As of a few weeks ago, the new F54 MINI Clubman has entered full launch mode. To that extent, our European counterparts have had a chance to test and review the newest MINI. Autocar is one of the first outlets publishing their impressions. And while there’s nothing significant standing out of their write-up, there are some interesting tidbits worth mentioning.
On interior design:
The first thing you notice about the new Clubman is that it’s easier to get into than the previous one, thanks to larger door apertures all round. You can also access the rear seats from either side of the car, rather than just on the right-hand side, as before. Predictably, given the increased external dimensions, it is a good deal roomier inside, too. You’re immediately aware of increased shoulder and head room up front, and the rear offers far greater leg and head room than previously. The added space is welcome. However, the intrinsic intimacy and snugness that has characterized Mini models down through the years has been lost in the effort to improve comfort and everyday practicality.
On the 8-speed auto:
The optional eight-speed auto gearbox, as fitted to our test car, is perfectly suited to the characteristics of the more powerful engine. It delivers noticeably smoother shifts in automatic mode than the older six-speed unit and it is also more responsive when you nudge the gear lever across its horizontal plane to switch it into manual mode. It’s not only the improved action and smoothness of the new automatic gearbox that pleases. The ratios have also been well chosen, providing the Clubman with an engagingly peppy feel in the first four gears and considerably more relaxed qualities in the final four gears – eighth being wildly over driven at 0.673:1 in combination with a final drive of 3.200:1 for relaxed long-distance cruising capability.
The Clubman delivers genuinely absorbing handling. The new Mini corners with verve, its well-sorted chassis providing tenacious grip and nicely contained body movements when you push hard. There’s a real feel of strength to the body structure, which gives the impression of being significantly more rigid than most similarly sized hatchbacks.
This last quote is the most interesting part of the review in our opinion. Despite having the same engine as the F56/F55, and being heavier and longer than its predecessor, the new Clubman appears to be a hoot to drive. We’ll have a chance to confirm that when we drive the F54 later this year.