Living with a Mini Clubman Cooper SD: Third report

I am not an especially big fan of music. My iTunes collection hosts everything
from Britpop legends Oasis to the only very slightly more obscure German
performer (singer or artist would have been too generous) Frank Zander. In
short, I'm not that fussed about what I listen to; music is, occasionally, the
background to my life, but it never ventures into the foreground.

One of the few times my music does become slightly more prominent in my
consciousness, though, is when I'm driving. When I'm on the road, I've always
got my phone plumbed into the stereo.

In the Mini, that's great – the Harman/Kardon system makes even the 257ers sound
good – but if I want to change tracks, it becomes more of an issue.

In most cars, there are buttons on the steering wheel with a couple of triangles
and a line. Those triangles pointing right take you to the next track, while
those pointing left take you to the previous track. This has been the case for
years, and it's a set-up that works well.

It seems, however, that Mini thought its technical powers were too good to
bother with such pleasing simplicity, so there are no such buttons cluttering
the Clubman's steering wheel.

Mini's infinite wisdom has instead dictated that the audio controls need 'up'
and 'down' buttons. For a moment, I thought they were the volume controls, but
apparently volume goes right and left.

With more than a little curiosity, I gave the 'up' button a jab with my thumb,
but all that happened was the name of the track (Como Te Atreves, by Morat,
since you asked) appeared on the head-up display.

After a bit more experimenting with random button presses and a lengthy period
of being stared at suspiciously by my passenger, who had previously been living
under the misconception that I had musical taste, I finally got the thing to
switch to something less embarrassing. It turns out you have to push 'up' or
'down' and then 'OK', as if you didn't mean to change tracks and couldn't easily
rectify the problem even if you had.

Why on Earth can't they just make something simple and functional?

Anyway, other than that minor irritation, I'm getting on well with the Clubman.
The more I drive it, the more I like it. It's a prime example of why you should
never judge a book by its cover.

Under those questionable features lurks an admirable breadth of talent. The
seats, for example, speak more of couture than comfort, but it's the latter they
deliver. Tedious motorways, winding B-roads and even city-centre jams all seem
to be happily soaked up by the leather.

It isn't just a comfortable cruiser, either; it's fun to drive. The steering is
pretty much spot on, the diesel engine is punchy enough to make overtaking a
breeze and it's efficient, too, managing to top 50mpg without undue effort.

So despite my original misgivings, the Mini is alright.

By James Fossdyke


Model: Mini Cooper Clubman SD ALL4 Auto
Price: £36.070
Engine: 2.0-litre, 6-speed automatic
Power: 188bhp, 400Nm
Max speed: 138mph
0-60mph: 7.1 seconds
Emissions: 126g/km
MPG: 58.9 (combined)
Mileage this month: 872