MINI Cooper D

Clubman

MINI Clubman Cooper S 2015, front
MINI Clubman Cooper S 2015, nose
MINI Clubman Cooper S 2015, side
MINI Clubman Cooper S 2015, rear
MINI Clubman Cooper S 2015, interior
MINI Clubman Cooper S 2015, tailgate
MINI Clubman Cooper S 2015, boot
MINI Clubman Cooper S 2015, front seats

AS the MINI family expands and evolves the new version of the Clubman has to represent a quantum leap forward.

While some MINI creations might seem unnecessary or even downright silly the Clubman makes sense in pretty much every respect.

Of course a Clubman should be an essential member of any modern MINI line-up - after all it was a variant on the original Mini back in the day when the range was certainly more simple and straightforward.

And it's not BMW's first attempt at it but this all-new version launched last year hits the mark and measures up in all respects far better than its predecessor.

What it represents is a real attempt to get into the family car market and overcomes all the shortcomings of the model it replaced.

For a start that only had one door on one side - a ‘clubdoor' to access the rear seats. This Clubman actually has two conventional rear doors which makes far more sense.

It total it actually has six doors, would you believe, if you add in the twin doors to access the boot, an idea carried over from the old Clubman.

Impressively they pop open at the press of a switch on the key fob, press once for one door and twice for two. I actually really loved this feature - though I am easily pleased at times.

Popping boot doors apart this Clubman has a huge advantage over the old model in that it is way bigger on the inside.

The last Clubman had to be one of the most cramped estate cars ever while this one delivers a level of practicality that should see it prove a real hit as a family car.

It's the largest model MINI has yet made and in many ways is a revelation.

The Clubman is 270mm longer and 73mm wider than the five-door hatch and you really notice the extra space in the rear seats where passengers seem to have an abundance of legroom, even sat behind a 6ft 1in driver like me.

Headroom is also noticeably generous throughout the cabin.

Okay, the fact it's an estate might lead some to get a little carried away with its practicality plus points - don't be thinking this is a load-lugger in the conventional sense of the word - but more a rival to premium family hatchbacks and compact crossovers. In terms of boot space there's 360-litres or 1,250 litres with the rear seats folded down.

Quirky trademark MINI styling gives it added appeal and as far as estates go it really manages to look stylish, sporty and dare I say it sexy.

The designers really have delivered and as well as positive first impressions there are lots of subtle design flourishes that help it to stand out, such as the liberal use of chrome and some snazzy light clusters.

Inside, the Clubman oozes a premium feel throughout. Great sports seats and a redesigned centre console that fuses the retro with the modern perfectly are among the features that help make you instantly at home and give you the feeling you're sitting in something special.

So how's the Cooper when it comes to delivering that famous MINI driving experience - which is after all one of the key hallmarks of the brand.

While the previous Clubman fell short of the mark this version is way better. In truth it doesn't quite match the driving dynamics of the three-door or five-door hatch variants but it comes pretty close.

One of the main reasons is the engineers have tried to combine refinement and reasonably comfortable ride quality with a car that's fun to drive and in fairness they've done a decent job via a softer suspension set-up.

FAST FACTS

MINI Cooper D Clubman

Price: £22,385

Mechanical: 150bhp, 1,995cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 132mph

0-62mph: 8.6 seconds

Combined MPG:68.9

Insurance Group: 18

C02 emissions: 109g/km

Bik rating: 21%

Warranty: 3yrs/100,000 miles

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