Awesome other MINI, the Clubman, has been released for the South African market. Car-like feelings of space and performance synonymous with MINI are trademarks, while imperfections like the wrong-sided single suicide door make it "real".

MINI has released pricing for its new Clubman which has just hit South Africa. Clubman, the other MINI as they say, just got introduced to the SA market to add some spice on the already busy mini car market, and boy does it say “paprika”! Priced at R209,500/ €16,355 for the 6-speed manual (auto is R224,560/ €17,530) for the 1.6 Cooper, and R260,500/ €20,336 for the manual turbocharged S (R275,560/ €21,512 in auto), Clubman is obviously placed in the premium section of things. MINI drivers will pay because they don’t necessarily want a practical car, but rather a MINI badge on their car keys and that driving experience synonymous with MINI. Cooper is the 1.6 naturally aspirated version of 88kW and 160 Nm of torque. Cooper S? Same engine, turbo included pushing out 128kW and 240Nm, with an extra 20Nm brief overboost for overtaking.

Clubman version could well have been the first out of the England factory, it would have been a success regardless. In fact, my suspicion is that Clubman would have made a fine frontman for the brand while the coupe could have joined later as the halo car. Nevertheless both deserve the MINI badge. One or two well-documented Clubman niggles though. The first is the massive rear blinder posing as a middle-bar on the window. Caused by the two meeting hinged door frames, it really is a traffic blinder and causes driver not to get the whole picture behind him. Second one is yes, the “suicide” door which MINI has tried to explain away again and again as a production-cost saver, saying all sorts of things about fuel tanks relocating and safety assured because the door only opens when driver’s door is also open. That just makes it worse because it means it is no different from the coupe where driver has to yield to a rear passenger’s entry and exit. It also means the design was flawed from the start if it couldn’t accommodate such a simple request. Why not make it two suicide doors instead then, like the Mazda RX-8?

All that said, Clubman feels much more like a real car than does the coupe. That may have a lot do to with spaciousness of which there’s actually quite a bit. Even the boot can load more than normal. Lots of customization is an option with Clubman as other MINIs, making it possible over a million different combos of interior and exterior colours, optional extras, wheels, roofing choices, engines and gearboxes. It’s like the Maybach of small cars.

BMW South Africa has confirmed the later arrival of Clubman JCW hot version.

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