By: Neville Beeton
Stockholm, Sweden - Bigger is better. Any fears that the wider and longer new Mini Clubman would be bloated and overweight, spelling the end of its characteristic fun, go-kart handling, were soon laid to rest on country roads outside Stockholm at last week’s world launch.
The top-of-the-range Cooper S Clubman with TwinPower Turbo’ed two-litre petrol four quickly endeared itself with its 141kW propelling it to the horizon like a homesick angel. The Cooper Clubman with a feisty 100kW, three-cylinder 1.5-litre TwinPower Turbo is no slouch either.
The head honchos at the international launch were at pains to point out that despite an increase in length and width, the Mini Clubman remains the smallest vehicle in the premium compact segment. Mini’s station wagon (or shooting brake, as its maker prefers to call it) has matured in this latest reincarnation of the original Clubman which first appeared in 1969. Now 270mm longer and 90mm wider than the previous Clubman, this five-door Mini has become a fully-fledged five-seater with ample head and leg-room for rear passengers.
The cabin has been entirely redesigned with a plethora of features, some standard and some optional. For the first time seats for both driver and front passenger are electrically adjustable with memory function. The Cooper S comes with sport seats and enthusiasts can opt for John Cooper Works sports seats.
The BMW influence can be seen throughout the cabin, with a controller on the centre console between the driver and passenger for selecting and controlling functions such as navigation and an optional head-up display. But the large circular dial on the centre of the dashboard so typical of Mini remains, and serves as a display for vehicle information, infotainment, phone and navigation features, and now has a funky LED lighting ring which changes colour briefly as different functions are selected,
Driverv aids include camera-based active cruise control, collision and pedestrian warning with initial brake function, parking assist and rear-view camera.
Firing the Clubman up is done with a red toggle switch, and three different driving modes – Mid, Sport and Green – can be selected with a flick of a rotary switch that alters the driving characteristics for acceleration and steering.
In Sport mode the throttle and steering are quicker and more responsive, while in Green mode a more relaxed and fuel-efficient driving style is used.
The increase in the car’s size can be felt slightly on initial pull away, but once the Mini gets going it pulls with gusto as a slick six-speed manual gearbox - or eight-speed steptronic auto gearbox - ensures it stays in the powerband. The eight-speed Steptronic transmission is optionally available for the first time in a Mini. The Clubman retains its nimble handling on 17 inch wheels, using single-joint front struts with newly developed components, a multi-link rear axle, a large track width and high levels of body stiffness. Electromechanical power steering with Servotronic function loads the steering up nicely as speed increases and the Clubman scoots around corners.
Claimed sea-level acceleration for the Cooper S Clubman on the 0-100km/h dash is 7.2 seconds with a top speed of 228km/h, while the Cooper Clubman is a little slower, doing the 0-100 getaway in a claimed 9.1 seconds and reaching Vmax at 205km/h.
Claimed fuel consumption for the Cooper S is 6.3 litres per 100km, for the Cooper, 5.3 litres per 100km.
Bigger translates into more boot space as well and the Clubman swallows 360 litres of baggage which can be extended to 1250 litres by folding down the 40:20:40 split rear seat-back. The trademark split rear doors remain, making it easy to load large items. Opening the rear doors can be done either by using the handles or by swiping a foot under the rear bumper, upon which the doors open automatically – a handy feature when approaching the vehicle with your arms loaded with baggage.
The Cooper Clubman and Cooper S Clubman are due to reach our shores in March 2016, with respective pricing of about R343 000 and R415 000.