The Clubvan is unlike anything else that has been on our test fleet recently, as Steve Banner reports
While the Renault Master and Ford Transit Custom we have run over the past couple of years would not look out of place on an industrial estate or a building site, Clubvan would feel a little uncomfortable in such dirt-under-the-fingernails locations. It is more likely to be happy parked outside an elegant boutique in Bath with its alloy wheels at a safe distance from the kerb or on the gravelled drive of a genteel country house hotel in the Cotswolds.
In other words it is a niche product tailored for an upmarket audience. However that is not to imply that it is in any way impractical as a load carrier.
At 0.86m3 the cargo area is admittedly small, but it will still swallow a lot of expensively-wrapped parcels and packages and a 500kg payload capacity enables it to shift quite a few cases of vintage port or fine old brandy. A standard Thatcham Category 1 alarm will hopefully prevent them from getting pinched.
Load bay access is by means of twin rear doors plus an offside door that is really no more than a narrow hinged flap. Move it to the nearside for safety's sake please MINI.
Clubvan customers can select from three models, two of which are petrol powered at 98hp and 122hp. We however went for the third choice: a 112hp 1.6-litre diesel married to a six-speed gearbox.
Top power kicks in at 4,000rpm while maximum torque of 270Nm bites across a 1750-to-2250rpm plateau. Good to see Dynamic Stability Control fitted as standard along with hill start assistance.
The PEPPER pack referred to in the extra-cost options list below includes automatic air-conditioning, front fog lights, a rain sensor with automatic headlamp activation and an onboard computer. It also encompasses a host of minor but nonetheless useful items such as a 12v power point in the load area and a net for the cargo bed floor.
Interesting to note that the air con system features an integrated active carbon filter that protects both driver and passenger against "unpleasant odours from outside." Just what you need on occasions when you are pottering through the British countryside. So what's Clubvan like to drive? An absolute hoot - no question about it!
Punt it into a bend and it powers through the curve as if on rails, with no evidence that it intends to lose composure and disappear into the shrubbery any time soon. Direct and highly-responsive steering adds to the fun. Hopefully the fun you are having will prompt you to forget about the ride.
To describe it as firm is an understatement. Indeed you occasionally wonder whether the go-kart-like Clubvan has got any suspension at all.
What it has definitely got though is a super-slick gear change, although the clutch pedal is a tad too close to the footrest. While the engine feels a little stiff at present, we know from past experience with diesel Clubvans that it will start to deliver a healthy dollop of performance once it has loosened up a little.
Fuel economy is not as good as the official combined figure - it rarely is with any van - and we have initially been achieving roughly 52mpg compared with a claimed 72.4mpg. Hopefully that figure will improve in the coming months. Quoted CO2 output is a modest 103g/km.
It is early days, but we have already decided that we love Clubvan's stylish and appealing exterior and interior with its toggle-type dashboard switches, although the big retro-style speedometer is throwing up a distracting reflection whose source we cannot quite fathom. Cab interior noise levels are higher than we would expect and the bulkhead rattles intermittently but we are dealing with both by turning up the volume on the high-quality DAB digital radio.
MINI Cooper D Clubvan 1.6
Mileage -143 miles
Claimed combined consumption -72.4mpg
Our average consumption - 52mpg
Price (ex VAT)- £14,258 ??????
Price range (ex VAT) £11,175 - £13,600
Gross payload 500kg
Load length 1150mm
Load width (min/max 1020mm/1090mm
Load volume 0.9m3
Load bay height 840mm
Gross vehicle weight 1685kg
Braked trailer towing weight 750kg
Engine size/power 1598cc/112hp
Warranty 3yrs/unltd miles
Service intervals variable
Insurance group 3E
Options (ex VAT)
PEPPER pack - £813
Bluetooth connectivity with USB audio interface £333
Rear parking sensors - £204
Heated seats £179
Interior trim - Pepper white £158
Colour Line trim - Carbon black £104