Once upon a time, a very long time ago, the Sir Alec Issigonis Mini grew by 10 cm to become the world’s smallest estate car badged either the Morris Mini Traveller or Austin Mini Countryman.
Introduced in 1960, these models were two-door estate cars with double barn style rear doors. From the start of production, both models had a decorative, non-structural, ash wood trim on the rear body, in the style of a pre-war shooting brake.
This gave the car a similar appearance to the larger Morris Minor Traveller and saw these cars simply being called a ‘Woodie’ – a US expression that gained huge popularity with the rise of the ‘surfing songs’ from the likes of The Beach Boys and The Rip Chords.
Approximately 108 000 Austin Mini Countryman version and 99 000 Morris Mini Travellers were built. Variations of this model were also built in South Africa, by Innocenti in Italy and by Industria de Montagem de Automoveis in Portugal.
Even back then Mini purists and fans ‘harrumphed’ at the Countryman, feeling it belonged in the same category as alcohol leading to dancing and that it disrespected the Issigonis creation.
Enter BMW as owners of the MINI brand and, naturally the car grew in size, gained plenty of tech but retained that fun-to-drive feeling of the original. As the iterations unfolded, the Clubman was relaunched and it, too, grew in size to a point where – as mentioned my Road Review of the time – it had perhaps exceeded its fighting weight.
Now, with updates to the MINI Clubman Cooper, we return to funky styling and a sleek shape only marginally longer than the base car, yet fully endowed with the aura of mischievous enjoyment that has always been an integral part of the car’s DNA.
The body design of the new MINI Clubman is stylish, featuring an elongated roofline and a steep rear. In addition, the split rear doors make it the only model in the compact segment to offer six doors, along with outstanding versatility due to the fact the luggage compartment can be extended from 360 litres to as much as 1 250 litres according to needs.
The most striking design feature of the new MINI Clubman is the newly designed radiator grille, which now extends across the entire bumper. With powerfully modelled contours and a new structure for the air inlet, it gives the front view a particularly distinctive appearance.
The standard halogen headlamps now have an enlarged reflector and a black shield on the inside. The daytime driving light is integrated in the parking lights in the lower section of the front apron. The optional adaptive LED headlamps likewise feature a new design and feature an automatic selective dip function for the high beam.
The new MINI Clubman is fitted as standard with LED rear lights. The light units with chrome surround are now especially integrated in the wings of the split door.
Depending on the model variant, the new MINI Clubman is fitted as standard with light alloy wheels which are either 16-inch or 17-inch in size. As an option, light alloy wheels are available in the sizes 18-inch and 19-inch.
The engine portfolio for the new MINI Clubman includes one 3-cylinder and one 4-cylinder petrol engine, each of which features the latest generation of MINI TwinPower Turbo Technology, both driving through a 7-speed Steptronic transmission.
The MINI Cooper Clubman offers 100 kW of power at 4 400 r/min with peak torque of 220 Nm coming in from 1 250 r/min – enough to get to 100 km/h in 9,2 seconds and on to a top speed of 205 km/h. Fuel consumption on my test cycle averaged 5,7 l/100 km.
The Cooper name attached to the car is always an invitation to get a little playful and the Clubman obliges rather nicely, hurrying through corners with a gleeful sense of urgency while that naughty little fella that sits on your shoulder screaming “..more, more, give it more wellie” in your ear.
With the option of various modes, drivers can tailor the throttle and gearbox responses to the mood at the time.
The standard range of equipment of the MINI Clubman includes an audio system with six speakers and a USB socket. This enables the use of audio streaming via a Bluetooth connection. There is also a hands-free telephone facility with USB interface.
The standard operating system includes a 6,5-inch colour screen in the central instrument and the MINI Controller on the centre console. The Connected Media option comprises the Radio MINI Visual Boost and a 6,5-inch colour screen with touchscreen function and a newly design graphic display. It is also possible to use numerous online-based MINI Connected services.
Option is a word that has come up a couple of times and, like all offerings from BMW, there are a variety of these to go with the Clubman in order to personalise and tweak the looks and feel – obviously at a cost.
In addition, the current update of the MINI Connected App offers an exceptionally wide range of digital services that allow mobility planning to be integrated seamlessly in day-to-day digital routine. This includes the possibility of sending navigation destinations from smartphone to vehicle and receiving information regarding the ideal departure time, as well as Remote Services.
The latter function allows the driver not just to display vehicle location, fuel level and other vehicle status details on their digital end device, but also activate the headlight flasher, horn, ventilation and door lock/unlock function.
Not an easy call handing back the keys….