Motoring / Motoring News
Jaco Van Der Merwe
I have to confess that I’m a bit of a Mini-addict, ignited by Saturday night feature film repeats on SABC of the 1969 classic The Italian Job during my childhood in the 1980s.
But as dear as that famous 1967 Austin Mini Cooper S trio is to my heart, I must admit that the brand’s reincarnation during the 2003 version of The Italian Job was equally impressive. And just like the Michael Caine-led original cast featured some decent acting, the modern day remake assembled a not too shabby cast line-up itself including our very own Oscar-winner Charlize Theron, Edward Norton, Mark Wahlberg and Donald Sutherland. But for me, the new Mini Cooper was the real star, with the affable tuner Wrench modifying the trio to carry the load of gold bars the best supporting actor.
With the car still in its infancy at the time after the first Mini under the BMW banner rolled off the production line in late 2000, there were many derivatives over the years. One of these variants, the Clubman with its distinctive two barn doors at the back, emerged in 2007 and already in it’s second generation, had a recent fixer-upper which was launched locally late last year. And if being afforded the opportunity to resume our day jobs of driving any test car again as Covid-19 lockdown restrictions started to ease wasn’t bliss enough already, receiving a refreshed Clubman Cooper S to help ease us into the so-called new normal was heaven sent.
But before we delve too deeply into the niceties of this car, we need to address the elephant in the room, which is the price. There is absolutely nothing ‘mini’ about the Cooper S Clubman’s sticker of R581 864. Even though it is a premium compact car, that was a lot of money by anyone’s standards even before the average monthly budget started shrinking in the midst of the Covid-19 financial crunch. At that price point, the options for bigger and more affordable cars are endless, and for a mere R8 000 more you can own an all-time South African crowd-pleaser in the Golf GTI.
The majority of car buyers who are not blessed with a generous budget or have more pressing practical needs will probably merely view it as an overpriced toy. Unfair as this may be taken the car’s capabilities and rich heritage into account, I’m simply not blessed with the superior persuasive skills required to convince them otherwise. All I can say that a toy designed by the Germans and assembled in England isn’t just any old toy you see at your local China Mall.
What the Clubman Cooper S might lacks in value, practicality and size, it makes up in driveability and feel-good factor, or simply put, good old-fashioned fun. And speaking of size, it’s actually grow up considerably from the days of those adorable midgets that put Mini on the map in the 1960s. Sharing BMW’s UKL2 platform with the likes of the X1, X2 and the 1 and 2 Series, the Clubman is a far cry from those gold bar-laden little buggers that escaped from the Italian Polizia Fiats so effortlessly through Turin’s storm water tunnels on the film set over five decades ago.
The cabin is spacious enough to get four adults to their destination in comfort on a daily basis, while the 360 litres of boot space is easily accessible through the barn doors and should be big enough for its passengers’ everyday needs.
The 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine sends 141kW/280Nm of torque to the front wheels via the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Mini claims the Clubman Cooper S will reach 100 km/h from a standstill in 7.2 sec with a top whack of 228 km/h. Not exactly a GTI killer, but it never claims to be and speed off the line is most likely also not what your modern day Mini admirer is after.
The car has a rated fuel consumption of 6.2L/100 km, but we struggled to keep that number below 10. And believe it or not, while our trips might have included some enthusiastic driving, it didn’t include hauling gold bars down stairways.
The complete list of updates in the new Clubman Cooper S includes a distinctive front design with newly designed radiator grill, LED headlights with Matrix function for the high beam, new LED fog lamps with driving light ring, LED rear lights as standard, optionally in Union Jack design, new body colours, new option Piano Black exterior, new light alloy wheels, sports suspension resulting in the car running 10mm lower, new range of leather trims and interior surfaces, new Mini Yours equipment programme and an extended range of original Mini accessories.
The new Clubman comes equipped with a SIM card which meets 4G mobile phone standards. This means that Intelligent Emergency Call with automatic detection of vehicle location and accident severity is available, as well as Mini TeleServices.
The Clubman Cooper S, or any Mini for that matter, just isn’t a car for the masses anymore like it was all those decades ago. But with this comes exclusivity, and that is exactly what will attract buyers to it. It is not a run-of-the-mill value sedan, SUV or even mass-produced hatch back. The Clubman is distinctively a Mini accentuated by the quirky bard doors that make it very more unique. And this distinctive uniqueness is what justifies a Mini. And its price tag, its buyers will argue.
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