Tuesday 30th July 2013


Daily commuting duties reveal the Clubvan is still a Mini at heart

With Mrs Trent quite keen on our Focus, the Mini has been in my custody for the past few weeks. Although initially a bit disappointed to be given a diesel van over a turbocharged Ford ST, the PH Mini has proved a mainly excellent companion.

Driven safely? Contact @pistonheads...
Driven safely? Contact @pistonheads...
For now, my commute is a 17-mile grind across south London; it's torturous at the best of times, plagued with traffic lights, bizarre junctions and one-way systems. Very early at the weekend, it takes half an hour or less but, during the week, it can be anything up to ninety minutes.

And yet the Mini has made the interminable stop-start driving more tolerable than it should be. The torque of that diesel combined with its sharp steering makes it great for darting into gaps and scooting across roundabouts. The pedals are light, the gearshift sweet and the whole dynamic package encourages a cheeky driving approach. Which is what a Mini is all about, right?

The stop-start system deserves a special mention too while discussing urban driving. It's been 99 per cent perfect, killing the engine at just the right time and firing it again as soon as the clutch moves. Only very seldom does it get flustered, leaving you momentarily stationary as traffic moves again.

Load-lugging PH style!
Load-lugging PH style!
However, our PopBangColoured Mini isn't perfect for inner-city work. Being a van, there simply isn't any blind-spot visibility which, along with the tiny rear windows, makes some manoeuvres a bit tricky. Furthermore, while the graphics look fantastic, the contact details displayed do make it easy for anyone to complain about my driving. Not that there's anything to complain about, of course.

Elsewhere, the Media Pack has really proved its worth. The Bluetooth connection has been flawless, putting the systems in some more expensive cars to shame. The DAB radio has been great too, meaning Talksport (this is still a van, after all) is transformed from its normal crackly AM reception.

And if all this doesn't sound like a particularly PH update, that's because I have a slight confession; YH13UWD isn't that enjoyable away from the traffic. That electric turn-in is still there, the 16-inch wheels give an acceptable ride and everything feels really neutral through corners.

Corners more fun than straights in Cooper D
Corners more fun than straights in Cooper D
So what's the problem? It's that 1.6-litre engine, unfortunately. It would be churlish to complain about a diesel in a fully-fledged van but, because this is still ostensibly a Mini, it's always encouraging the driver to press on. The 112hp diesel, with its noticeable lag and narrow power band, simply doesn't. Having been passed by a few Cooper S hatches popping and gargling their way along, it's made me yearn for a blast in a petrol Mini.

But it can carry lots of Eunos parts (and left over beer from Le Mans) while also returning nearly 50mpg; this despite it often being driven with our best van driver boots on. It may not be perfect, but that doesn't stop the Mini Clubvan being a useful and fun member of the PH Fleet.

Fact sheet:
Mini Cooper D Clubvan
Run by: Matt, others when an Ikea visit beckons
On fleet since: June 2013
Mileage: 2,929
List price new: £19,575.50 (Basic list of £14,275 +VAT plus £400 for Midnight Black paint, £1,700 for Media Pack, £55 for Storage Pack, £50 for space saver spare, £105 for leather two-spoke steering wheel, £60 for velour floor mats, £45 for warning triangle and first aid kit and £30 for front passenger airbag deactivation switch. All options prices inclusive of VAT.)
Last month at a glance: Mini proves adept at the urban grind, less fun on the open road

Previous reports:
Mini gets run-in the PH way; to Le Mans!

Author: Matt Bird