First drive 2013 Mini Clubvan


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
The Auto Channel

Delivery with a trendy touch

RILLY LA MONTAGNE, France, February 25, 2013. True to the image of the brand, the communications department of Mini has again been able to come up with a different-than-expected location for the first drive with a new model. This time, they chose Chateau de Rilly, a French castle in the Champagne area, a setting that I would expect for an Aston Martin or a Rolls-Royce, but not for a commercial vehicle.

However, since the Clubvan is especially designed for owners of trendy, small businesses, Mini made the link with the friendly 15 room hotel. And also with the medium sized champagne house of Roger Manceau, where we were shown the process of champagne making and could picture the boxed bottles being hauled to the hotel in the Mini Clubvan.


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The Clubvan is not like any other Mini model so far: it seats only two, has five doors and a fair sized, closed off load area. The Concept for the commercial variant of the Clubman was unveiled at the 2012 Geneva Auto Show. The decision to produce the Clubvan should not have taken too long, as there was hardly any investment involved because it is technically identical to the Clubman and shares also its body parts. The only difference being the rear side windows that are blocked out and body colored with interior polycarbonate reinforcement. By leaving out the rear seats and installing a special load floor the Mini Clubvan has shed some 15 kg (33 lbs) compared to the Clubman. The flat metal floor of the cargo compartment is covered with insulation and a plastic load floor that ends behind the front seats. The partition between passenger and cargo space consists of a lower solid aluminum section and an upper part of stainless steel mesh that is attached to the vehicle’s body and runs all the way up to the roof of the car. That way the 860 liters of load space can be fully used, offering a maximum payload of 500 kg (1,102 lbs). There are 12-volt sockets in the cargo area to power electrical equipment and six attachment loops in the floor at the edge of the load area to secure cargo and prevent items for sliding. With tinted glass in the rear doors, the load compartment is well concealed.

The cargo area is 115 cm long and 102 cm wide (45.3 x 40.2 inches). It is a pity that the length and height is just a couple of inches short to comply with regulations in my home country to designate the Clubvan as a commercial vehicle. It would have differed a lot of tax. However, there are countries where the Clubvan is a commercial vehicle, so that companies buying it, can claim back the VAT.

Mini UK expects the Clubvan to take one third of Clubman sales during the first year, mainly thanks to the starting price of only 11,100 pound Sterling, thanks to tax incentives Mini is offering the Clubvan as Mini One, with the well-known 1.6-liter engine with 98 hp, the 122 hp strong Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper D with the 112 hp strong turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine. This model offers best fuel economy in the segment of compact delivery vehicles, with at the same time 20 hp more than any of its competitors (3.9 l/100 km or 72.4 mpg imp).

All three models get the six-speed manual gearbox, but the Cooper D Clubvan is also available with a sex-speed automatic transmission.

We were driving Mini Clubvan Cooper D with stickshift. In fact, it was the English model with the steering wheel on the right hand side. No problem, but you may see this if you look at the pictures. Our drive on the freeway and country roads between the Paris airport to the champagne county was as expected: not much different from the equivalent with four seats.

If you like a sporty ride, you would not mind that the suspension is a bit stiff and transfers road noise into the cabin, especially on rough tarmac. There is wind noise, like in the Clubman, but overall and on good roads, inside it is fairly quiet and there is no noise and vibration coming from the rear. Of course it helps that the cargo floor is well insulated, and that the floor and the side walls are trimmed with carpeting and the roof has a liner.

Driving on the country roads with some good pace, made me forget that this is a van. Indeed, we did not have any cargo except for our carry-on suit cases, so we did not have to worry about champagne bottles to be shaken… In case we should have taken a full load of boxes from Roger Manceaux, it would have been easy to lead them through the rear doors that open wide. Be it for champagne or other goods, the Mini Clubvan is an attractive delivery vehicle, that also offers good space for the company name and/or logo.

In The Netherlands, prices start at just under 20,000 euro inclusive VAT and in the UK at 11,100 pounds exclusive VAT. In the US, the commercial variant is only available as Mini Cooper Clubvan from $ 25,985 (MSRP).

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