MINI simply van-tastic
- Credit: MINI
Motoring editor Andy Russell would be happy to be white van man... if he can have the new MINI Clubvan.
You know you're getting old when mini makes a big thing about the new van version of its iconic little car and you remember it first time around.
My uncle had a Mini van with seats added in the back and a great aunt ran the pick-up... and they were both grey.
There's nothing grey about the all-new MINI Clubman, the commercial version of the Clubman, which comes in four attractive colours – pepper white, ice blue, British racing green and midnight black.
MINI's not the first manufacturer to take a small car and turn it into a van but this has to be the prettiest, trendiest and most desirable.
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I've seen a couple liveried up – one of for a bakery or sandwich company covered in loaves of bread – and like the branding it looked very tasty indeed.
You don't have to be a business to own one though. If your pastime involves carrying kit, you need only two seats and still want something fashionable and fun to drive then the MINI Clubman fits the bill. although if it's not for commercial use you won't be able to claim the VAT back.
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Using the Clubman door format for the Clubvan actually makes a lot of sense with the double doors at the back – each with its own window wiper – giving good access to the square, almost cube-like 860-litre cargo bay that can carry up to 500kg.
It goes back 115cm, is 102cm wide at its narrowest point and up to 84cm high. And there's a bulkhead and steel mesh partition behind the seats to protect the driver and passenger from any loose loads, although six heavy-duty tie-down points help keep loads secured, and tinted rear windows help hide what's on board.
The small rear-hinged 'Clubdoor' on the offside, which on Clubman is not ideal for passengers getting in and out of the back, makes sense as it allows the driver access to the cargo compartment to load or unload small items without having to the go to the back of the van. There's also some useful space behind the front seats for soft bags or laptop bags.
This is not a minimalist load area with exposed painted metal. The floor and side panels where the Clubman's windows would be are trimmed with high-quality materials and there's a roof lining and a couple of 12-volt electrical sockets.
It may be a van but it retains the MINI go-kart-like handling making it so agile and nimble and the ride is acceptably comfortable.
Apart from it being darker in the back with no side windows and a little bit boomier at speed you would not know you are driving a van.
Three 1.6-litre engines are offered – 98hp petrol in One and 122hp petrol and 122hp turbo diesel in Cooper. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard but a six-speed automatic is an option.
The diesel makes sense if you do the miles – it's relatively quiet, brisk and punchy yet I saw 55 to 69mpg overall in real-world driving. All engines come with auto stop/start, gear shift-point display and brake-energy regeneration.
In keeping with a van that is as much about fashion as function MINI has not skimped on standard equipment which includes air-conditioning, DAB radio with USB port and 3.5mm jackpoint, stability control, electric windows, 15in alloy wheels, alarm, six airbags and central locking.
And, of course, being a MINI, albeit the first commercial version of the modern line-up, there is a huge range of personalisation options and packs.
As light commercials go this one is simply van-tastic.