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Mini models, news & reviews
By Tim Pollard
07 September 2007 12:01
It sure is. Devoted fans of all things Mini – and there have been more than a million buyers since BMW first unleashed its lesson in retro pastiche in July 2001 – may find it the coolest thing since having an RAF symbol on their roof, but many neutral observers will find the Clubman downright odd. Blame the 2cm higher roof, chunky full-height C-pillars, strangely small rear lights… and those doors. Ah yes, the doors. The Clubman’s ace card is undoubtedly its van-style twin-hinged back doors, and the asymmetrical, right-hand only rear-passenger suicide door. It looks like nothing else on sale today, the fruit of some excitable first-year postgrad at the Royal College of Art’s car design course summer holiday project. Take away the aperture art and you’re left with a slightly stretched Mini ‘estate’ of sorts. With its panoply of weirdly arcing doors, it’s enough to bring whole streets to a standstill. It’s that different. For the full behind-the-scenes story on the Mini Clubman, read the November 2007 CAR Magazine.
A bit of both, to be honest. Let’s clear up one thing straight away. This isn’t a real Mini estate car. Not of the sort that will challenge proper small wagons, such as the Skoda Fabia and Peugeot 207 SW. Even the German designers call it ‘a shooting brake’ inspired version of the Mini hatch; the Clubman is only slightly bigger, stretched by 24cm to offer more rear legroom and a more generous boot. Do the doors work? The rear-hinged side Clubdoor (fun-loving Mini officials look aghast if you use the ‘s’ word) only opens once the front right door is open, swinging forth to reveal an oddly shaped hole through which you clamber into the rear seats. It’s not without foibles, though. BMW will only build cars with the Clubdoor on the right, so owners in right-hand drive markets will find themselves depositing passengers on the traffic side away from the safety of the pavement. Not ideal, then. However, the Clubdoor makes access significantly easier, and you can still exit on the correct side past the conventionally folding front seat should you wish. Suicide doors are nothing new, of course, and you’ll hear few squeals of amazement from owners of Mazda's RX-8 or the Mini’s distant cousin, the Rolls-Royce Phantom. Those van doors at the back are a different matter altogether, referencing the original Mini Traveller or today’s white van man, depending on how old you are. They’re like nothing else out there, gliding open smoothly on gas-powered struts the moment you tug the classy chrome handles (they’re slightly less satisfying to close, requiring a hefty thunk shut - left door first, then the right). When open, their cut-out surrounds for the rear lights are endlessly fascinating. Very cool.
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Mini Clubman (2007) CAR review
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