Mini Clubman S is a driving ace with more space
It's a grown-up Mini that remains special in character and sportiness
I've always been amazed at the giggly fun that is a three-door Mini Cooper hatch, especially those badged "S" and above. Ever since the arrival of these doe-eyed BINIS (BMW Minis) they have offered some of the best front-wheel drive fun and gutsy performance.
Then someone at the company argued that new shapes needed to emerge to compete with plucky new challengers and to create new niches. The Clubman badge is from 1969 and, contrary to belief, it didn’t signify an estate variant of the original range, but rather a special edition that was made in both two-door hatch and estate guise. The official Mini estate car was the Traveler.
Today’s Clubman has morphed from five to six doors thanks to Mini retaining the pair of barn-style rear doors.
Otherwise the concept of a premium crossover hatch/estate remains but now with a higher-end polish to its interior through enhanced digital toys, comfier leather-clad seats and playful interior lighting.
The car defaults to "Mid" mode on start-up and this denotes that damping is comfortable and the stance of power and settings of its standard-fitment seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission are neutral.
Thumb in Green and it nods this through its dinner plate-sized display and foot well lighting changes to the associated colour. Throttle response is gentler now and gear up-changes arrive early to save fuel.
Sports mode sees your legs and feet illuminated in angry red as the car’s inner go-kart emerges through higher engine revs and sharper transmission responses.
At 4,266m long, the Clubman is 416mm lengthier than the three-door hatch. The good side of this comes in the form of good space for a family and its luggage. That’s 2,670mm of configurable wheelbase to utilise.
Off-boost the Clubman S is a lovely and compliant drive in both city and extra-urban cruising. It’s well-built too, and it shows it with a robust sturdiness on all manner of surface conditions.
The steering is delightfully light and crisp, and when you grow horns and extend all of its 141kW and 280Nm from its sweet sounding turbocharged four-cylinder engine you’ll find it darts about with great speed.
Handling is terrific and a traction control nanny jumps in to tidy things up when necessary.
If the cool doors don’t float your boat, Mini also sells something quite comparable in shape and size. The Mini Cooper S five-door hatch brings the same outlook but with nuanced variances like a marginally lesser loading capacity, a cheaper price tag and a normal rear tail-gate.
But it’s clear that the Clubman S with its unique pair of rear doors that can be opened remotely from the key, is the more expressive of the virtual twins.
No matter, the Cooper S Clubman is now a bit more grown up but remains special in character and sportiness.
Mini Cooper S Clubman
WE LIKE: Practicality, refinement, performance
WE DISLIKE: It’s a little too long
VERDICT: Chic estate car for high-end hipsters
Motor News star rating
Design * * * *
Performance * * * * *
Economy * * * *
Ride/handling * * * *
Safety * * * * *
Value For Money * * * *
Overall * * * *
Audi A3 Sportback 40TFSI S Line, 140kW/320Nm — R517,410
Mercedes-Benz A200 hatch AMG Line, 120kW/250Nm — R539,960
Type: Four-cylinder turbo
Type: Seven-speed dual clutch auto
Type: Front-wheel drive
Top speed: 228km/h
0-100km/h: 7.2 sec
Fuel Consumption: 6.2l/100km (as claimed), 8.2l /100km (as tested)
Keyless start, remote central locking, on-board computer, multifunction steering wheel control, rain sensor wipers, park distance control, USB port, Bluetooth, cloth/leather upholstery, auto on/off LED headlights with DRLs, rain sensor wipers, ABS brakes, stability control, six airbags, run flat tyres
Warranty: Two years/unlimited km
Maintenance plan distance: Five years/100,000km
Lease*: R11,437 per month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit