New doors open to join MINI Club

It's a MINI with a little more to boot – Iain Dooley, PA senior motoring writer, checks out the quirky, more versatile Clubman.

Engines – Despite the success of the MINI hatchback, BMW wasn't going to ignore the Clubman – a car boasting a more versatile layout. Just like the hatch, low CO2 and frugal petrol and diesel engines are the norm here, with stop-start and tax-dodging figures routine.

Exterior – Some will view the Clubman as a compact estate, and while it boasts such a profile it's more a long wheelbase three-door car than genuine load-lugger. That said, some do find the Clubman more pleasing to eye because of its elongated looks. Still, from every angle it remains a MINI.

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Interior – Just like the exterior, the Clubman is pure MINI on the inside. The car's trademark fascia design and minor switchgear are things you won't find anywhere else. But looks can be deceiving, as cabin space remains modest despite the extra length. Rear-seat space is okay for children, while the attraction of the car's boot is down to the access available via the twin-opening rear doors rather than outright space.

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Driving – Sitting low in the Clubman – or any MINI for that matter – results in a race car-like feeling when on the move. The Clubman's fractionally-longer wheelbase adds a welcome extra bit of stability over rough and twisty roads, while the direct steering and firm ride will be familiar to Mini fans. Hot John Cooper Works variant aside, the engines offer a good blend of economy and performance. The diesels could be quieter while the petrol units are more frugal than you think.

Ownership – Despite the extra length and van-like rear doors the Clubman remains a MINI at heart and, as such, is really only suited to an adult pairing up front with the occasional child in the back. Luggage space isn't great but access is better than a MINI hatchback – including the polarising 'Club door' third opening on the offside rear. Like all MINIs it's a frugal car and should boast low running costs.

What to look for – With many cars bought to use as urban runabouts, be wary of examples with parking dents, kerbed wheels and bodged cosmetic repairs. Such neglect could be hiding more serious problems, and very low-mileage cars could be suffering from a lack of use – a few miles to the shops each week won't be enough to keep things running smoothly. Along with the test drive, always check for cabin damage and ensure the car's paperwork is in order.

Model history – 2007, BMW adds the quirky Clubman variant to its MINI line-up. Paying homage to the Clubman of old, this car boasts split rear doors plus a single offside rear door that's better suited to left-hand drive cars. Engine line-up is as the hatchback, meaning frugal and willing petrol and diesel motors. Modest kit is boosted by a long list of cost options. A CVT auto gearbox is available on selected models.

Reasons to buy – Brand image, quirky looks, drives well, promise of modest running costs.

Reasons to beware – Not as practical as it looks, firm ride, low standard spec and power cars.

Pick of the range – Clubman 1.6 Cooper D.

What to pay – 2007 57 �8,780; 2008 08 �9,950; 2008 58 �10,400; 2009 09 �11,300; 2009 59 �11,850; 2010 10 �12,850; 2010 60 �13,450. Figures relate to showroom prices for cars in A1 condition.

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