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The Mercury Cars Guide : October 2nd 2010
8--- Classifieds 62 300 400 carsguide.com.au Saturday, October 2, 2010 MINI Clubman IN PASSING Modern classic in retro style RETRO: The new Mini Clubman. IF you've dreamed of buying an old classic, doing it up and driving it around, BMW has invented the car for you. While old cars have plenty of style and a great feel about them they are encumbered with brakes, safety gear, comfort and engines from another period and most of it is not good. BMW though, did the next best thing and reinvented an old classic, the Mini. And they did it well. The new Mini has much of the feel of the old car with its round headlights, large dials and retro styling but importantly is bigger, safer, more powerful and more comfortable than the old one could ever be. The Mini has been the stand-out success of the retro motor movement, leaving the re-made VW Beetle in its wake and proving more versatile than the re-born little Fiat 500. But then Mini invented the Clubman. While it has been around for a while I revisited it again last week in readiness for the arrival of the next generation Mini, the AWD Countryman which is due here early next year. The Clubman offers much more space, including useable rear seats, than the standard Minis and the Convertible droptop. But the Clubman is a bit of a mix and match job with both seriously good and somewhat ordinary features. value People don't buy Minis for value. At $45,550 there are plenty of larger, more practical and sportier cars you can buy and have change in your pocket. But very few of them can offer the fun and the big wide grin on the driver's face from being the centre of attention that comes from driving a Mini. The range does start $9000 cheaper with the Cooper but the Cooper S offers much more power and fun. technology The 1.6-litre in-line four-cylinder engine is a cracker. With 128kW of power and 240Nm of torque it is well suited to city traffic with its spritely acceleration and lively manners. The manual gearbox is a delight with its slick shifting but the reverse gear is a little awkward to get used to. The manual is also more fuel efficient than the auto by a not- insignifcant 2L/100km. It reaches 100km/h from a standing start in 7.6 seconds. design There's no getting away from it, while the standard Mini is accepted as a great looking machine, people are far more divided over the longer Clubman. The real problem is the silly third door. Placed on the driver's side and opening onto traffic means its use will be limited. The cute rear doors, copying the styling of the original little Mini wagon, are easy to open. The doors open wide to provide easy loading access. There's not a great deal of space (260-litres) but if you fold the rear seats down there's plenty of room (930-litres) for the shopping, a pram or, more likely for Mini owners, a folded down bike or two. safety One thing you do get for your nearly-$50,000 is a car packed with safety features. There's everything from six airbags to stability control, brake assist driving and electronic brakeforce distribution. The car also has one of the best hillstart assistance packages I've tested to ensure it doesn't roll backwards when starting on a slope. driving Looks are everything with this car, whether its behind the wheel in the retro cockpit or its outside where the stand-out Mini front wins praise. With the Clubman though the back, while quite square, splits opinion. The driver's seat is adjusted manually, which while suiting the retro-feel, is a bit cheap in a nearly-$50,000 car. On the road the Mini is a handy device, you whip through the gears with ease though getting into reverse is a bit clunky. It accelerates from a standing start smoothly and is a happy highway cruiser. Rear vision through the two club doors is a big improvement over the normal Mini and the convertible. The test car came with a sunroof that opens slightly but it tends to make the road noise louder so it will probably be of limited use. Pricing and the unique styling will not be to every motorist's liking but for those who do the Clubman is far more practical and useful than the smaller Minis. Now we await the arrival of the Countryman. DAVID FITZSIMONS small torque Mini Cooper S Clubman 81/100 Price: $45,550 Engine: 1.6L/4-cylinder 128kW/ 240Nm Transmission: 6-speed manual Economy: 7L/100km (official) we like: Interior styling and space Great manual gearbox, Stripes on the bonnet we don't like: Side 3rd door No electric seat adjustment Small centre console storage area alternatives BMW 1 Series hatch: from $41,100 82/100 Alfa Romeo 159 Sportwagon: from $55,990 80/100 Peugeot 308 Touring Wagon: from $32,490 79/100 Mercedes B-Class from $37,500 78/100
September 25th 2010
October 9th 2010