First Drive

2015 Mini Clubman review

Latest five-seat Clubman offers a host of upgrades, including more space and improved practicality

Words ByLewis Kingston

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Back in 2007, BMW took the bold decision to expand the Mini line-up with the Clubman. It was effectively a small premium five-seat estate, which took much inspiration from the Mini Traveller and Countryman estates of the 1960s, which featured a distinctive tail with two boot doors. The Clubman was far bigger than any Mini had come before, which split opinions, but it was a well-built car that drove well and offered buyers something different.

Memorably, it also had one single rear side door. It was hoped that this would improve its appeal and practicality, allowing rear-seat passengers easy access to the car. However, it was designed to permit passengers in left-hand-drive markets to step out onto the pavement. For UK buyers, it meant getting out into the road, which wasn’t ideal.

Mini has been busy comprehensively refreshing its range, however, and now it’s the turn of the Clubman. This, the new second-generation model, features a wide range of updates that are hoped to improve its appeal. It now has four side doors, it’s claimed to be more spacious, and it’s offered with a wider range of options – including an eight-speed automatic gearbox - and more efficient engines. The exterior and interior styling’s been overhauled, too.

A familiar line-up is offered, consisting at launch of a Cooper, Cooper D and Cooper S. The new Clubman range is priced from Β£19,995 for the entry-level Cooper Clubman, rising to Β£22,755 for the higher-performance Cooper S Clubman. Standard kit across the range includes climate control, cruise control, sat-nav, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, keyless start and air-con.

What’s the 2015 Mini Clubman like to drive?

We tested a six-speed manual Cooper S version of the Clubman, which features a turbocharged 189bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine. It’s very flexible as it produces a stout 207lb ft of torque from 1250rpm, which doesn’t tail off until around 4600rpm. Consequently, even if you’re in a higher gear, the Mini will pull with vigour. This helps make it relaxing to drive because acceleration is prompt and it cuts the number of gear changes you have to make.

The six-speed manual gearbox in our test car was a little notchy but shifts were otherwise quick and precise. The engine makes a suitably aggressive noise, too, which helps deliver that eager feel that you might expect from a Mini.

Head out onto twisty routes and you’ll also be glad to find that this is still a decent-handling car. It’s not as entertaining as the smaller, nimbler three- or five-door Mini hatch, but the steering is accurate, with a good amount of weight to it, and there’s plenty of grip up front.

Couple this with easily judged and powerful brakes, slick controls and little body roll, and the net result is a car that’s still rewarding to drive. However, because the Clubman is longer than the five-door Hatch, and its front and rear wheels farther apart, it rides and handles in a slightly more laid-back fashion than its smaller counterparts. That said, we’ve only driven it on smooth Swedish roads, so final judgement will have to be reserved until we’ve tested it in the UK.

What’s the 2015 Mini Clubman like inside?

There’s a lot to like about the Mini’s interior. It’s smartly styled, packed full of neat details and storage points, and the materials used throughout are generally of a high quality. It’s far more appealing to look at and touch than many other cars in the class.

It’s comfortable, too. There’s lots of room up front, even for taller drivers. The steering column adjusts for rise and reach and there’s a good range of seat adjustments, so finding a preferred driving position is easy. The seats are supportive, too, so you don’t feel like you’re getting thrown around all the time. Only some pronounced wind and road noise otherwise takes the edge off the pleasant cabin.

Forward visibility is adequate, although your view is sometimes blocked by the thick front pillars. The rear split in the doors can obscure your rearwards vision a little, too, but despite this it’s not too difficult to manoeuvre the Golf-sized Clubman.

Two adults will be more than comfortable in the back although those above six foot tall might feel a little hemmed in. You can even fit three adults in abreast although they’ll probably not want to endure a long drive. Access isn't bad either, which is impressive given the low-slung looks of the car.

As standard, the Mini offers 360 litres of storage space in the boot, which is 100 more than offered previously. Consequently it’s a much more useful car, as its boot space is now on a par with many a conventional hatchback. As standard the rear seats split and fold 60:40, leaving only a slightly sloped boot floor, and with both down the available space rises to 1250 litres. A VW Golf, for comparison, offers 380 and 1270 litres respectively.

Mini claims 45.6mpg for the Cooper S, which would give it a range of around 480 miles on a tank. Other Minis with this engine fitted have returned nearly 40mpg in our real-world True MPG tests, so we’d expect the Clubman to return more than 35mpg without too much trouble.

Should I buy one?

If you’re looking for a practical upmarket-feeling car that’s good to drive, available with punchy engines and easy to live with, then the Clubman is well worth considering. Besides offering up a slew of appealing features, it’s more interesting to look at and drive than some of the alternatives.

Those seeking outright practicality and affordability, however, would probably be best served by looking at more conventional hatchbacks, like the aforementioned Golf, or small estates like the Skoda Fabia Estate.

What Car? says...

The rivals:

Skoda Fabia Estate

Fiat 500X

Mini Clubman Cooper S

Engine size 2.0-litre petrol

Price from Β£22,755

Power 189bhp

Torque 207lb ft

0-62mph 7.2 seconds

Top speed 142mph

Fuel economy 45.6mpg

CO2 144g/km