MINI Clubvan review: what’s it like to live with?

Newcomer mixes class with practicality, so how will the MINI Clubvan fare?

What is a MINI Clubvan really like to own? CarBuyer and Auto Express photographer Otis Clay will be spending the next year with the van to find out, in this real-world review. He'll be living with it on a daily basis to find out what we can't from a normal review - what it's like to have one.

Deciding what to wear when I get up in the morning has never really been a problem for me. If it’s cold and wet, jeans and a jumper are on the cards. Or if, by some miracle, it’s hot and sunny, I’ll dust off my espadrilles and trilby. But now I’m running a MINI Clubvan, I’m struggling with my wardrobe.

As I normally average 45,000-50,000 miles a year with a bootful of camera gear in tow, the Clubvan is perfect for my working life, but it wasn’t exactly created in the mould of a Ford Transit. So what to wear? My practical side says work boots and scruffy overalls; then I think the stylish MINI calls for a smarter appearance.

On first impressions, it’s really appealing to me. MINI isn’t a brand that normally gets me excited, but the van is my favourite car in the range, as the practical qualities give it an edge over the rest of the line-up.

For starters, it looks smart. OK, so I’m not a bona-fide white van man, because the Pepper White paint is more cream, and the gloss black 17-inch alloy wheels add a sporty touch. We’ve added CarBuyer.co.uk and Auto Express logos to the sides, too, so the Clubvan will be an ambassador for the two brands.

Open the double rear doors, and you’re greeted by 860 litres of boot space. It’s big enough for me to transport all my gear in, and while the plastic floor cover gets messy quickly, it’s easy enough to pull out and wipe down. There’s steel mesh on the back windows, which should help to deter potential smash and grabs, while the large aluminium and steel mesh partition divides the load area from the passenger compartment.

Sitting at the wheel, the partition behind your head is the only difference between the Clubvan and the MINI Clubman estate on which it’s based. All of MINI’s usual retro touches are present and correct, while our van comes equipped with the kind of options you’d expect to find on any normal MINI. The Pepper and media packs add climate control, fully integrated Bluetooth connectivity, auto lights and wipers, sat-nav and voice control, while other options like heated leather seats and parking sensors mean I’m going to enjoy my time at the wheel.

While some vans are driven like go-karts, very few will be as responsive and entertaining to drive as the Clubvan. The 1.6-litre diesel is a bit noisy at low speeds, but it packs a punch, even when the the van is fully loaded. And that’s not all, because the MINI’s trademark sharp handling has been carried over intact, so its still fun to drive, with plenty of grip through the corners.

All of this adds up to make the MINI an intriguing van choice. It’s still an everyday workhorse, but I’d say it’s a high-end option that’s more likely to catch the attention of a middle class, organic fruit and veg seller, rather than your average, tabloid-reading, fried breakfast-loving bricklayer.

However, it’s still a van, and I’m proud to be a member of the club – even if I haven’t quite worked out what the uniform is yet.

MINI Clubvan Cooper D
Owned sinceMay 2013
Price new£17,055
Engine1.6-litre diesel, 110bhp
Emissions and tax103g/km, £20
Options Pepper pack (£975), media pack (£1,700), black leather (£920), 17-inch alloys (£1,130), sports seats (£220), heated seats (£215), parking sensors (£245)
Insurance£371 for a 42-year-old from Banbury, Oxfordshire, with three penalty points. Quote provided by AA (0800 107 0680).
Mileage so far6,923
Fuel Economy45.3mpg
Costs so farNone
Problems so farNone

Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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