The Auto Trader expert verdict:
The entry-level MINI One Clubman is good to drive, but lacks the equipment and desirability of the mid-spec Cooper version
Reasons to buy:
- Good to drive with agile handling
- Strong sense of quality
- A lot of character
How good does it look?
The MINI One Clubman looks distinctive, but in this entry-level trim it doesn’t look quite as appealing as more expensive models. The One version comes with plastic wheel trims and a choice of just three standard flat paint colours. The vertically split rear doors look great, even if they do hamper visibility. The extra side door on the driver’s side of the car looks strange though.
What's the interior like?
Up front, the Clubman is standard MINI fare. The large centrally mounted speedometer dominates proceedings and there’s a distinctly circular theme to the design. Though the speedo is not easily in your line of sight, a digital speed read-out can be displayed within the rev counter mounted behind the steering wheel. It’s a well-made interior and highly unusual, although some of the controls can be fiddly to use.
How practical is it?
The Clubman provides an extra 100 litres of boot space over the 160 litres found in the MINI hatch, However the Ford Fiesta, for example, has 295 litres of space. The Clubman’s headroom is impressive all-round and there’s better rear legroom than in the MINI hatch. The extra side door theoretically improves access to the rear, but it’s still a bit awkward and not really suited to baby seats.
What's it like to drive?
The Clubman feels little different to the MINI Hatch from behind the wheel. It retains the same sharp steering, low seating position and ability to maintain speed no matter how twisty the road. The downside is that the ride comfort is not quite as cossetting as in some rivals. However, the standard One rides on relatively high-profile tyres, which helps its cause. Even in its most basic format the Clubman is fun to drive.
How powerful is it?
Before MINI swapped the old 1.4-litre petrol engine for this newer 1.6-litre unit in 2010, the One was best avoided. Power is up only a little, to 98bhp, but pulling power has increased by about 10 per cent, so it’s not quite so far behind the Cooper model as before. It’s a smooth and free-revving engine and the standard six-speed manual gearbox provides crisp, enjoyable gearchanges.
How much will it cost me?
The Clubman’s 51.4mpg average fuel economy is impressive for a petrol-powered car of this size. However, that figure is reduced to just 43.5mpg when an automatic gearbox is fitted. Likewise, the standard car’s CO2 emissions figure of 129g/km isn’t bad and keeps road tax costs low, but fitting the automatic transmission sees an increase in emissions to 152g/km. The One benefits from relatively low insurance costs, while MINI offers extremely good-value servicing packages.
How reliable is it?
Given that MINI is owned by BMW, it should be no surprise that there have been few problems with its cars. Respondents to the 2010 JD Power Survey gave the MINI 80.8 per cent in terms of ownership satisfaction. That reflects the low number of issues with reliability. Even the cheapest Clubman feels well made.
How safe is it?
While the longer Clubman has not been tested by EuroNCAP, the MINI Hatch fared well, with a full five-star result for adult occupant protection. A full complement of airbags is standard for the front occupants, while MINI fits electronic stability programme and traction control too. Essentially, it’s a safe car.
How much equipment do I get?
Here’s where the One falls down a little. Air-con, comprehensive safety systems, central locking, an alarm and immobiliser and electric windows are standard, but there are plenty of niceties that are not. Things like a leather steering wheel costs extra, as do Bluetooth connectivity and alloy wheels. Buyers who are tempted to upgrade their One with a few bits and pieces of colour, may find they are better off opting for the Cooper instead.
Compared with the MINI Hatch, the Clubman provides a useful increase in occupant and luggage space, but even so, it is still not massively roomy. The One is safe, has a good engine and is keenly priced, but the low equipment level is a major drawback.