The new MINI Clubman aims to offer all the fun of a MINI Hatch but with extra space, and it has achieved a Green Car Guide real-life fuel economy record.
The new MINI Clubman replaces the previous Clubman, which was widely criticised for having two and a half doors plus the rear doors, and the half door was on the wrong side of the car for the UK market, meaning that children in the back seat usually had to get out onto the road rather than onto the pavement. The latest Clubman takes a regular MINI and makes it into a five-door hatchback, and the Cooper D is the model which offers the best economy. It’s all sounding good so far…
The Clubman looks like a MINI Hatch at the front, but stretched rear legroom and boot space results in an estate appearance from the side, and the horizontal rather than vertical rear lights make it look very different from the Hatch at the back.
From the driver’s seat, the interior is as per the Hatch, and under the skin is the standard range of MINI powertrains, with a choice between Cooper, Cooper D and Cooper S, and manual or automatic transmissions. Most models are front-wheel drive, although you now have the option of an all-wheel drive Clubman.
Our test car is the Cooper D, with a 2-litre turbodiesel engine and a 6-speed manual transmission.
Despite the Clubman being stretched, it still retains the MINI driving experience. This starts with the driving position. You sit low down, the seat is comfortable, it has lots of adjustment, and the same is true of the chunky steering wheel. Many cars have already gone wrong at this point, so having a good driving position is an encouraging start.
The dashboard has matured compared to the previous generation of MINI. The infomedia system is better (the large central speedo has more sensibly become the satnav), and the overall layout and quality has improved. However the fun factor of the interior environment is still there, and in some areas this has been accentuated, such as by the glowing surround of the central infomedia screen. Our car also projected the MINI badge onto the floor when the driver’s door was opened at night – surely an essential option?!
As soon as you drive off, like other MINIs, it instantly feels good. The Clubman is longer and heavier than the Hatch, but it’s still agile. One of the big differences compared to the previous generation of the MINI is the much more comfortable ride and overall refinement when driving. This quality is equally evident in the Clubman – in general driving, but especially on the motorway.
The ride is comfortable and the handling taut, and the steering is also well weighted and responsive. It’s this combination of a direct driving experience and comfort that elevates the MINI from the ranks of the regular hatchback to more of a fun driver’s car.
The 150hp diesel engine is responsive, and the gearbox is (mostly) good. You can choose between settings of Mid, Green and Sport via a controller at the base of the gear selector. In cold and wet winter weather you can experience some grip challenges from the front-wheel drive chassis, but any wheelspin or mild understeer is always controllable.
So what about any downsides of the Clubman? It’s not a big issue, but visibility is constrained by the vertical line created in the centre of the rear windows by the two rear door frames. Even the two rear wipers coming together in the centre of the rear view mirror is a strange visual experience at first.
Other minor issues are that it’s too easy to put the Clubman into reverse when trying to select first gear, and the buttons to select ventilation options are low down with very small symbols, but perhaps the biggest issue was the tyre noise on some road surfaces.
The official NEDC combined economy figure for the Cooper D Clubman is 68.9mpg, equating to 109g/km CO2 (for manual or automatic transmission). However these figures are for standard wheels and tyres; the figures for our test car were 64.2mpg and 115g/km CO2.
We’re resigned to expect much worse fuel economy in real-life, so what did the Clubman achieve? Amazingly, after a week of mixed driving, but with the vast majority at 70mph on the motorway, we averaged 65.7mpg. This beats the official combined figure, which is the first time this has ever happened in ten years of Green Car Guide reviews.
So why is this? The NEDC test is conducted in a lab on the rolling road. In comparison, most cars perform badly in real life at 70mph on the motorway due to aerodynamics, which don’t come into play on the NEDC test. Weight is the other key factor, especially when accelerating. The MINI has a small frontal area (despite the larger wheels fitted to our test car), and a relatively long body, all of which helps with aerodynamics. It also weighs 1395kg, which is reasonably lightweight for a five-door family hatchback.
Even though diesel engines are seen by the media as the devil from a local air quality point of view, downsized petrol engines wouldn’t deliver this sort of economy on long motorway runs, and neither would plug-in petrol electric hybrids.
The base price of our test car was £22,245. There were a number of options such as metallic paint (£515), leather interior (£815), Media Pack (£1,010), CHILI Pack (£2,785) and Driving Assistant Pack (£810); in total all options took the price to £30,160.
You can also choose a Cooper (with a 136hp 1.5-litre turbo 3-cylinder petrol engine) or a Cooper S (with a 192hp 2-litre turbo 4-cylinder engine), manual or automatic transmission, and now you can even have an all-wheel drive Clubman.
As with other MINIs, you can go wild with personalisation options.
The MINI Cooper D Clubman may be seen as a niche alternative choice for a family hatchback, especially as many buyers are instead choosing crossovers. However the Clubman, now with a decent amount of space for rear passengers and luggage, offers a good all-round package, with a major focus on character and driving fun.
But as our week with the car has shown, an efficient 2-litre diesel engine in a small car with good aerodynamic properties can be extremely economical during motorway driving. Company Car Benefit in Kind tax encourages vehicles such as petrol plug-in hybrids, but if BIK was instead based on real life driving economy and CO2 emissions, then the MINI Clubman would be a very popular choice.
The MINI Cooper D Clubman was due to be awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10, but when we calculated its real-life economy, it had to be promoted to a 10 out of 10 for delivering the two key things that we look for in a car: a great driving experience and efficiency.