Mini Clubvan review: big fun for small packages

14 October 2013

Mini Clubvan rear view

Mini Clubvan
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Good: All the usual Mini virtues; great option for boutique brands
Bad: All the usual Mini drawbacks; really not very big
Price: from £11,175 + VAT + delivery
A couple of weeks ago I posted a roundup of my favourite vans, and since then I’ve taken two different commercial vehicles for a spin. One, a boxy VW Transporter, shouldered the workmanlike business of moving all my stuff from place to place. The other, a Mini Clubvan, succeeded in hauling a big silly grin onto my face, but otherwise remained distinctly empty.

Whatever the Clubvan is intended for, it’s not moving house – unless you live in cupboard – and it’s not for carrying big, bulky, long, grubby, heavy or awkward loads. Open the twin rear doors (they pop out to 90 degrees on gas struts) and the fully lined and neatly carpeted 860-litre cargo hold looks better suited to transporting the fruits of a busy day’s shopping on the Kings Road than a tumble dryer or fridge-freezer. I doubt either would fit in any case.

Mini Clubvan rear doors open

On the off-chance you do manage to squeeze anything dangerously bulky back there, there’s a steel mesh grille separating the cabin from the load bay. It’s anchored by a sort of aluminium skirting board, with a curious curve to its shape. The kink is there to provide access to a small triangle of stowage place, right behind the driver’s seat, accessible via the stubby, rear hinged secondary side door.

In the context of the four-seater Mini Clubman, on which the Clubvan is very obviously based, the asymmetrical door arrangement can often be annoying, given that the small extra door opens on the offside rather than the kerbside, with the result that it’s only useful for loading or unloading children when parked on the wrong side of the road. The left-handed layout is a reminder that Mini is more Bavarian than British these days, and that right-hand drive arose only as an afterthought.

Mini Clubvan side view

On the Clubvan, however, the wrong-side door is miraculously on the right side, given that nobody will ever need it to clamber out of the rear, and it’s the driver who is most likely to need to stow something behind the seat before setting off. I can only assume that the tables will be turned and it’s now the German owners of the Clubvan who will be muttering “Dummkopf” and shaking their heads at Mini’s designers.

Up front, the cabin is pure Mini Clubman, and can be decked out via a typically lengthy list of personalisation options. My particular Clubvan had been blessed with £1,130 leather upholstery, 17-inch alloys costing £1,050, xenon headlamps at £485, plus a £975 Pepper Pack that added various creature comforts, and not forgetting a £1,340 media upgrade. Few white vans ever felt quite so lavishly trimmed, though of course mine’s not white but Ice Blue.

Mini Clubvan front interior view

The most basic Clubvan, in One trim with a 98bhp petrol engine and six-speed manual gearbox, starts at £11,175. But before you dash out to order one, remember this is a commercial vehicle so that particular price is not including VAT at £2,235 or a £440 delivery charge. My test-drive Clubvan, in Cooper D guise, churns out a more interesting 112bhp and a rhinoceros-like 270Nm of torque. It costs £13,600 plus £2,720 in tax plus £440 delivery.

Business buyers are quite likely to lease rather than buy outright, and the likes of Car Leasing Online ought to be able to arrange a 36-month plan for about £220 per month plus VAT, with one month down, or considerably less each month with a bigger downpayment.

Mini Clubvan driver's view

On the move, the Clubvan is pure, unfiltered Mini to drive. It accelerates with vim, corners like a startled rabbit, and bounces and fidgets its way along every stretch of asphalt as if fuelled by amphetamines rather than diesel. While there’s no Cooper S or SD edition of the Clubvan (yet), the D feels extraordinarily lively, responsive and a lot of fun. Zero to 62mph takes 10.2 seconds, while CO2 emissions come in at an almost angelic 103g/km.

There are downsides, most noticeably a droning exhaust note and an annoying tendency for the metal grid behind your head to rattle and clang along with every crease in the road, courtesy of the Mini’s stiff and sporty suspension. Rearward and over the shoulder vision is of course abysmal by car standards but not too bad for a van.

The brakes are pretty powerful too. I imagine that if the Clubvan were used to transport, say, wedding cakes, braking would need to be done carefully, to avoid the metal grille delivering the cakes pre-cut into big square chunks.

Delivering small, high-value objects will, I assume, be the Mini Clubvan’s bread and butter. A business would need to be highly image conscious, and have a decent profit margin, to choose the Clubvan over almost any other small van on the market.

It is great fun to drive, though. Any company that hands out these to their delivery drivers really shouldn’t have much trouble recruiting.

Mini Clubvan front view

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