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MINI Clubman First Drive

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MINI Clubman-1

MINI has introduced a new Clubman to its immense range of models. From Hatch to Countryman with a Coupé, Convertible and Paceman in between there’s a mini variant available to suit all types. Following on from the newly launched five-door hatch, Mini has just launched its new Clubman model across Europe. The Clubman will have its official Irish launch on the 31st October coinciding with the car’s arrival in showrooms around the country. The original Mini Clubman first appeared in 1969, with a production run to 1982. There was a lengthy period until 2007 when MINI under BMW’s stewardship produced a modern Clubman. They have sold in excess of 200,000 units, with Mini’s worldwide sales increasing by 20 per cent this year.

MINI Clubman-5

This new Clubman is larger and more spacious than its predecessor, it’s 270mm longer with a 100mm longer wheelbase and is 90mm wider. It shares the same platform as the BMW 2-Series Active Tourer. Thankfully Mini’s design team has replaced the awkward rear-hinged single side rear door with a pair of conventional front-hinged doors. Having just one rear side door that was rear-hinged on the driver’s side was not the safest way of letting passengers in and out of the car. The new Clubman now has a symmetrical appearance with its full complement of four doors. The rear vertically-split doors remain and can now be opened automatically using the key fob or optional comfort access, whereby you simply place your foot under the rear bumper which opens the boot door. The boot floor can be raised or lowered to accommodate 360 litres of luggage, this expands to 1,250 litres with the rear seats folded down.

The exterior design is typical Mini fashion, albeit slightly longer than you envisage a typical Mini to be. The rear of the car has the best proportions with the vertically split boot doors and horizontal rear tail lights. It’s just a shame that these aesthetically pleasing doors hinder rear visibility when driving. The interior is constructed from the typical high quality materials we have become accustomed too with Mini’s. The traditional circular air vents have been replaced by square ones. There is a good sense of space in the cabin with generous headroom for all occupants. The driving position is low, close the car’s centre of gravity.

MINI Clubman-3

The driving experience is typical Mini-style, fun and rewarding. Once off the motorway the Clubman’s Mini genes kick in along twisty sections of rural roads. The steering is precise and accurately weighted when you select Sport mode, along with a more responsive throttle. We drove the Cooper S variant with a six-speed manual transmission and a new eight-speed automatic transmission. The automatic transmission is our preferred option, especially for city driving. There’s sufficient power throughout the rev range in the Cooper S Clubman with an abundance of roll on power in top gear on the motorway.

Initially there will be three Mini Clubman models on offer to Irish motorists, the Cooper Clubman, Cooper D Clubman and the Cooper S Clubman. With only the Cooper S variant available for test at launch we didn’t have the opportunity to drive the Cooper D Clubman (Priced from €32,570) which will no doubt account for the majority of Irish sales. It’s powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, complete with Mini TwinPower turbo technology to deliver 150hp and 330Nm of torque. With CO2 emissions of 109g/km it is seated in tax band A3 with an annual road tax fee of €190. Official fuel consumption figures show a combined 4.1L/100km (68.9mpg). A Cooper SD variant will join the range in the coming months. It’s arguably a superior purchase than its petrol sibling, with just two horsepower less yet boasting an impressive 400Nm of torque, it’s set to offer notable performance combined with decent fuel economy and low road tax. The only problem I can envisage with this much torque going through the front wheels is the inevitable torque steer. There was some torque steer felt under hard acceleration in first and second gear on our Cooper S test car.

MINI Clubman-2

In terms of competitors for this Mini Clubman there is an abundance of opponents lined up, including the Audi A3, Volkswagen Golf and Mercedes-Benz CLA. Pricing for the new Mini Clubman commences from €29,560 for the Cooper variant. The standard level of equipment has increased over its precursor, with satellite navigation now incorporated along with USB and Bluetooth connectivity, 16-inch alloy wheels and a centre armrest. Mini Ireland expects over 50 per cent of Clubman customers to select the Chili pack, this adds cloth/leather upholstery with heated sports seats, comfort access, park distance control, automatic air conditioning, LED headlights and LED fog lights.

This new Mini Clubman is being manufactured at MINI’s Oxford plant alongside the three and five-door Hatch models. With five new models coming on stream by 2020 it seems MINI is set to continue to expand. This new Mini Clubman adds a healthy dose of practicality to a charming car.

MINI Clubman-4

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