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7 Dec, 2019 2:00pm Dawn Grant
First report: Our new MINI Clubman Cooper Exclusive looks like it’ll be right up our street in busy London
My new fleet car is here, and the latest MINI Clubman has so many features that I feel like I’m going back to school learning about them all. After a little while without running a car, I’m glad to be back in one, and I’m even more glad that it’s this particular car. Looking at the specifications on paper, our Clubman should be perfect for my life in south-west London.
Being a MINI, it’s small enough that I shouldn’t have any trouble fitting into tight car parks or down streets with vehicles that are parked all over the place. But because it’s the larger Clubman model, the MINI should also have enough room for family trips – and even though I’ve only had the car a short while, my husband Dave has already tested out its ability to carry his golf clubs (it passed).
Our Clubman is a petrol Cooper model, which means it has a 1.5-litre engine, and it’s fitted with an automatic gearbox. This should also be great for me, because London traffic can be a pain in a manual car. So far, the box has been smooth and easy to use, which I’m happy about, and the engine is really quiet.
These are all fairly normal things for a family car like this, but there are a handful of key differences with the Clubman that I’ll need to come to terms with over the next six months with the model.
The doors are the most obvious and immediate difference to pretty much any other car on the road. Instead of a tailgate that lifts upwards, the Clubman has two ‘barn doors’ that open outwards.
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To open both doors you need to pull them one at a time, or you can use a button on the key. They flip open on hydraulic struts, and I’ve already noticed how fast they move – I’ll definitely have to make sure I don’t open them if I’m parked up close to a wall or another car, because they could be damaged very easily.
This odd set-up means there’s a big blind spot in the main mirror, because the seal in the middle of the door blocks your view out to the rear. I like to have a clear view of what’s behind me, especially in London traffic where there are lots of bicycles and motorcycles cutting in and out, so I noticed this problem straight away.
It’s hard to say at this stage if the benefits of the back doors will be worth it, but that’s just what this long-term test will be for: over the coming weeks and months we’ll find out how exactly useful they are.
Another thing I’ll need to spend time getting used to is the infotainment system in the Clubman. Our car is fitted with MINI’s Navigation Plus Pack, which costs £1,300 and adds a lot of features. I’ve not gone further than the radio screen just yet, but looking at the specs there are loads of functions for me to play with in the future.
The screen is an 8.8-inch display, so it looks great, and it has sat-nav with traffic info included. Other features include integration with Amazon’s Alexa, weather info and wireless phone charging. I’m not sure I’ll actually use these features, but one I’m keen to try is Apple CarPlay. I’ve used this on some other cars and found the phone-based system to be really easy to use and convenient, so I’m keen to see how well it works in my new car.
Another option that adds lots of features is the Comfort Plus Pack, which costs £1,600 and adds heated seats, an armrest, parking sensors, a reversing camera and auto-dimming mirrors. My car also has a head-up display, which costs £500; it’s expensive but I can see why you might order this option, because it’s really handy not having to look down from the road ahead to see my speed.
There’s a lot to play with, then, and plenty to learn, too, but I’m really looking forward to finding out more about our new MINI Clubman as I spend more time behind the wheel. I just hope those odd rear doors don’t get in the way too much.
*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.
4 There's a lot to learn about our new Clubman, but we can’t wait to get stuck in. We’re already loving several aspects of the MINI, including the powertrain and interior.
- Model: MINI Clubman Cooper Exclusive Auto
- Price: £26,450
- Engine: 1.5-litre, 3cyl petrol, 134bhp
- CO2/Tax: 120g/km/£145
- Options: Metallic paint (£595), Navigation Plus Pack (£1,300), Comfort Plus Pack (£1,600), 18-inch alloys (£700), head-up display (£500)
- Insurance: Group: 21 Quote: £473
- Mileage/mpg : 3,158/39.4mpg
- Any problems?: None so far