2016 Mini Clubman First Drive [w/video] [UPDATE]
More Maxi, More Mini
EngineTurbo 2.0L I4
Power189 HP / 207 LB-FT
0-60 Time6.9 Seconds
Top Speed142 MPH
Curb Weight3,300 LBS
Cargo47.9 CU-FT (max)
MPG27 City / 34 HWY (est.)
As Tested Price$40,250 (est.)
Mini had a good idea when it introduced the last-generation Clubman, offering a slightly bigger, more versatile vehicle, with its own unique styling traits. Sounds good, right? Well, as it turned out, that wasn't necessarily all for the best, and not because there was any problem with the car itself. Mini's fleshed out model range, which now includes both the all-wheel-drive, four-door Countryman and the new four-door Hardtop has rendered the original Clubman idea rather obsolete.
Enter the new Clubman. Gone is its awkward club door, and in its place are an extra pair of real, traditional doors. But even more than changes to its body, Mini has taken the original Clubman idea – to build a more versatile version of the beloved Hardtop – to its logical extreme, going larger. More importantly, this 2016 model represents a more premium, comfortable direction for the Mini brand. But don't worry, loyalists, this is still very much a Mini.
As was the case with the previous Clubman, this new model rides on a longer wheelbase than the Hardtop's. The 105.1-inch span is arguably more maxi than mini, offering buyers anywhere from 2.9 to 6.9 inches of extra space between the axles. It also makes the Clubman the longest vehicle Mini has ever made.
The 2016 Clubman is the longest vehicle Mini has ever made.
But at 168.3 inches in length, this new model is still significantly shorter than a compact wagon like the 179.6-inch Volkswagen Golf SportWagen, or even another C-segment hatch, like the five-door variants of the Ford Focus (171.6 inches) and Mazda3 (180.3 inches). On top of the extra length, Mini stretched the body by a full three inches, while the track has been increased by 2.4 inches at both ends of the car. Taken as a whole, the Clubman is exceptionally roomy, considering its footprint.
The suspension, a multi-link rear with front struts, is softer than that of a Mini Hardtop, but that's not saying a lot – handling is significantly sharper than in the vehicles listed above. And we're betting it will stand out against the brand's intended targets – a list that ranges from the Volkswagen Golf to the Mercedes-Benz A-Class.
Thanks to the wider track, the Clubman feels even more stable in aggressive driving, with less body roll than some of its competition. We did notice a preponderance of dive under hard braking (the stoppers felt disappointing and underpowered, too). Our tester wasn't fitted with Mini's dynamic dampers, which were part of the unselected Sport Package. Adding the trick dampers would likely sharpen up the suspension in the bends even further address front-end issues under braking.
Feedback through the wheel is on the low side for something wearing a Mini badge.
Part of the Mini legend is its sharp, takes-no-prisoners steering. But as with the suspension, the Clubman's tiller is relaxed compared to its smaller counterparts. Turn-in is still extremely quick relative to mainstream offerings and the power assist is strong, but it doesn't feel overboosted or twitchy. Instead, there's a natural feeling to this electric setup. Feedback through the wheel is on the low side for something wearing a Mini badge, but there's plenty of road-surface information telegraphed through the heavily bolstered sport seats to make up the difference.
For most customers the minutiae of the Clubman's handling will take a backseat (no pun intended) to ride comfort. In this regard, Mini's largest-ever model is also one of its most comfortable, boasting a civilized character over both B-road bumps and city center imperfections. Secondary impacts are particularly well muted, with the Clubman's suspension managing the high-frequency rough stuff without much trouble. On larger impacts, suspension noises are limited, while the actual influence on cabin comfort is best described as minor.
This ride comfort pairs very nicely with the Clubman's in-cabin experience, which is better than ever. The backseats are spacious for two adults, although cramming a third in the center may require warm feeling between all parties. In back, that extra overhang is good for 17.5 cubic feet of cargo volume, a figure that can be expanded to 47.9 cubic feet by lowering the 60/40-split rear chairs. As you can see by the photos, there's plenty of room for at least a couple suitcases.
