Driven: Mini Clubman

As the unstoppable forces and immovable objects of Brexit get ever closer to colliding, I can’t help but think that the German-owned brand is having a little bit of a laugh at our expense with the new Mini Clubman.

The Clubman is a demonstration of European cooperation. The brand is as British as it can be, but it’s owned by BMW. The car is designed in Munich and uses a platform it shares with the BMW 1 Series and X1, but it’s built in Oxford, just over the road from where the original cars were built 60 years ago.

Union Jack tail lights on the Mini Clubman

It’s the Britishness of it all that shines through on this 2019 update, not least with its Union Jack taillights. These LED units light up a quadrant of the flag, offering a real Rule Britannia signature to anyone following. Unsurprisingly, these aren’t fitted to cars destined for Argentina…

More subtle are the alloy wheels on this Cooper model that capture the essence of the flag in a way you’d not notice unless you knew it was there. Once seen, you’ll spot it every time you see a Mini Clubman on the road.

Union Jack wheels on the Mini Clubman

Fresh also are the headlights, now surrounded by a glowing ring of LED daytime running lights, while some bits of minor surgery around the car update the look to match the new hatchback model. It’s as distinctive and retro as ever but somehow appears more modern at the same time.

The interior is certainly distinctive, too, although it’s a triumph of style over function. The dashboard houses a huge circular feature in the middle which, in turn, houses the infotainment display. This rectangular unit jars with the design surrounding it, especially when it’s the small 6.5-inch screen. Happily, my Mini had the optional 8.8-inch screen, although this only improved matters marginally. Heating and ventilation controls sit below, and then there are stylish toggle switches even further down to control traction control and other systems.

There’s a single dial behind the steering wheel showing your speed, with a small digital screen built in to share economy, range and other figures. A small rev counter has been squeezed onto the side, too. It all looks lovely but isn’t as easy to use as a BMW 1 Series (which is based on the same software) or an Audi A3.

Despite being ‘mini’ the Clubman makes a good effort at being a comfortable family car. There are five full-size doors, allowing people to enter and exit without requiring a contortionism training course first. There’s just about enough space for adults in the back, although squeezing in a couple of child seats could be problematic.

The Mini Clubman boot has a capacity of 360 litres.

The boot is accessed through double doors that swing open to the side, and they do that at some speed – something that’s you’ll need to bear in mind if you’re in a confined space. They also need a bit more space than a regular hatchback, which could catch you out initially. Once open, they reveal 360-litres of boot, which is a little less than you’ll get in a Volkswagen Golf, but not by much.

It’s comfortable enough once you’re in, although the ‘go-kart’ handling of the Mini means it’s firmer than other rivals. That’s benefits the driver, who can chuck the Mini around with abandon, making cross-country roads more enjoyable than they really should be. Motorways are fine too, with the 1.5-litre petrol engine also being reasonably frugal.

The Clubman Cooper is as sensible as a Mini gets, although that’s still not entirely sensible. The Volkswagen Golf will be a better family car, but misses out on the style and character of the Mini and, if you think a Mini is right for you, the Golf probably won’t even be on your list.

As long as you choose trim levels and options wisely (this Cooper Exclusive model is well equipped, but still came with more than £4,000 of options) then you’ll get a fun car that fulfils the role just well enough to not be irritating.

Model Tested: Mini Clubman Cooper Exclusive Auto
Price: £26,450
Range: £21,950 – £35,360
Top speed: 127 mph
0-62 mph: 9.2 seconds
Power: 136 PS (134 bhp)
Torque: 220 Nm (162 lb ft)
Monthly PCP*: £361
Official economy: 52.3 mpg
Road test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 122 g/km
Car Tax: £145
Insurance group: 21E
* Monthly PCP estimate based on 20% deposit, 36 month term, 5% APR, final payment of 40%.