This latest generation of Mini Clubman is the manufacturer’s first venture into the realms of the small family car class, to rival the likes of the Volkswagen Golf and Audi A3.
It’s the biggest car Mini has ever made and is a taste of what’s to come from the brand as it looks to show it can be as practical as it is stylish.
For this latest generation, the Clubman keeps the barn-style boot doors but does away with the quirky but impractical rear-hinged rear door. All models now come with sat-nav and keyless go, too.
Mini expects this 2.0-litre Cooper D diesel and the entry-level petrol to take the lion’s share of sales, and we were impressed when we drove the car in Sweden earlier this year. Now, we’ve driven it in the UK for the first time to see how it copes on our more challenging roads.
What’s the 2015 Mini Clubman 2.0 Cooper D like to drive?
Our rougher roads don’t unsettle the Clubman; it remains a generally smooth-riding car, with only sharp road imperfections sending a jolt through the cabin. Our test model was fitted with 18in alloys (£570), though, so we'd wager the ride was harsher than it would be on the standard 16in alloys.
Even fully laden the Clubman reaches motorway speeds easily and the 2.0-litre diesel strikes a good balance between performance and economy, with plenty of power and an impressive (claimed official) 68.9mpg, while lower CO2 emissions of 109g/km mean that this Clubman has competitive running costs for private and company car buyers.
In Sport mode, the engine is particularly brisk and the sharpened throttle response offers a more engaging drive. The six-speed manual gearbox, although slightly notchy, has well-spaced ratios so you won’t find yourself shifting through the gears at lower speeds around town while the decent torque means it picks up well from low revs.
The steering is well weighted and offers confidence-inspiring feedback when pushing through the corners, while not proving too heavy to manoeuvre the car about town. Indeed, while the Clubman has grown considerably in size, it does a very good job of remaining agile and offering that go-kart feel – although it’s not quite as much fun to drive as the three-door and five-door hatchback models in the range.
What’s the 2015 Mini Clubman 2.0 Cooper D like inside?
This is where the Clubman excels. While it may not quite offer the driving experience of Mini’s smaller hatchbacks, it now delivers an impressive all-around package as a family car.
It’s grown in size, by nearly 24cm in length, 12cm in width, and 2cm in height; as a result, boot space increases to a generous 360 litres with the rear seats in place, just shy of a VW Golf’s capacity, while folding the seats down means the capacity rises to 1250 litres.
The Clubman is spacious in all but the middle rear seat, with plenty of head- and leg room on offer, while the impressive infotainment system is relatively easy to use and accessible while driving.
Plenty of family hatchbacks offer great practicality, but it’s the sheer character of the Clubman that sets it apart from its rivals, and this is especially evident in the interior. There’s lots of scope for customisation for things like interior finishes, too, while a premium feel pervades throughout that few other cars in the class can match.
In the early stages of development it was decided that the quirky barn-style boot doors would stay, and while they certainly add to the car’s character they do, however, hamper rear visibility. To counteract this, the Clubman has well-sized door mirrors that go some way to compensating.
Most buyers, though, will likely be happy to trade poorer rear visibility for the distinctive look the doors add to the car, and it doesn’t take too long to become accustomed to the obscured view. The rear-hinged suicide door has been ditched for this latest generation, which is no bad thing as the more conventional layout makes it much more practical.
Should I buy one?
The previous generation Clubman was a left-field family hatchback option that offered more style than practicality, but this latest generation changes that. With its bigger size, more conventional door layout and cheap running costs it’s now a car that demands consideration, even with its price tag pushing it towards the top end, and therefore, some very strong competition.
Ultimately, though, you’re better off looking at a VW Golf or Skoda Octavia if out and out practicality is required. Yet, if you want a still-capable family hatchback with style, charm and a premium feel, then the Clubman offers a compelling choice for your consideration.
It's an impressive four-star result for the Clubman for now then. Our upcoming group test will determine whether it stays that way.
What Car? says
Mini Clubman 2.0 Cooper D
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from £22,265
Torque 243lb ft
0-62mph 8.6 seconds
Top speed 132mph
Fuel economy 68.9mpg