The MINI brand has become synonymous with quirky cars that defy the norm, and the MINI Clubman has to be the quirkiest of them all.
From the front, it’s pure MINI hatch: a friendly face with round circular headlamps and slatted grille that’s become a MINI hallmark since the car was relaunched back in 2001.
Then you look at the side profile and you realise this is quite an elongated MINI. The Clubman is bigger than the previous model and is longer and wider than the MINI 5-door Hatch. Could it be a MINI estate?
Not quite. Once you open the quirky rear split doors at the back, you’ll find 360 litres of space, which is more similar to what you’ll find in most respectable family hatchbacks.
Yet you’ll struggle to find a family car as offbeat as the MINI Clubman. The cabin is full of more razzle dazzle: gloss black finishes, toggle switches and a touchscreen set in the centre of the dash surrounded by a strip of lighting that changes colour like a chameleon.
On the practical side it can be hard to find the controls you’re looking for quickly in the gloom because all those black and glossy surfaces make it more akin to being inside a murky nightclub at 2am trying to find the exit after one too many, and that’s just to fiddle with the ventilation controls. But no one does car interiors like MINI so love it or hate it.
There is seating for three in the back and while the outer seats are comfortable with good legroom, the middle seat is a hard, uncomfortable perch with poor legroom.
Standard equipment on the MINI One D Clubman includes MINI Navigation, sport leather steering wheel with multi-function controls, cruise control, 16” alloy wheels, front fog lights, automatic lights and wipers, manual air conditioning, and MINI Connected services.
MINI offers the Clubman with a range of petrol and diesel engines, from small and efficient 1.5-litre three cylinder units, to larger four cylinder units, all turbocharged.
New to the range is the One D Clubman, which is an entry level three cylinder diesel with 116hp. Emissions are just 99g CO2 on standard wheels so motor tax is €180 per year. It’s also the most efficient in the range, returning a claimed 74mpg, though this reviewer achieved around 56mpg. At €30,657, the One D is one of the more accessible models in the Clubman range.
On the road, there is a coarseness to the three cylinder diesel at low speeds around town and when you rev it hard, but refinement smooths out more at speed. For a low capacity engine, the One D is not slow. There’s 270Nm of torque available and 0-100kmh is achieved in a respectable 10.4 seconds. The manual gearbox in the test car made this car less enjoyable to drive as there is a notchy feel to it: the gear changes could be more fluid.
Much of the MINI’s agile and engaging driving character is retained in the Clubman: there’s loads of grip when you push the car and it dips and dives into corners with the utmost accuracy. The steering is a tad light compared to the MINI Countryman, but that’s a small niggle. There is some more pronounced body roll as you push hard into corners but it’s progressive and the car grips hard so it’s never a cause for concern. I noted some road noise at high speeds on the motorway and the car is quite firmly sprung so you will also detect movement underneath you as the car reacts to the road surface.
If you think of the MINI Clubman as a rival to a premium hatchback like the Audi A3, it makes most sense as the space in the car is adequate but not huge. There are some frustrations to the One D Clubman: comfort and refinement could be better considering it is positioned as more ‘premium’, and the split rear doors are cool but obscure visibility. However, the Clubman is fun to drive and just doesn’t look like anything else on the road. For those trying to retain their youthful edge well into adulthood, the MINI Clubman is a quirky, offbeat choice of family car.
Model tested: MINI One D Clubman
Price: €30,657 OTR (€36,929 as tested)
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo diesel
0-100km/h: 10.4 seconds
Top speed: 192km/h
CO2 emissions: 102g/km
Motor tax: €190 per year
If you are looking for an alternative premium family car in the same price range as the Clubman, you might also like this review of the Audi A3 Sportback.