As car-derived vans go, the MINI is far from conventional, but as Ian Shaw reports, that is its greatest asset.
When BMW launched the MINI Clubman estate derivative it met with universal criticism for its boxy looks and van-style rear doors. With one eye on maximising its return on investment and tongue firmly in cheek, BMW capitalised on this and launched a commercial version, the Clubvan. Of course the original Mini had a van version too and highly successful it was. Perhaps BMW will go the extra mile and launch a pick-up too like the old days, following more recent ideas on the theme from Skoda's Felica Fun and the Proton Jumbuck.
In van form the MINI is hardly the most capacious LCV. Less than one cubic-metre of load volume and a half-tonne payload will not worry the big French players in the sector, but strange as it may sound to focus on this van’s load bay, is missing the point. So let’s start at the other end. Hedging its bets the MINI Clubvan can be had with petrol power but all the used ones we found had the highly capable 1.6-litre diesel. This puts out 112 bhp and can be allied to a six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. However it's under the front end where the MINI's biggest strength is to be found. Its sophisticated suspension and equal-length driveshafts, mean handling is vivid and torque-steer eliminated - after all, any front-wheel-drive car that can cope with the Cooper S Works power has to be well sorted. Does that matter? Well it has too if you are going to pay this much for a van, with such a small load bay and harsh ride. If you drive to site, park your van for 8 hours and drive home again its doesn‘t, but drive all day, and the MINI Clubvan is a joy.
Many businesses will buy one for its image too. Trendy, upmarket, stylish; not words you usually associate with a van but the MINI has them all and exudes quality, but it's not cheap.
DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Service Agency) lists just one recall on the Clubvan of this era proving its reliability reputation is deserved. It relates to either passenger vehicle or commercial derivatives. The recall is number R/2013077 dated 15/08/2013 and relates to all models fitted with N47T type diesel engines with a warning of a "risk of fire" and covers vehicles built between 01/08/2010 and 18/03/2013 but no VIN numbers are recorded. Surprisingly for a BMW, build quality has not always been a MNI strong point, but has improved with each model change but it’s fair to say that compared to car-derived vans from Volkswagen or Citroen the Clubvan feels a bit more car, than van, in its toughness. Reliability itself seems good but servicing and parts costs are high. The used Clubvan is unlikely to have had a hard working life but check the low front end and alloy wheels for kerb damage or heavy wear to tyres and brakes by an enthusiastic owner.
The MINI Clubvan is certainly not a bargain basement buy and the WhatVan.co.uk used van locator reflects this. For openers how about a 2008 08-plate Cooper D automatic for £10,990 with 78,000 miles on it. A little more recent Cooper D manual example at £11,995 from 2013 on a 63-plate having covered 54,000 miles, or at the same age you could spend £12,495 for one that's done 26,000 miles. Finally fork out £12,995 and you get a barely run-in 14,000 mile 2013 63-plate model.