The Mini brand has grown tremendously since the launch of the “new” Mini in 2001. The models have gotten bigger with each redesign. The number of versions has multiplied, with the likes of the fast and engaging – Works GP, alternatives – Countryman and Paceman, hip and fun-loving – Roadster, Coupé and great value – Mini One.
Mini’s not-so-recent Clubman joined the line-up in 2007 and aims to target the grown-ups. It was created by adding nearly 10 inches of length to the Cooper hardtop and by installing two small clamshell rear doors at its boot. While the additional size may seem an outrage to Mini’s “smaller is better” philosophy, the Clubman is by far setting the bar to another Mini level. So can Mini live up to its trademark “go-kart handling,” and turn up its quality, comfort and usability while retaining its charm and take one of the hatchback market segments all by storm? Let’s see.
Design and Styling
The 2016 Mini Clubman may look like a wagon version of a mature Supermini, but it is actually more attractive and still hip. It’s Mini’s attempt to lure consumers out of what a conventional family five-seater hatchback ought to be.
Still being car-like than its taller brothers Countryman and Paceman, Mini has done a fine job of keeping the car wide and low to the ground, employing a distinctive design so the car is still recognizably a Mini. The new Clubman is now a full-sized car. At more than 4.2 meters long, it is 270 millimeters longer than a Mini five-door hatch, 100 millimeters longer in the wheelbase and 73 millimeters wider. It’s not the number of doors what sets this car apart, though. But two of them are for access to an enlarged but still restrictive boot, and only one granted access to the back seats.
Built on the same platform as the hatchback, the Clubman switches from its older sibling’s mechanical template with an entirely redeveloped strut-type front suspension, a multi-link rear, enhanced dampers and mounting on triple-path support bearings. Promising better rolling refinement than the regular three and five-door cars, variable damper control is on the options list.
The dashboard layout is more formal looking than that of the Mini hatch – still charming with its neat toggle type switches, more understated air vents, and further refined elements of multi-colored enhancements. The main features are familiar, from the column-mounted dials to the circular pod completing the center stack and housing the large infotainment display that all Clubmans get. Then there’s the heads-up display to help keep your eyes glued on the road, which is a plus. Seat snuggly into any of the five Black Pearl cloth/leatherette/carbon black front seats and if you’re even remotely familiar with a normal family hatch’s interior, you’ll see the compromise here that the Clubman is a true Mini.
There are more practical touches than you’ll find in smaller Minis. The Clubman’s long doors grant relatively easy access although you sit on slightly short, hard rear seats – lacks the cushioning you’d want for prolonged daily driving. Having to bend lower than usual to get in but there’s good leg, knee and head room in both rows, with enough room in the back even for two larger adults.
At the tail end, the two-rear doors created a thick bar down the middle, reducing visibility while viewing the rear-view mirror. The raised headrests even make that more difficult. But the 360-liter boot is as long and as wide as those of most C-segment hatchbacks and there are side cubbies, lashing points and carrying hooks to secure all those loose baggage.
Making a proper family hatchback/wagon, however, is about more than lively speed. The way your all-purpose six-door delivers its speed with the Clubman’s three settings of Eco, Normal, and Sport is at least as important as how much of it is given up.
Buyers can choose from a turbo-charged engine that cranks out 136 horsepower at 4,400 revolutions per minute, promises 55.4 miles per gallon and 118 grams per kilometer of CO2 from a tiny three-cylinder 1.5-liter engine, or a hot 192-hp a 5,000 rpm 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo petrol power in Cooper and Cooper S, respectively. The new Clubman also has a dedicated suspension set-up and is the first Mini offered with an optional eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Our tester, the Clubman Cooper S, has a smooth six-speed automatic transmission. It is quiet during cruising and has a roary edge from the turbo 2.0-liter engine when you floor the pedal – gets you from 0-62 miles per hour (99 kilometers per hour) in 7.2 seconds. The Clubman pulls strongly right across the whole face of the tachometer with its 280 Newton-meters of torque produced at 4,600 rpm.
The 2016 Mini Clubman Cooper S growth spurt has made this car a more reasonable six-door wagon-style vehicle than the smaller hardtop with three or five doors. The increase in size has also made the Clubman comfortable, stylish, useable and mature enough for those who want a slice of the Mini lifestyle of being spirited and fun-loving, yet needing something more practical than a plaything. The Clubman might be the least Mini, nonetheless it was the Mini Clubman that hit a sweet spot with my family having a lots of fun with the Mini experience.