Unlike the last-gen Clubman, this car gets its own unique design.
While we're on the topic of the cabin, it's best that we address the Clubman's exclusive interior treatments. The keen-eyed among you will note that, unlike the last-gen model, this car gets its own unique design. This was was done in a bid by Mini to further distinguish the Clubman from the current two- and four-door Hardtops. The view forward is dominated by a stylish and strong "bracket," a band of trim that runs from the front of the dash, to the doors, and on up underneath the windshield. While it's not a new styling feature – Jaguar and Buick have both used it to great effect – it works especially well on a small car, as it makes the cabin appear wider. It's also more elegant than the large "color lines" offered on the Mini Hardtop.
Mini's exterior stylists worked hard to emphasize the car's extra width, too, while retaining a brand-appropriate footprint. This was done, most obviously, with the addition of the large, horizontally oriented rear taillights. A meaty set of rear haunches also works the theme. Finally, designers added a chamfered edge on the outside of the rear "barn doors." This is a reference to the wood frame of the original Mini Traveler – the Clubman's spiritual predecessor – and to further accentuate the car's broadness.
Other design decisions are less successful. Parking lot superheroes will lament the new electric parking brake, which has been fitted to accommodate a pair of large-ish cupholders ahead of the shifter. And outside, we found ourselves questioning the positioning of the brake lights, which are actually mounted in the bumper. Our co-pilot on the journey rightly remarked that the Clubman's rear is a rather busy place, what with four lights, three badge sets, two door handles, and two wipers. Removing the lower units (and perhaps replacing them with slim reflectors) and integrating the brake lights with the taillights would solve this problem to a degree.
A new, eight-speed automatic will be offered in the 2.0T Cooper S Clubman.
The big news on the powertrain front is the new Aisin eight-speed automatic that will be offered alongside the six-speed manual transmission in the 2.0-liter, turbocharged Cooper S Clubman. (The 1.5-liter turbo triple in the standard Cooper will continue to be mated to six-speed transmissions, be they automatic or manual.)
The new transmission will be offered in two specs: the standard setup we have here, and a quicker-shifting, paddle-equipped sport trim. In its base setup, we found upshifts to be brisk, especially in Sport mode, but not necessarily on pace with a dual-clutch transmission. The Aisin, though, does feel the equal of ZF's lauded 8HP eight-speed auto. It's keen on downshifts, whether at your request or the computers, and is quick to engage off the line.
In conjunction with the 2.0-liter turbo, the new transmission moves the Clubman with a verve that belies its 3,200-plus-pound curb weight. According to Mini, the eight-speed auto and 189-horsepower engine allow the Clubman to hit 60 miles per hour in a reasonable 6.9 seconds. We suspect there's some sandbagging at work here; wide-open throttle from a standstill felt a bit quicker than the official time. If you're wondering where the report is on the three-cylinder model, have to wait – none were offered on this trip.
The Clubman still puts a stupid, silly, mile-wide smile on your face.
Prices for the Clubman start at $24,100 for the three-cylinder Cooper, while the Cooper S will set you back $27,650. That's only half the story, though, as the Porsche-like options catalog is capable of elevating both of those figures considerably. We weren't given an official as-tested price of the car pictured here, but ticking off the optional content makes a $36,000 estimate seem likely.
There are sure to be many that will lament the increased girth, awkward rear styling, and the hefty curb weight of the revised Clubman, but its fair to point out that this is a new type of vehicle for Mini. More so than even the Countryman, it's a small family vehicle that with a luxurious feature, everyday comfort, and versatility, wrapped up in a shouty style that fits the brand. But unlike its hefty, high-riding brother, the Clubman is better at putting a stupid, silly, mile-wide smile on your face. And that remains the highest compliment we can pay to a Mini, no matter how many doors it has.
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