Spanning nearly seven decades and now in its third generation, albeit under new ownership since 1994, the MINI model family continues to expand, both in size and range.
The new MINI Clubman has matured into a larger and more refined automobile than any of its predecessors. With the longest roofline ever seen in a MINI, its characteristic four-door ‘shooting brake’ design, and the legendary split doors at the rear, the new Clubman has come of age as a serious contender in the compact segment. More importantly, though, the new Clubman maintains the pizzazz and agility that makes it a MINI thoroughbred.
The matured character of the new MINI Clubman is reflected in dimensions that are significantly larger than the predecessor model, and, compared to the MINI 5 door, the new Clubman is 27 cm longer and 9 cm wider than the latter, while its wheelbase is 10 cm larger.
Five fully-fledged seats, convenient access, more space for all occupants, and a versatile luggage compartment are the salient features of the new Clubman. What used to be the central instrument dial, a typical feature of the classic MINI, is cleverly integrated into the instrument panel of the fresh MINI Clubman. Fitted with either a two-colour 2.7” display or a 6.5”/8.8” colour screen, the former dial now serves as a display for vehicle, infotainment, phone, and navigation functions. Paying homage to the classic MINI, it also features a cool-looking LED ring surround that can optionally respond to road situations and to specific operating procedures by means of an interactive lighting display. All functions are handled via a controller in the centre console.
The latest generation of the MINI Convertible, the original and still the only premium convertible in the B-segment, guarantees a refreshing open-top driving experience for those in the front and back. The new MINI Convertible is fitted for the first time with a completely automatic soft top, and fully integrated rollover protection. Furthermore, the soft top be opened or closed in fewer than 18 seconds, even when travelling at speeds of up to 30 km/h. After opening, the soft top is folded compactly behind the rear seats, yet remains visible enough to create somewhat of a retro open top aesthetic. Optional extras pertaining to the soft top comprise the Always Open Timer and the MINI Connected XL including a rain warning function.
Compared to the predecessor model, the new Convertible increases by 9.8 cm in length, 4.4 cm in width, and 0.7 cm in height. The wheelbase has been extended by 2.8 cm, and the track width by 4.2 cm in the front and 3.4 cm in the back. The new dimensions preserve the typical MINI proportions, while ensuring more legroom in the front and space on all four seats. The luggage compartment volume has been increased by 25%, and the new Easy Load function allows the soft top frame to be raised when the roof is closed, making for a wider, through-loading facility.
The increase in wheelbase and track width, combined with its low centre of gravity, all contribute to the characteristic go-kart feeling in the new MINI Convertible. The new generation of engines, suspension, and damping that is optimised for an open-top four-seater, and a highly torsionally stiff body structure ensure both agile handling and superior ride comfort.
Both the MINI Clubman and the MINI Convertible offer the same two engine variants.
The 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine with MINI TwinPower Turbo technology in the MINI Cooper (Clubman and Convertible) delivers an output of 100 kW and maximum torque of 220 Nm (230 Nm with overboost).
The 2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with MINI TwinPower Turbo technology in the MINI Cooper S (Clubman and Convertible) delivers an output of 141 kW and maximum torque of 280 Nm (300 Nm with overboost). Both engine variants are mated with a 6-speed manual transmission that is standard across all four derivatives. A 6-speed automatic Steptronic transmission is available as an option on the MINI Cooper (Clubman and Convertible), and the MINI Cooper S (Clubman and Convertible) also comes with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
The new MINI models offer a treasure trove of both standard and optional functions. Both the Clubman and the Convertible offer numerous optional extras. These incorporate the MINI Yours Interior Styles, MINI Connected in-car infotainment, MINI Excitement Package (for LED interior, ambient, and access lighting), Comfort Access, LED headlamps, the MINI Driving Modes, and Dynamic Damper Control, Head-Up Display, and Driving Assistant (including camera-based active cruise control, collision and pedestrian warning with initial brake function, high beam assistant, road sign detection, Parking Assistant, and rear view camera). Driving Assistant comes standard on the MINI Cooper Convertible and the MINI Cooper S Convertible, while the range is rounded off with optional John Cooper Works equipment packages.
And, on top of all that, the new MINI model range also features the latest active and passive safety features including six airbags in the MINI Clubman, as well as a host of driver assistance systems like Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Cornering Brake Control (CBC), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) – which includes a drive-off assistant, a brake dry function, fading brake support – and Dynamic Traction Control (DTC).
Report by WILHELM LOOTS | Images © MINI SOUTH AFRICA