Return of the Clubman
May 30, 2008
What’s not to like about the Mini Clubman? This car? Just look at it. It’s as cheeky and well built as the reincarnated Mini – but a heap more practical.
I’m biased. As a child my mum had a bright orange Traveller into which we would all pile on a Saturday morning to do the rounds of the local shops. It was the same route each week, butchers, veg shop and finally Eddlestones for still warm bread and those little mini pies and the car filled up with the smell of goodness. Happy days.
But the new Clubman is really nothing like the old Traveller. For a start it doesn’t come in orange. It comes in chic colours like rich cream and hot chocolate because this time round it is as much about style as it is about substance.
The style of the dash is the same as the standard minis with the big speedo (good), the almost as big rev counter right in front of the steering wheel (bad) and the lever-like fiddly switch gear (very bad).
It is obviously longer than the standard Mini which is a good thing for the back seat passengers who get a welcome 24cm of extra room.
Measure it out, it’s quite a lot, and you can specify a bench seat as in the original so you can cram in the kids – but probably not quite as many as was considered legal back in the 70s.
The styling controversy about this car is the doors. There’s a doll-size like opening behind the drivers door to allow access to the back. At first it was something cutely different, but after a couple of days I got sick of having to get out first and the kids got sick of getting tangled in the seat-belt.
Add to that the fact it opens onto the road and you realise why it rarely got used.
The vertically split rear doors however are a triumph of style, design and practicality.
Thanks to cut-outs for the new light configurations they open right back allowing great access for big loads but also open independently and easily for you just to chuck in a bag of shopping – or a dog.
The man in the press office reckons he got his golden Labrador in the back but, in truth, the space is more terrier sized.
I drove the Cooper which delivers 118bhp via a six-speed box which is quite enough power for a car of this size and it was wonderfully grippy along the country lanes. There are reports that the Cooper S has just too much beef and skits alarmingly around bumps and bends.
Style is fashion and the Clubman is flying out of the showrooms and on to the roads, where it is turning heads.
The order books are still full which means those models that are starting to filter through to the auctions are holding their value.
The long-term value and reliability is down, not only to great build quality but the fact most buyers plump for a TLC pack which ensures regular servicing.
If you are considering buying, go for the Cooper and spend the money you save over the Cooper S on a host of extras which will help come re-sale time.