On the Road: Motor Mouth

A bum steer? No, the Cooper Clubman offers a go-kart driving experience and it's solid at speed too, says Sathnam Sanghera.

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

Even petrolheads have limits to their nerdiness. Some draw the line at cylinder blocks. Others start fidgeting with boredom at the mention of alternators. Personally, having driven the new Mini Clubman, I realise the point at which I lose interest is 'torque steer'.

It cropped up as an issue because Jeremy Clarkson has claimed that the car is ruined by it. 'At best, an extreme flaw,' he wrote, before pronouncing the small estate 'one of the worst cars in the world'. But every time I looked up a definition of the term, or had it explained to me, I found myself overwhelmed with the desire to think about almost anything else instead.

Indeed, most of my time with it was spent considering other matters, such as the single rear passenger door. This is something else Clarkson complained about, arguing that as it is on the right-hand side, it will result in children being offloaded into the middle of the road and killed.

I did several school runs in the car and at no point did any of my nephews or nieces get squashed. The side door is so small that you don't really use it: the Clubman is essentially a two-door vehicle, and the most practical thing to do is to get people out through the front.

I also spent a surprising amount of time considering the metal frames on the rear doors, which, it has been argued, reduce visibility. This is true. But there are compensations. First, the rear windows feature individual wipers, which are so cute that it's impossible not to play with them, even in the dry. Also, the rear doors have a very pleasing action: you squeeze the right-side door handle and a gas strut swings the door open. You could play with them for hours.

Indeed, as much as I wanted to dislike this car - people buy Minis as a demonstration of character, but they have become a middle-class uniform - I didn't. The driving position is good, the gearbox smooth and, like all Minis, it offers a go- kart-style driving experience. And although the old Clubman had power output of just 45hp and only just wheezed over the national speed limit, the new version feels solid at motorway speed.

The only problem, apparently, is torque steer, which - as I'm sure you know - refers to the tendency of a car, when power is applied, to turn in a particular direction, because more torque is being delivered to one wheel, blah, blah, blah ... and which I would love to have discussed at length, but, unfortunately, I seem to have run out of time and space.

I'll take one ...

Fun to drive.

Very practical.

Will hold value well.

Thanks but no thanks ...

Suffers from torque steer, apparently.

Mini Cooper Clubman
Engine 1.6 litre petrol
Combined power 120 bhp at 6,000 rpm
Torque 118 lb/ft at 4,250 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual
Fuel 51.4 mpg (combined cycle)
CO2 132 g/km
0-60 mph 9.8 sec
Top speed 125 mph

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