Review and road test of the MINI Clubman
With this second generation Clubman model, the British-based MINI brand sets its sights on premium hatchbacks like the Mercedes A-Class and Audi A3. Jonathan Crouch drives one.
Ten Second Review of the MINI Clubman
The first modern-era MINI Clubman was launched in 2007 as the first truly practical MINI - but came with one key drawback: you couldn't have two rear passenger doors. This second generation model not only corrects that oversight but is also smarter, better equipped, higher-tech and more efficient. But can it set itself apart from the Hatch 5-Door and Countryman models in MINI's range? Let's see.
It's hard to think of a modernday motoring success story to rival that of BMW's MINI. The Bavarians took the 60s design concept, super-sized it and made it the ultimate automotive fashion accessory for the early years of the 21st Century. But the car's cheeky compact size was both its greatest draw and its only real limiting factor. If the same design could be produced with a dash more practicality, couldn't many more customers be persuaded to join the great MINI Adventure?
The prospect was tempting, but the problem for the German designers was in creating a truly versatile family car that kept the original three-door model's essential MINI-ness. They'd already watched rivals Mercedes struggle - and fail - to develop the smart brand in the same way. What they eventually came up with in 2007 was this model, the MINI Clubman, an estate car, but not as we knew it. Curious, quirky and thoroughly individualistic, it was a perfect fit for a brand that has always been all those things. Nine years later, we got that car's successor, this MK2 model Clubman. With five proper doors this time round, a smarter look, extra space and all the MINI brand's latest technology, it's an intriguing prospect.
MINIs have always been known for handling excellence and this MK2 model Clubman should be no exception. Based on the same 'UKL' platform as the BMW 2-Series Active Tourer and measuring the same distance between the wheels, it offers sophisticated suspension with what is promised to be the highest level of ride refinement ever for a MINI. There's a familiar range of engines under the bonnet. There's a base three cylinder 1.5-litre petrol unit with 102hp in the base 'MINI One' version, while a 136hp version of that powerplant features in the Cooper S derivative. The Cooper S gets a 2.0-litre petrol engine with 192hp. If you want a diesel (a rare thing in a MINI of almost any sort these days), there's a base 1.5-litre unit with 116hp in the 'MINI One D' and a 2.0-litre powerplant with 150hp in the 'Cooper D'.
Standard with all the engines is a six-speed manual gearbox - with automatic transmission an option on all. The smallest three cylinder motor can be optioned with a 'Steptronic' auto that offers six ratios, while the 2.0 litre units both get the option of an eight-speed auto 'box that includes steering wheel-mounted paddles. There's no performance reduction if you do decide on the auto option. In fact, the eight-speed units actually reduce the 0-62mph times.
Design and Build
There's no disputing that from the outside, the Clubman looks like a MINI. If anything, this MK2 Clubman model's increased length and width help in referencing the classic MINI design language, making it to some eyes even more attractive than the basic Hatch versions. The key change that owners of the previous generation model will notice is the availability at last of two rear passenger doors, both fitted with frameless windows for a coupe (or old school Subaru) feel.
The unique Minivan-style split rear doors for the loadbay remain though. What has changed here is the option buyers now have of opening them at the push of a button on the key fob or by waggling a foot under the rear bumper. The rear lights have been twisted 90 degrees and are now mounted on the rear doors, helping make the Clubman appear broader. The same effect is achieved by the wide-spaced twin exhausts on the Cooper S.
There are still plenty of MINI design touches inside too, including toggle switches, lashings of chrome and a circular theme running through the cabin. For the first time, the centre console meets the main dashboard, offering increased storage - and there's an electronic parking brake too. Look down at the wheel and you'll also notice the BMW 'i-Drive' style rotary controller which was introduced in the MINI hatch, this feature promising easier navigation of the built-in infotainment system which includes sat-nav on all models. The boot size is a respectable 360-litres - or 1250-litres with the rear seats down.
Market and Model
There are three trim levels - 'Classic', 'Sport' and 'Exclusive' - and prices start from £20,000. Decide on a diesel in your Clubman and you'll be looking at paying just over £23,000, with the range-topping Cooper S up at nearly £24,000. Overall, the sums being asked are right around what you'll pay for an equivalent Audi A3, Mercedes-Benz A-Class or BMW 1-Series. If you're a keen driver, then the Clubman's performance and promise of go kart-like handling may be enough to seal the deal.
Equipment levels are pretty generous. Even 'Classic' variants get a 6.5" colour infotainment screen, intelligent emergency call, a DAB digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity, ambient lighting, exterior MINI logo projection and automatic headlights with rain sensor. 'Sport' models include John Cooper Works Aerodynamic Kit and Spoiler, John Cooper Works Alloy Wheels, Sports Suspension, John Cooper Works Bucket Seats, John Cooper Works Steering Wheel and an anthracite interior headliner. 'Exclusive' trim gives you upgraded 'Exclusive' alloy wheels, a chrome line exterior finish, 'MINI Yours' Lounge leather upholstery, a 'MINI Yours' leather steering wheel, 'MINI Yours' interior trim and an interior chrome line finish. Across the range, expect the usual range of MINI safety features, including ABS, stability control, traction control and optional adaptive cruise control.
Cost of Ownership
The 1.5-litre diesel 'One D' variant is of course the most economic derivative, managing up to 68.9mpg (WLTP-rated) and up to 109g/km of CO2. The big 2.0-litre engine you get on Cooper D is inevitably, nothing like as frugal; official figures suggest it'll get up to 53.3mpg on the combined cycle, while chucking out 112g/km of CO2. For the base 1.5-litre petrol unit in the base 'MINI One' version, the figures are up to 43.5mpg (WLTP) and 131g/km. While for the petrol Cooper S, you're looking at up to 38.2mpg and 151g/km. With all variants, you'll do fractionally better by specifying the optional Steptronic auto transmission.
Buyers should expect a standard 3 year 60,000 mile warranty, with fixed price servicing under MINI's TLC scheme a worthwhile option. Residuals have always been a MINI strongpoint, so your Clubman should retain a good chunk of its value when you come to sell. Just make sure you don't go overboard on the extensive options list; the 'Chilli Pack' has most of the essentials. Speaking of options, try to keep any paint combinations on the tasteful side to maximise resale value.
The designers have done their damnedest to make this second generation Clubman a distinct and desirable model in its own right. The result is characterful but distinctly MINI - just as potential buyers will want. If you need a practical car from this brand and find the Hatch 5-Door model too small and the Countryman Crossover too quirky, then the Clubman may be for you a perfect fit. It certainly makes its BMW 2 Series Active Tourer donor car look a little bland. True, the 2.0-litre engines further up the range aren't quite as efficient as those you'll find in rivals but MINI is close enough to the pace in this regard for that not to matter very much.
It all means that if you want something compact but practical and a bit different, then this Clubman will probably suit. Either way, potential owners have to be people unafraid to fly in the face of convention. If that's you, then a bigger MINI adventure beckons.
MINI Clubman review by Car & Driving