I’m a big fan of this current generation of MINIs thanks largely to BMW’s heavy influence and the Clubman’s combination of updated tech and premium attributes makes for a truly unique choice.
This current generation Clubman arrived on the scene about 4 years ago and resides at the top of the MINI portfolio with a starting price of about $32,000.
At 18 cubic feet, it offers the same luggage volume as the other big MINI the Countryman, with better fuel economy but not as much interior room.
Both can be equipped with all-wheel drive but my tester utilizes only the front wheels, driven by the familiar 2.0-liter turbo of the Cooper S designation. The 3-cylinder engine and manual transmission are no longer available which makes sense, at least from a fuel economy perspective, because this one is rated at a higher 29mpg in combined drivng while delivering a spirited 189 horsepower and a frisky 0-to-60mph time of 6.9 seconds.
Those craving more juice will want to check out the new JCW version putting out over 300 horsepower.
Following current trends, the Clubman now sports more grille, new LED fogs and headlamps that automatically adapt their brightness to the situation on the road, LED rear lights with the Union Jack design and a host of styling and equipment tweaks inside and out.
This is the top trim Iconic model including the $800 Driver Assistive Package which provides active cruise control, a pop up heads-up display, and parking assistant leading to an as-tested price of $40,600. And yes, there’s always a little sticker shock when I test a MINI but this Clubman feels very modern, personalized and boutique and items with those attributes are always going to command a premium.
Sorry Android people, there’s no inclusion for your phone. But MINI’s infotainment is really good and simple to control via touch, console controller or voice and its circular housing with lighting effects perfectly feeds into MINI’s unique vibe.
The uplevel harman/kardon sound system is part of the Iconic trim and contributes the kind of amplification needed to overpower the Clubman’s sometimes noisy cabin. The Chesterfield leather looks great, the design details are inspired and the convenience goodies are well stocked.
I love the cabin – I’m comfortable in it and at night the adjustable ambient lighting is such a cool look replete with the exterior MINI logo projection. But despite all of MINI’s talk about how smart their new LED front lighting is I have never had so many motorists flash their high beams at me as I have these past 2 weeks so they must be truly blinding for oncoming car.
There are 2 USB ports back here but both are USB-C so be prepared and at this price would heated seats be too much to ask?
Because the MINI sits low, doing everything with it is easier like loading stuff in and out of the spacious rear hatch. You can reach through and drop the rear seats without further wrangling and there’s more available storage under the cargo floor. Fully expanded, the Clubman opens up nearly as much as a BMW X2 so there’s real usability here.
As for the drive – it’s a MINI alright, so you’re going to feel the road and be able to whip it around in tight quarters. There are 3 drive modes with dynamic damper control for a tailored feel whether you’re running errands around town or out on the back road for fun. The sport seats further aid in the sporty handling department. My car has thoughtfully had its summer use tires swapped for some winters so I imagine this Clubman gets even more enjoyable when the weather warms up. The 7-speed dual clutch transmission with paddle shifters also adds to the zippy, let’s motor persona without the sometimes unfavorable traits of a DCT.
First and foremost MINIs should be fun to drive and even though the Clubman is bigger there’s still a sense that you’re driving a car with go-cart sensibilities. Consider it whimsical with a practical side.
But do note this – impact harshness, such as hitting a pothole, is unforgiving and if you do much highway traveling the Clubman creates a ton of wind noise.
Due to the lingering questions about Brexit, it sounds like a complete redesign of the MINI is going to take a little longer than expected but their lineup is still full of cars that have aged very well and if you’re the kind of person who likes to zig while others zag the Clubman is a neat choice.