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Mini's new car has fleets firmly in its sights - can it do enough to win them over?
Sat-nav, Apple Carplay, DAB radio, Bluetooth, rear parking sensors,
air conditioning, cruise control, stop/start
Six-speed manual, seven-speed automatic
Some might remember the City tag being attached to entry-level versions of the original Mini in the 1980s. Well now it's back, again denoting a cheaper price point, only this time on the modern Mini line-up's Clubman small family car, with the cheapest version squeaking under £20k on P11D - just under a grand cheaper than the previous entry-level Cooper trim.
Mini says the City is aimed at the corporate market, and that it has therefore reintroduced previously delisted entry-level engines for it, saying these are popular with essential-user fleets. However, with the 1.5-litre, 102hp petrol we drove, it's difficult to see the advantage, as its official fuel economy and CO2 emissions figures are identical to the 136hp version that powers Cooper-spec cars. At 48.7mpg and 131g/km it's also well behind similarly engined versions of rivals such as the Ford Focus, which in 100hp form returns a combined 60.1mpg and 107g/km. The City is also available with a 1.5-litre, 116hp diesel engine, for which the figures are 68.9mpg and 109g/km - although this costs nearly £3k more to buy.
On the road, the petrol car's lack of power is noticeable when you put your foot down - it has to work harder under heavy acceleration - but there are no issues keeping up with traffic around town or on the motorway. The gear change on the six-speed manual 'box we drove could be a bit slicker though - a seven-speed automatic is also available.
In the corners, the Clubman City is initially eager to turn in but doesn't feel as nimble through the bend as those used to a Mini hatch might expect. The compensation comes in the form of an easier ride, which isn't as firm as those cars - though it's still not exactly feather-soft, jiggling about on B-roads. Plus, at motorway speeds, road noise does filter through to the cabin.
When it comes to the Clubman City's interior, there is good news because the billed focus on fleets hasn't left an austere approach: this is still a Mini, and funky features abound, like the retro overlapping dials, the flight deck-style rows of switches, and the big circular ring in the centre of the dash around a 6.5in touchscreen. This is sharp and responsive, and connected to Mini's version of parent company BMW's iDrive rotary control, making it easy to use when driving. This system also has Apple Carplay connectivity, DAB, live traffic information and an emergency call function, while the screen also works with the rear parking sensor, helping you to avoid knocks when manoeuvring. Other welcome standard equipment includes air conditioning and cruise control.
The standard of interior materials is good, and everything feels solidly assembled. There's a comfortable driving position, while rear passengers benefit from ample leg and headroom. The boot is accessed by the trademark Clubman double doors - another quirky feature, although the join does create a blind spot in the rear view mirror, and at 360 litres the space is 15 litres smaller than in the Focus.
Overall, the Clubman City looks likely to remain a left-field business choice, primarily because its fuel and emissions savings don't stack up against key rivals - although robust residual values mean it regains some ground.