featuring Adaptive headlights as an option. The indicator featured a distinctive design of concentric circles sitting within the redesigned side gill housings. At the rear, a revised bumper assembly was fitted as well as LED tail and brake lights. Integrated reversing and rear fog lamps were housed in the rear bumper.
The Clubman is a five-door car but the doors aren't exactly where you'd expect them to be. It's business as usual at the front but access to the rear seating is through a single 'suicide' door on the right-hand side. Hinged on its rearmost edge so that it opens in the opposite direction to the front doors, it's positioned on the right-hand side of the Clubman and there's no equivalent on the left. It means that rear seat passengers in right-hand drive markets like the UK are forced to exit into the road. MINI recognises the problem but explains that shifting the rear door to the left would mean relocating the fuel filler cap, the costs of which would be "prohibitive". At the back, there's more access fun and games. The Clubman employs a pair of side-hinged doors reminiscent of the old Mini Traveller. These are a key design feature of the car and the one that does most to differentiate Clubman from MINI.
With an 8cm longer wheelbase and around 2cm of extra roof height plus identical components as far back as the B-pillars, there doesn't seem to be much scope for the Clubman to dramatically exceed the interior space of the MINI. Crucially though, it's 24cm longer overall thanks to the extended rear overhang and that has helped BMW squeeze in 8cm of extra rear legroom while upping the boot capacity from a paltry 160 litres to a respectable 260. The rear seats take the form of a three-seater bench in the standard car but the standard MINI's two-person pods can be reinstated as a no cost option if you don't need the middle berth.
Many of the teething troubles that afflicted the previous generation MINI have been laid to rest with the latest car.
The engine line-up merits investigation too. The early Clubman One model uses a 95bhp 1.4-litre engine while the diesel in the MINI Cooper D offers plenty of torque. The cars that have provoked the biggest clamour, the Cooper and Cooper S, both use versions of the same 1.6-litre powerplant. The Cooper is normally aspirated, initially being propelled by a 119bhp engine that will get it from rest to 60mph in 8.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 126mph. The Cooper S gets an intercooled and turbocharged version of this engine that was at first good for 175bhp and would punt it through 60mph in 7.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 140mph. If economy is your number one priority, the 64mpg Cooper D will take some beating.