SINGAPORE (Mar 13): The latest incarnation of the MINI Clubman is more family-friendly, without compromising on the ride’s fun factor

By any measure, MINIs are not practical cars. For parents of young children, it seems especially unsuitable — it is too low to comfortably buckle a child into her car seat, the boot space is too small for a stroller and there is not much storage space in the car itself. I had once driven the MINI Cooper S and loved every second in the driver’s seat, but pragmatically speaking, this was not the car I would have opted for had I been shopping for one at the time.

With the newly unveiled MINI Clubman, however, it feels like BMW paid attention to ruminations like mine and made the kind of car a family would find practical — okay, it is still a little low, but there are now six doors, much more boot space and really impressive under-the-bonnet action. So, the fun factor of the car is intact.

First unveiled at Auto Shanghai last April, what the updated Clubman looked like was no secret by the time it arrived.

Pictures do the car little justice, though — only in real life can you properly enjoy the aesthetic improvements, which include a redesigned radiator grille for a more distinctive and sporty appearance, new LED headlights and fog lights and, of course, its new paint colour. Indian Summer Red, which is really an orangey pink colour, makes the car look rather incredible in the sunlight.

The modified headlamps endow the car with a more dynamic, characteristically MINI appearance, while a white ring of light surrounding the headlamps serves both as daytime driving light and turn indicator. The powerfully modelled contours and a new structure for the air inlet now give the car a distinctive appearance as well, which is emphasised with an elongated roof line and a steep rear for a compact, sporty look.

The laterally opening wings make the new Clubman the only model in the compact segment to feature six doors, along with outstanding versatility offered by the fully extendable luggage compartment that expands from 360L to 1,250L. Hands full? Simply wave your foot at it and the sensor-operated boot doors open easily. This is already a feature of several BMW models, of course, but is a great new addition for the MINI.

The laterally opening wings make the new Clubman the only model in the compact segment to feature six doors

Once I am in the driver’s seat, I can properly admire the interior of the car, anchored by a sleek leather steering wheel and matching upholstery. I notice bigger door bins and deeper cup holders, which add to its practicality. The Union Jack motif on the headrests is a witty touch, a design element that sharp eyes will also spot in the asymmetrical 18-inch light alloy wheels.

The interior is anchored by a sleek leather steering wheel and matching upholstery

This might be supefluous to the driving experience, but I cannot say I did not enjoy the illumination of the bezels on the door, and around the cockpit and the centre console. Considering the last Clubman was released in 2016, the update of the cabin was long needed, and well deserved.

I did not get to enjoy the car very much as a passenger, but I do not think mine had much to complain about — the car’s long doors grant relatively easy access, and there is good leg, knee and headroom in both rows, with enough in the back even for slightly taller adults.

The New MINI Clubman is available in the Cooper S variant, sporting a two-litre TwinPower Turbo engine that produces 192hp and 280Nm of torque, enabling a century sprint in just 7.2 seconds. It can reach a top speed of 228kph while consuming 6.2 litres of fuel per 100km of travel and outputting 141g/km of CO2. The engine is paired with a new Seven-Speed Dual Clutch Sports Automatic Transmission that provides fast gear changes, a high degree of shift comfort and optimised efficiency. The transmission is operated via a newly designed electronic selector lever, which returns to its original position after changing between driving mode, neutral position and reverse mode.

The drive experience of the Clubman is classic MINI — it is absolutely delightful from start to finish and its progressive and gentle handling is quite remarkable. The car feels like it strikes the perfect dynamic resolution, because it is easier to handle than previous MINIs, yet still an extremely fun car to drive.

It is unapologetically petrol-powered, but gets its efficiency street cred from the transmission’s electronic control system — the start/stop function minimises wastage when you are waiting at the lights or in traffic jams and, in the mid and green modes, the coasting functions also help out some. Essentially, the drivetrain is disengaged as soon as your leg is off the accelerator. So, the car rolls along at idling speed, free of the engine’s braking effect and thus reducing fuel consumption to a minimum. And, of course, this happens perfectly smoothly — the entire process is imperceptible when you are driving.

Most evident of the Clubman’s modernity is its connectivity, complete with the advanced MINI Connected with built-in 4G SIM technology, offering maximised safety with the Intelligent Emergency Call and MINI TeleServices. Most people do not use this, but the MINI Connected App is really where ownership becomes a bit more game-changing. The app furnishes owners with an exceptionally wide range of digital services such as Concierge Service, Apple Carplay and MINI Online, which allow mobility planning to be integrated seamlessly into day-to-day digital routines.

The app also enables you to send navigational information from smartphone to vehicle and receive departure information, as well as MINI’s Remote Services, which displays the car’s location, fuel level and other details on your phone. The function also allows quick activation of the headlight flash, horn, ventilation or to lock and unlock the doors.

The new MINI Clubman is sophisticated and advanced, practical for families and drives like a dream — but this alchemy is more likely to retain existing MINI owners than expand its customer base all that much. The C-segment hatch is a tough category to compete in, but this car is a sure-fire win if you are already a fan of the marque. The only question: Do you actually consider yourself one?