The MINI Clubman and Clubman S are the second body variant of the second generation BMW MINI, with the first being the R56 hatchback and another upcoming one being the new convertible. We recently took a spin in the Clubman and did some of the typical lifestyle stuff – a duty that this vehicle is expected to carry out well, since its priced way over the RM200,000 mark. Read our findings after the jump.
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Some MINI enthusiasts might consider the MINI Clubman to be the most pointless and sacrilegious MINI around (old school Mini fans probably think this of all of BMW’s new MINIs). For one, it’s the use of the name Clubman. In the old Mini terminology the name Clubman was used to indicate the newer squarer facelifted Minis while the station wagon version was callde the Traveller. The Traveller name is not used anymore for the BMW MINI station wagon, and in its place is the name Clubman.
However, there are some people who actually prefer the MINI Clubman over the MINI Cooper. Namely yours truly. I find that the MINI Cooper looks abit too cutesy and stunted, like a midget car. The Clubman might look odd as a MINI but once you get past that, as a car on its own its actually quite a looker. I especially like how the rear end looks, especially the S version with its bumper-integrated twin tailpipes.
We took the Clubman up north to a hot springs, fully loaded with 4 people and a boot load of stuff. Unlike the MINI Cooper which had a 2+2 seating configuration with about the same legroom as an Audi TT except with better headroom (in short, pretty much unusable), the MINI Clubman is a proper 4 seater. There is seriously a good amount of legroom back there, even a tall person could sit comfortably without his knee getting pressed against the front seats. So the MINI Clubman passes as a vehicle for you to get on the road with your little entourage.
What about luggage space? Most of the car’s increased length went to improving the legroom at the rear so the boot has not been increased to very impressive proportions. You can load maybe an estimated 3 sports bags in with room for a couple of other stuff stacked on top of them, as you can see from the photo below. Only one large air travel luggage will fit in there.
Access to the boot is via two doors split in the middle which swing sideways instead of up. Closing them after accessing the boot can be a little tricky, at least for me. You have to somehow make the two doors meet together a certain way and in the correct order, then only push them close otherwise it’ll threaten to jam up and that can be very alarming especially when you’re handling such an expensive car that’s not yours!
This is the first time I’ve sampled the normally aspirated version of the BMW-PSA Prince 1.6 litre engine. I was frankly quite surprised by how decent the acceleration was, despite the engine having only 120 PS at 6,000rpm and 160Nm of torque at 4,250rpm. This wasn’t some kind of engineering voodoo of course, it was probably thanks to the quick-shifting and responsive 6-speed automatic transmission which helps keep the engine revving high and in its powerband more often. It’s some nice and honest fun and is probably what the Satria Neo could aspire to be. More ratios would definitely help the sluggy Campro out stay in its powerband.
The weirdest thing about the Clubman is of course, the Clubdoor. It’s on the wrong side of the road! It gives me the feeling of sloppy engineering – BMW engineered this car for the left hand drive market and said it could not fully convert it for right hand drive usage, so the third door for access to the rear bench is on the driver’s side instead of the passenger’s side. I found having to get out and later readjusting the driver’s seat position each time someone had to enter or exit the rear quite annoying.
BMW says this is because it was too costly to relocate the refuelling hardware which was on the left side of the car. But seriously… considering the country this car is built in is a right hand drive country?!
At the end of the day I must say I enjoyed my time with the MINI Clubman. Its easy to drive, park and the funky design kind of puts you in a good mood. It’s also rather stable at highway speeds but as with all of the new MINIs the soundproofing and interior material quality is not particularly impressive.
It’s also got paddle shifts, and it’s glad to see these aren’t just exclusive to the Clubman S model. BMW should seriously consider paddle shifts across its model range, not just reserved for the top of the line cars such as the 130i and the 530i.
With so many other options available in the market that make so much more sense, this is only for those who must have a MINI (an emotional choice) and with loads of cash to spare. It is priced at RM 225,000.00 and RM 259,000.00 for the Clubman and Clubman S respectively OTR without insurance. There is also an optional MINI Tender Loving Care plan for RM888 similiar to BMW’s Service Inclusive which means you do not have to pay for your MINI’s maintenance for 3 years or 50,000km.
PHOTO GALLERY: MINI Clubman and Clubman S
Click thumbnails to view high resolution photo