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Motoring: Clubman is Mini's middle child

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | March 28th, 2011

The last time I tested the Clubman version of the Mini Cooper, it was the John Cooper Works version. That version had over 200 hp and was just about the most fun I have ever had in a car. This time, however, things are a little different.

Sure, I am testing a Clubman, but it is the base model with the base 1.6-litre, four-cylinder engine that produces just 121 hp. That is not exactly going to set the road on fire, but then again, it might just keep your license in your pocket. I would recommend that you choose to buy the six-speed manual over the automatic version, to get the most out of that engine. Power goes only to the front wheels.

The base model is not some speed machine, so what is it then?

Think of the Mini Cooper Clubman as the in-between family car. If the regular Mini is too small for your needs, and the new Mini Countryman is not Mini enough for you, then the Clubman just might fill the void in your life.

The Clubman looks like a stretched version of the Cooper, which it is, and that means it is much more practical. For starters, it has lots more space for rear seat passengers, and the trunk (which is accessed through split opening barn doors) has enough room to carry all your groceries, rather than just half of them.

The long wheelbase of the Clubman has other benefits too, like ride comfort. These are quite relaxing to use as highway commuters. If you found the normal Cooper to be a bit too bouncy, the Clubman solves that issue.

The strongest argument for buying a Mini is its legendary handling, and the Clubman suffers a bit in that department. While it still has great steering feel and probably handles better than most other cars on the road, it is not as nimble as the regular Cooper, and therefore not as much fun. The Clubman also has a terrible turning radius, so it's not exactly great when trying to park.

There is another downside to the Clubman, and that is its fuel economy. While I have averaged 6.8- litres/100km with a regular Cooper, the best I could get out of the base Clubman was 8.2- litres/100km. That is probably due to its extra girth.

It's a good vehicle, while not a great one. But should you ever consider buying one? Yes, you should, and there are three reasons for that.

Reason 1: It is a cool-looking car, and you will enjoy the compliments you'll get.

Reason 2: It is practical. You can fit two adults in the back seat easily, and since they have a small but practical rear-hinged door, getting in and out is a lot easier.

Reason 3: With prices for Clubmans starting at $27,350, they are affordable for most people.

So if you are looking for a fun family car, and don't have grownup kids, take a closer look at the Clubman.
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