Test Drive: MINI Clubman - More of the MINI

Aug 20, 2017, 12:42 IST | Sarmad Kadiri

The Clubman keeps the MINI's iconic fun-to-drive trait, but offers more on practicality

A heated argument is on at the office garage. Our colleagues are divided over the new MINI Cooper S Clubman. One group strongly argues that it's a tad unfair to call such a spacious car a MINI. The Clubman is the biggest car in the MINI line-up, over a foot-and-a-half longer than the regular MINI.

The other group loves this substantially larger car and the practicality it brings along. This bunch loves the design nuances such as the familiar MINI face, attractive circular LED headlights that come with daytime running lights (DRL), the hexagonal grille, and the bonnet design with a prominent power dome and sleek air-scoop.

The design tends to grow on you and soon more people join the conversation about the new MINI. And, this is what they observe: a powerful shoulder-line, prominent wheel-arches, great-looking tail-lights, and chrome exhaust tips sitting on the edge of the rear bumper. The final enticing bit was the unmistakable split boot-lid. How can you not love these barn-type doors?

The barn-style boot hatch is a cool and quirky touch. Pics/Saurabh Botre
The barn-style boot hatch is a cool and quirky touch. Pics/Saurabh Botre

There are plenty of familiar parts from other MINI models along with a large cockpit for the driver and an even larger circular touchscreen right in the centre of the dashboard. The latter manages the infotainment and most of the driver's aids. We found the touchscreen to be extremely receptive, but some of the icons felt small.

The Clubman has a bunch of aeroplane cockpit-like toggle switches to crank up the engine, turn on/off the ESP, and one for the start-stop system. There are switches on the roof as well, one of them dedicated to the optional panoramic sunroof — the largest glass roof in the entire MINI range.

You also get cruise control and can opt for rear-view camera, Parking Assistant and a Head-up Display. Safety features include dual front airbags, crash sensor, ABS, cornering brake control and tyre pressure indicator.

Front seat sports base-extender to increase thigh support
Front seat sports base-extender to increase thigh support

Talking about optional features, our test car had the 'Excitement Pack', which offers a range of ambient lighting for the cabin and projects the MINI logo on the driver's side whenever one opens or closes the door. There's also an option of electrically adjustable front seats with memory function as well.
At the rear, there is generous knee-room. While the rear seats are comfy, the glass sunroof brightens up the cabin. The rear seat's backrest is adjustable, and there's even an air-con vent.

There's no spare wheel, but the Clubman comes with run-flat tyres. The silver lining is that there isn't a spare wheel eating into the boot space of 360 litres. Since the rear seat backrest can be tumbled down, the luggage capacity can be further increased to 1,250 litres.

The circular touch-screen looks trendy and useful
The circular touch-screen looks trendy and useful

The good news is that the same two-litre, in-line four, twin turbo petrol propels the Clubman, which also does duty on the MINI Cooper S, churning out identical 192 PS and 280 Nm. The bad news is that the Clubman weighs about 150 kg more than the three-door.

The cockpit-esque toggle switches  are a neat touch
The cockpit-esque toggle switches are a neat touch

The Clubman has a top speed of 228 km/h and we managed to pull a 0-100 km sprint in an impressive 8.6 seconds. The eight-speed automatic steptronic transmission has been given a broader gear spread, which translates into better low-end power and peppier mid-range. So, managing quick getaways from slow-moving traffic or making a quick dash from a traffic light is almost as engaging as in other MINI cars.

Toggling through Green and Sport driving modes is easy
Toggling through Green and Sport driving modes is easy

During test, we managed to do a quarter mile run in a respectable 16.53 seconds, doing 147.99 km/h. In fact, it can very comfortably cruise at that speed and we even managed to achieve 200 km/h without any stress. For driving enthusiasts, there's also the option of Sports Automatic Steptronic transmission. Our test car had the feature and we missed no opportunity to play around with the eight-speed.

When you compare the Clubman to an estate or even a premium sedan, it definitely feels agile and sporty, but not as go-kart-like as the smaller MINI. The firm suspension setup keeps a check on the body-roll and you hardly ever feel the extra weight or length. It changes direction swiftly and with ease that very few cars of the size can boast of.

The ride is slightly more forgiving than that in the MINI three-door, for the bigger MINI soaks in more of the road undulations. Yet, you can't call it plush or sublime and the low-profile tyres don't help this cause either. It tries hard to keep most road bumps from filtering through to the cabin, but the impact is loud and clear over the occasional ditch or pothole.

You can further set up the Clubman using the driving modes, depending on your need for ride comfort, sportiness or efficiency. Apart from the standard MID mode, you can increase the performance by switching to Sport or go for comfort and efficiency by selecting the Green mode. The latter also helps stretch a litre of fuel to 17 km on the highway. Driving in the usual city traffic returns close to 10 km/l, thus bringing the overall fuel efficiency to 11.75 km/l.

With the help of brake assist and dynamic stability control we managed to bring the car to a halt from 100 km/h in just 3.65 seconds, over 56.38 metres.

If you look at the positioning, the Clubman, priced at Rs 38.50 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), demands a premium of Rs 7 lakh over the three-door MINI. But, it offers a lot more practicality in terms of space and usability without losing out on the iconic fun-to-drive trait that MINI cars are known for.

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