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First Drive

First Drive: Mini Clubman

The story:
It’s mid-life refresh time for Mini’s lower medium hatchback. New nose and grille and, as with the Mini hatch, Union Jacks incorporated in to the tail lights, all form part of the upgrade.
Category:Lower Medium
Key rival:Volkswagen Golf
Mini Clubman Cooper Exclusive
Price:£24,625
MPG:44.1 mpg
Emissions:127g/km
On sale:Now

 

It’s mid-life shake-up time for the Mini Clubman, the brand’s core lower-medium hatchback rival to the Audi A3 Sportback and Volkswagen Golf.

The Clubman retains its big distinctive design feature, in that the boot access is still via a pair of split van-like doors, rather than a traditional tailgate, but the car has new LED headlamps and tail lamps, as well as changes to the trims, wheels, colours and specification.

First Drive-November 2019-Mini Clubman-Image 5The easiest ways to spot the revised Clubman are at the back, where the Union Jack designed into the tail lamps is a neat touch, and at the nose, which has a new wider grille and new head lamps encircled by LED daytime running lamps and indicators. But overall it’s a very subtle mid-life change that maintains the distinctive Mini design cues.

Engine options consist of a sole diesel and a pair of petrols. The 136hp petrol Cooper model driven here emits from 120g/km in auto form or from 127g/km as a six-speed manual. It sits at the heart of the range alongside a 150hp diesel emitting from 111g/km.

Three new colours are also available with the new model, as are new optional 18-inch or 19-inch wheels.

The new lamps also allow for optional adaptive auto-dimming lights, and for a matrix function that selectively lights the road to avoid dazzling other traffic.

The Clubman is unchanged from an engineering point of view, which means it still has the Mini appeal of a fine-handling car that while on the harder side, doesn’t ride too badly and enjoys an agile feel.

First Drive-November 2019-Mini Clubman-Image 6That notion is helped by a cabin that feels smaller than it actually is, thanks in part to the shallow windows. The automatic gearbox introduced last year has a slight hesitation from a standstill but is otherwise useful, and positions the car more effectively from an emissions point of view than the manual. The self-shifter is at least close to its key rivals for efficiency, while the manual is a little off the pace of the best in class.

The quirky arrangement of split rear doors for access to the boot are an amusing party piece that unfortunately hampers rear visibility somewhat, although the boot space itself is a decent 360 litres, within 20 of the likes of the Audi A3 Sportback and VW Golf.

paul barker

The verdict

Very minor updates don’t make a massive difference to the Clubman’s appeal. It’s still a neat and slightly compromised alternative that hasn’t quite yet gained the mass appeal of rivals.