Steve Banner looks back on his six-month stint with the Mini Clubvan, which in terms of performance, and, surprisingly, practicality, was a long-term test success
Sometimes we are delighted to bid farewell to long-term test vans. Sometimes we are sad; and the departure of our MINI Cooper D Clubvan after 5635 trouble-free miles certainly prompted us to get our hankies out and shed a near-silent tear.
So what did we like about it?
Top-notch handling was certainly at the top of the list. You can chuck it around rural roads as if it were a go-kart thanks to its direct steering and the way the suspension is set up.
That brings us to the key drawback. While the firm suspension adds to the handling, it subtracts from the ride.
In plain terms, you feel every single bump. It is not the van to use if you are carrying anything fragile.
We had no quarrels with the performance with a crisp gear change allowing us to get the best out of the peppy 112hp 1.6-litre diesel engine. On balance we like the retro style interior with its big speedometer too, although the disco-style light show at night is probably an acquired taste and we have question marks over the comfort of the seats on long journeys.
As for fuel economy, while, as with all models, we were never able to achieve anything close to the official laboratory-established figures, the more miles we put on it, the less thirsty Clubvan became.
One thing that surprised us as the weeks went by was Clubvan's practicality as a load carrier.
Admittedly its 0.86cu/m cargo bay is by no means cavernous, and at 500kg its payload capacity is not huge, but it is surprising how much those twin rear doors can swallow. And despite the fact that we were critical on safety grounds of MINI's decision to mount its side load area access flap - it's too small to be called a door - on the offside of the vehicle, we found we were using it more than we expected to.
So if it were our money and we needed a compact urban runabout, would we buy a Clubvan?
It would certainly be on our shopping list, especially if we ran a chic West End boutique or a Michelin-starred restaurant (both eventualities are admittedly somewhat unlikely). If all we wanted was something to transport a security guard plus dog around in however then we would let our heads rule our hearts; and opt for a Vauxhall Corsavan or Ford Fiesta van instead.