Mini claims the Clubvan is the first premium product to grace the small van sector and vows it will prove that style can be practical while practicality can also be stylish.

It is based closely on the Mini Clubman passenger car and is aimed mainly at fashionable, upmarket urban operators who will want the van to do its bit in promoting the image of the business. However, the obvious attraction to buyers using the vehicle for work is that its commercial categorisation enables them to claim back the VAT.

The Clubvan is up for grabs in three derivatives, all with four-cylinder engines and front-wheel drive: the entry-level Mini One Clubvan costs £11,175, excluding VAT, and is powered by a 98hp 1.6-litre petrol engine, the Mini Cooper Clubvan comes in at £12,475 with power output from the 1.6 petrol unit upped to 122hp, and the flagship Mini Cooper D Clubvan tested here is priced at £13,600 and comes with a 112hp 1.6-litre diesel drivetrain. Mini says the Cooper D will take at least 70% of sales, although the brand will not expect to sell huge numbers of the Clubvan. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard across the range but a six-speed automatic transmission is available as an option.

Thanks to the manufacturer’s ‘Minimalism’ efficiency package, which it claims cuts emissions by up to 28% through features such as stop/start, official consumption and emission figures are impressive. The Cooper D manual Clubvan boasts CO2 of 103g/km and combined-cycle consumption of 72.4mpg, while the petrol models both deliver 129g/km and 51.4mpg respectively.

The Clubvan has two seats and five doors. The load bay is accessed through twin rear doors or a small side door on the off-side. It extends from the rear doors to a half solid, half mesh bulkhead behind the driver and passenger seats.

The cabin is the same as that of the Mini Clubman passenger car – sophisticated, with gadgets galore, and very modern, albeit with impeccable retro styling. On the other hand, there’s not much in the way of storage space. But then, practicality and load functionality are not likely to be top of the Clubvan’s customers’ wish lists, and the payload of 500kg and load volume of 0.9m3 are around par for the course for car-derived vans. The load length of 1015mm is shorter than that of the Vauxhall Corsavan or Ford Fiesta van too.

But while those two models are not sluggish on the road, the Clubvan’s driving characteristics and brand kudos are likely to set it apart from the competition. The 1.6 112hp diesel engine is lively and responsive with plenty of guts and we have little doubt it would cope comfortably even if carrying the full 500kg payload.

The six-speed manual gearbox is crisp, assured and complements the sharp agility of the steering. Even when negotiating winding roads the Mini remains planted, which sets it apart from many an LCV and although the ride is firm, it is comfortable and quiet. This is likely to be a result of the build quality, which appears rock solid. All in all, the Clubvan’s driving characteristics are not like a van’s.

Likewise, the Clubvan takes specification levels to a new high in the small van segment. Items such as DAB radio and side and head airbags may not be unheard of in the LCV market but they rarely come as standard kit, as they do here. The standard spec level is high, but so too is the price, and while a wealth of options are on offer, these bump up costs further. The model we drove came with extras that included, among others, a Leather Punch interior (£920), and the excellent but fairly essential, Park Distance Control (£245). Excluding VAT, our Clubvan, with all its bells and whistles, comes with a price tag of £18,592, which may seem like an indulgence too far for most operators.

But while the Clubvan was never likely to be cheap, Mini is confident it will make up ground through its whole-life costs. It should command enviable RVs, too, due to its exclusivity and the prestige of the brand.

Mini is unashamedly pitching the Clubvan at exclusive, professional operators for whom the reputation of their business is a prime concern. If it can also tick the necessary boxes for practicality, there is currently nothing else in the commercial vehicle sector to rival its sophistication and brand kudos.

Price (ex VAT) £13,600
Price range (ex VAT) £11,175 -£13,600
Insurance group 3E
Warranty 3yrs/unltd
Service intervals Variable
Load length 1150mm
Load width (min/max) 1020mm/1090mm
Load bay height 840mm
Gross payload 500kg
Load volume 0.9m3
Engine size/power 1.6-litre/112hp
On sale March
Combined fuel economy 72.4mpg
CO2 103g/km
Verdict Maybe not for mainstream LCV operators but an excellent choice for exclusive buyers that want to make an impression