DT Garage: Should more cars have weird tailgates?
Life with our Mini Clubman JCW has had us scratching our beards and pondering
It's been five months since we took delivery of our Thunder Grey Mini Clubman John Cooper Works, and in that time we've taken it on long trips, dashed along country lanes to various shoots and – most recently – it's been our steed for a last-minute 11pm Tesco dash to acquire saline solution for an emergency contact lens removal. That was for a confused and sleep-deprived girlfriend who – it turns out – didn't actually have any contact lenses in, despite scraping away for half an hour. Whoops.
But no matter how scratched, puffy and pussy your corneas are, you can't miss the Clubman's weird vertically split tailgate. The boot opens up in two halves – the right door has to open first, followed by the left.
Isn't that a bit annoying?
There's no doubting that most cars have regular lifting tailgates for a good reason. So let's get the Clubman's door-opening downsides out of the way first.
The 360-litre boot isn't exactly cavernous… but I still hit my head reaching down to get stuff out of it
I've never hit my head on a car so much as on the Clubman. Because the rear spoiler doesn't lift out of the way when you open the boot, I twat my forehead on the spoiler nearly every time I reach into the Clubman's darkest boot recesses. I mean, the spoiler's painted danger red as part of the optional red roof, so this is probably my fault.
My fat arse is the cause of the next problem. Sort of. With the Mini's delightfully tactile round key in my jeans pocket, more than once have I hopped into the driver's seat and started the JCW's engine – only to wince as the exhaust crackles into life much more loudly than usual. A quick glance in the rear-view mirror then confirms that I've somehow held the 'boot open' button on the key with a very specific part of my thigh flab. This isn't really a problem with the boot, but more my general pie-enhanced physique. But then it's annoying having to get back out and shut the boot again.
Oh, and the final whinge is that the split between the two doors runs right down the centre of the rear-view mirror picture. You soon get used to it, but it's worth noting because someone in your family may well complain about it if you share cars.
What's it good for?
Well, the split tailgate looks cool, and there's no doubt it massively helps the Clubman stand out from the crowd.
You know times are tough when you use an M&S bag for your Waitrose shop
It's also hugely satisfying to open – the doors clunk shut and click open with a really satisfying sense of occasion which ticks another box on the Mini's chunky 'feelgood' CV.
Because you can just pop one of the doors open slightly, there's an argument that you can just about reverse-park closer to a wall than in a regular car, and in low car parks you're never worried about an awkward bootlid/ceiling interaction.
On the flip side, you do need to leave a fair bit of room behind the car when you park if you want to swing both doors open fully, which isn't always possible in a car park – though the Clubman's not a hugely long car so this is normally doable.
Has it annoyed us?
This was in danger of becoming an article illustrated only by dodgy iPhone photos of the tailgate of a car
Not in the slightest. If anything, the fact it's something a bit different and charming outweighs the bevy of negatives we've levelled against it.
We've also used the button on the key to open the doors remotely, only to very-nearly knock a two-year-old child unconscious (by accident, honest – and it was our child).
That's probably a black mark, but whatever. In this day and age we should be celebrating things that give cars a bit of individuality and personality, and the Clubman's tailgate does nothing if not that.