The famous MINI brand has seen numerous offerings in recent years, from the JCW to the now defunct Paceman to the Countryman and many in between.To me, a guy who’s all about functionality (and maybe a bit of styling), I’m naturally drawn towards the Clubman for several reasons.
The original Clubman had those wonderful barn doors and two doors. The 2016 MINI Cooper Clubman model sees a redesign which features a boost in utilitarianism by offering four doors and those cool barn doors to make it easier to get folks in the rear seats and carry a good amount of cargo.
So huzzah, MINI, for taking something good and making it better.
Appearance wise, there’s that unique MINI styling that is simply unmistakable. The horizontal tail lights frame the rear nicely, whereas most other MINI vehicles favour the vertical approach.
The 2016 Clubman is 10.9 inches longer with a 4.0-inch longer wheelbase and is 2.9 inches wider than a standard Mini Cooper Hardtop, but manages to maintain its MINI-esque stance.
It’s a MINI brand, but not quite MINI, but yet not huge. The front end is clean (the available LED lights are oh-so nice) and stylish and the available 18” wheels (17” standard) frame the vehicle beautifully.
So, yeah, it’s a MINI, through and through, no doubt about that.
The two engine choices are a 1.5L, three cylinder turbocharged motor producing 134 horsepower and 162 lb-ft. of torque. The alternate, which comes with the “S” model, sees a 2.0L, four cylinder turbocharged motor kicking out 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft. of torque.
Luckily for me, my week-long tester came with the larger engine and was paired with an incredibly smooth shifting six-speed manual gearbox. Up and down shifting was a breeze, there’s lots of “get up and go,” and there’s just something about doing the three-pedal shuffle that enhances the driving experience, especially for this type of car.
In the competitive hot-hatch market, MINI’s handling and performance lives up to its stellar reputation for excelling in this category.
While it’s not the most powerful offering in its class, the Clubman does hold its own (and the road) quite nicely.
Most driving will probably be done in Normal mode and there’s a 'Green' setting if you want to save some cash on the 50 litres of premium gas that the car takes.
Feeling adventurous? Pop it into 'Sport' mode and the Clubman gives you tighter steering, improved throttle performance and an overall stronger drive. Yes, I spent most of the week in Sport mode.
There’s an eight-speed automatic and the aforementioned six-speed manual gearbox offered in both the Cooper and Cooper S models.
Fuel ratings for my 2.0 manual tester come in at 7.4/10.6/9.2 L/100km for highway/city/combined.
The automatic 2.0 gearbox fuel ratings are 9.7/7.0/8.5 L/100km for highway/city/combined.
Not too shabby for a small yet powerful car.
Inside, the Clubman has a typical MINI layout. Framed by the large available 6.5” infotainment screen, there are plenty of retro switches that start the car and control the interior lights (color choices as well!) and there are traditional buttons and dials for climate and audio controls.
The MINI Connected technology (their version of BMW’s iDrive) is easy to operate and gives you plenty of info from driving info to music to in-car apps, all of which are helpful for an optimized driving experience.
The leather (optional) heated seats were very comfortable, the thigh support is simply wonderful, and there’s plenty of visibility from all angles. I especially like the rear wipers on the barn doors. Well, I like all rear wipers.
The optional panoramic sunroof is something I’d nearly insist on to give a much bigger feeling for the interior of an otherwise small-ish car.
With the rear doors, it’s easier for your rear passengers to enter/exit and while there’s room for three in the back, it’s best suited for two.
There’s a 40/20/40 split for rear seats to offer versatility for storage and 1,250 L of storage space with the rear seats folded. For a primarily urban based machine, there’s lots of space to cart around cargo and/or people.
And even though it’s still a MINI, there’s a surprising amount of space available.
Starting at $24,990 for the Mini Cooper Clubman and $28,990 for the S trim, my loaded tester chimed in at close to $40K, which saw larger wheels, damper control, metallic paint, “The Essentials Package” and "The Loaded Package” (which gives you power seats, dual climate controls, the wired and visibility package).
With a nearly $15K variance between base and maxed out, there’s bound to be a configuration that’ll make sense for nearly anyone who wants this hot hatch.
True, when you venture into the territory of above $35K for a compact vehicle, things can get interesting, and it’s easy to examine something that’s larger for a similar price point.
But MINI owners buy with both their heart and head. They love the experience of driving a MINI and all the excitement that accompanies that.
I’m not throwing shade at any other manufacturer, not at all. Rather, it’s well known that MINI has achieved nearly cult-like adoration over the past several decades and that those who lean in favour of this British style are quite loyal.
So if you’re in the market for a hatch-esque vehicle that combines good looks and a great driving experience, take the 2016 MINI Cooper Clubman for a test drive.
It’s not quite at the point where it should be called a MAXI, but this MINI offering has plenty of space and versatility for urban and rural life.