MINI Clubman 2007 review

New load-lugging version of MINI is impressive, but is is it up to scratch when you add Hot Chocolate trim?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The Clubman is set to follow in the wheeltracks of its big-selling hatchback brother – even in entry-level trim. MINI’s hugely desirable brand image is as strong as ever, while the normally aspirated 1.6-litre petrol engine makes the Clubman fun to drive and very economical. The extra space at the rear is also welcome, but the gimmicky Clubdoor is less successful. Although it is pricey compared with mainstream rivals, buyers can also look forward to rock-solid resale values – as long as they specify air-conditioning.

It’s MINI’s full Monty – but this car is wearing its very own outfit! You can get the distinctive Hot Chocolate paintwork pictured here only on the new Clubman. The finish isn’t avail­able on the hatchback model.

We’ve already been impressed by the more practical new load-lugging version of the trendy supermini. But is the entry-level Cooper variant up to scratch?

The metalwork is identical to that on any other Clubman, so it features the same extended roofline and rear-hinged Clubdoor behind the driver.

A van-style tailgate gives access to the boot, with 260 litres of luggage space. Fold the rear seats, and this increases to a generous 930 litres. The cabin has the same stylish design as more expensive models, although this car’s budget status is apparent from the minimal amount of factory kit.

Air-con doesn’t come as standard, and the optional Chili Pack fitted to our Cooper will set you back an extra £2,015. It includes manual air-con, a trip computer, front fog­lamps, bigger alloys and sports seats. The Leather Lounge Hot Chocolate trim seen here adds another £895 and the Hot Chocolate paint finish £280.

Choose the matching upholstery without the Chili pack, however, and its price rises to a hefty £1,345. Add the stylish panoramic sunroof, and the cost goes up by a further £680.

On the road, as you might expect, the normally aspirated 1.6-litre petrol engine lacks the fizz of the more powerful turbocharged motor in the Cooper S. However, it still puts in a respectable performance, and covers 0-62mph in 9.8 seconds. Thanks to the latest stop-start technology and brake regeneration – both of which are included as standard – the entry-level Clubman outscores the top-of-the-range petrol model at the pumps, returning an excellent 51.4mpg and emitting 132g/km of CO2.

Owners get to enjoy outstanding handling, too. The three-door MINI is famous for its poise and balance, and the Clubman manages to combine its agility with added stability, thanks to its longer wheelbase.

Incisive steering and supple suspension also prove that choosing the cheapest model doesn’t involve sacrificing any fun. What’s more, decent refinement makes the Cooper a fine long-distance companion. You don’t get as many toys to play with, though, so a good look at the options list is advisable. With such a wide selection, it’s easy to get carried away, but shop carefully and your Cooper should hold its value far better than cheaper mainstream rivals. However, the unusual paint could be the most expensive Hot Chocolate you ever order...

Rival: Renault Clio Sport Tourer The new load-carrying version of the Clio will hit these shores early next year, bringing with it more traditional accommodation than the quirky Clubman offers. It’s expected to be more practical than its British-built competitor. And, with prices set to start from around £11,500, the Renault will be the cheaper purchase.

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