Is a longer Mini worth the stretch? We drive the Clubman to find out.
What’s it like to drive?
Adolescent fun is probably the best way to describe a Mini’s driving characteristic. But for a car that’s built to attract an older customer, one seeking to travel with a family, eager road manners isn’t going to work. Knowing this, Mini has given the Clubman a revised steering and suspension setup that makes for a relatively less keen steering and more pliable ride. But make no mistake, the Clubman still delivers a driving experience that's very Mini. The car corners with hardly any body roll and while the turn-in is crisp and eager, you do feel the extra weight and length out back, especially during rapid lane changes. Hard acceleration will induce some amount of torque steer but in a car like this Mini, it is fun. Compared to the Mini hatch, the suspension does a surprisingly good job of soaking up our road irregularities but it does generate a lot of rumble going about it. Larger potholes also bring out a loud thud from the suspension and it makes you wince in anticipation of rim damage. The low profile tyres have an extended rim protector but with the potholes of Mumbai, I wouldn’t advise pushing the car or your luck.
For India, the Clubman comes with a petrol engine mated to an eight-speed Steptronic automatic gearbox that’s quick to shift and also has a launch control function. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol is the same unit that powers the 3-door hatch and the convertible and features tech like turbocharging, direct injection with central injectors, the Valvetronic variable valve lift and the double VANOS variable valve timing system. Peak power output is at 192hp and a maximum torque of 280Nm from a low 1,250rpm makes the Mini very drivable with hardly any lag despite being a turbo. The engine is responsive with the Clubman pulling off the line quickly until about the 2,300rpm mark where it catches a second wind and pulls even harder in a firm and linear manner. The Mini has three drive modes and the second wind character can be experienced across all modes at varying degrees of urgency. The modes also alter the steering response and the transmission the shift speeds too. Sport mode is very lively and brings out the Mini’s best driving character. But for everyday driving, the mid setting is good enough, but (aside from the peppy character of the Sport mode) you will miss the lovely lift-off blat-blat from the exhaust and I found myself simply switching to 'Sport' for this exciting (or juvenile) feature. In the Green mode, the car isn’t very lethargic but the throttle feels too heavy and un- Mini like. The Steptronic box also has a coasting function that decouples the drivetrain and puts the engine in idle for minimum consumption; this activates when the throttle pedal is released at speeds between 50kph and 160kph.