2016 MINI Cooper Clubman Review
A mega mini with abounding space, sophistication, and charm
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: May 6th, 2016
Fusing the style of British charm with the heart of a German, Mini has created a winning formula that spans its entire model lineup. Shoppers searching for retro-design flair with sporty driving dynamics will find the brand has several models to offer that can deliver on both fronts. Though the British automotive company built its fame on specializing in small cars, the days of truly mini Mini's are dwindling. Mini's latest addition to its lineup is the fully redesigned 2016 Mini Cooper Clubman. After a brief year-long hiatus, the Clubman returns, with a significant size increase.
The fully redesigned Clubman is now the largest offering from the brand, almost a full foot longer than the 4-door hardtop. It also beats out the Countryman, which used to be seen as the large Mini. While the Clubman expands, it still remains in the compact class, just an inch longer than the Volkswagen Golf. Mini loyalists need not despair as the Clubman still retains the brand's classic, quirky design, and fun driving dynamics that have garnered its following. With four doors, split rear doors in the rear, and ample cargo room, the new Cooper Clubman is a spacious, comfortable wagon for those who've outgrown the Cooper.
The significant size increase of the new Clubman does mean additional weight has been added. However, this has only had minor affects on Mini's classic nimble handling. With a wide stance, low driving position, and chunky wheels, the Clubman is ready for sporty motoring. Performance-tuned suspension featuring MacPherson struts in the front and multi-link suspension in the rear delivers precise handling on the road.
It uses the same engine as in the regular Cooper, with a 1.5-liter TwinPower turbo 3-cylinder as its base. While it's plenty powerful, it's not as efficient as other compacts, averaging an EPA-estimated 28 mpg combined, which is below average for this segment. It comes standard with a six-speed manual, while a six-speed automatic is available. The Clubman also debuts Mini's use of an eight-speed automatic transmission borrowed from BMW, but it's not available on the base trim.
- Ride Quality: The Clubman's sport-tuned suspension and low, wide stance give it an incredibly grounded feel on the road. It provides plenty of grip on winding curves, with a smooth composure on the highway. An ultra-rigid body made with fortified steel absorbs undulations in the road nicely, while enhanced sound dampening techniques provide a very peaceful, quiet ride.
- Steering: Steering is smooth and responsive with the ability for customization. With three different driving modes - sport, green, and mid - drivers are able to set their driving preferences. While mid delivers smooth, even steering and linear throttle, sport tightens up the steering, with more aggressive acceleration.
- Acceleration: The turbo 3-cylinder accelerates confidently on the road, with an eagerness to take off. It's 0-60 time is a little less impressive at 8.0 seconds, compared to the 4-door Golf's 6.8, but the Clubman's S trim is more competitive. Our 6-speed automatic transmission provided smooth gear changes on the road, even during our spirited driving, never giving the impression that it was being overworked.
- Braking: With standard electronic brakeforce distribution, the Clubman is able to adjust braking based on various conditions, like weather and speed. It can stop hard and fast, or smooth and steady, depending on driver input and setting, able to apply more or less braking pressure to each wheel in order to bring the vehicle to a halt while still maintaining control.
- Handling: Mini's are renowned for their go-kart like handling, and despite the Clubman's larger size, it still inspires confidence on the road, being able to effortlessly handle twisting roads, with quick turn-ins on corners, and minimal body roll.
Technology and Safety
Mini has done a great job with its interior layout, setting it up in an ergonomic fashion that's also pleasing to the eye. It still has lots of Mini's signature playful design elements like toggle switches and an LED lightup around the circle-shaped operating system. The center console is sensibly designed, and the interior gets some flair with standard ambient lighting in 12 different settings. The lack of standard rearview camera and parking sensors is disappointing, you have to opt for a $1,750 Technology Package. Also, while some driver assistance technologies are available as options, others aren't.
- Infotainment Screen Size/Quality: Mini's 6.5-inch display comes standard, projecting sharp graphics that are easy to read. It also houses a BMW-grade satellite navigation system that came as part of a tech package that also added a rear view camera. There are a host of customizable settings that are easy to navigate once you get the hang of using the button and control knobs.
- Bluetooth Phone Pairing: Bluetooth pairing is quick and painless, with the system easily identifying new phones.
- Sound Quality: Clear, crisp sound projects through the six-speaker audio system. Acoustics have also been improved thanks to noise-mitigation technology, so calls don't get overpowered by any highway droning noise.
- Controls: An ergonomic interior layout places buttons and controls all within the driver's reach, with a row of playful toggle switches.
- Safety: The Clubman comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front knee airbags, side curtain airbags and front-seat side airbags. A miss is the lack of standard rearview camera. While an Active Driving Assistant package adds additional safety features like forward collision warning and mitigation with automatic braking, other accident-avoidance systems like blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure warning aren't available.
Exterior Design and Styling
While the previous Clubman was essentially a stretched version of the Mini Cooper hatchback, the 2016 Clubman is a larger 4-door model, similar in size to many hatchbacks. Built on BMW's UKL platform shared with the BMW X1, the new Clubman sits 10 inches longer and 3 inches wider than the 4-door Cooper hatchback, and with a 4 inch longer wheelbase, adding extra interior comfort for driver and passengers. Passenger doors are now larger to make for easier ingress/egress from the larger backseat, with classic split opening rear doors for added convenience.
The new wagon still borrows heavily from the hatch in terms of styling, but that's a good thing, as it remains a very handsome face on the race, with smooth lines creating its distinct silhouette. It's also a highly customizable vehicle - Mini's website even says "loading over 10 million possible combinations" when you click to build your own. If you want fiery red paint with a white racing stripe and chrome mirrors, Mini will build it for you. How's that for customer satisfaction?
- Front: Dramatic air intake ducts highlight the front fascia with Mini's signature oval-shaped headlights in LEDs. Mini's winged badge rests front and center atop the blacked-out and chrome-lined grille. The overall appearance is a clean design that's sophisticated. Our Sport Package added 17-inch black wheels and LED headlights.
- Rear: Mini's slit rear doors are what set it apart from a traditional hatchback. Not only do they give a vintage, charming look, but they're incredibly useful, making loading and unloading much easier.
- Profile: There's no bad angle on the Clubman. Every which way you look at it, you can tell it's a Mini make. The sloping wagon-like roofline almost mimics that of Range Rover's, though not as steep.
Driver and Passenger Comfort
Mini has done a fantastic job on the interior, bringing out its British charm, but with a refined look. The interior is a mix of high quality materials. Faux leather seating feels just as good as other leather seats we've been in. A leather-wrapped sport steering wheel has a pleasant texture, while a nicely placed armrest sits between the two front seats. The additional foot in length directly translates to a more spacious cabin, giving everyone and everything inside the vehicle more space. This is a Mini you can actually stretch out and relax in.
- Front Seats: Our sport, leatherette seats felt supple and supportive. They were also heated for an additional cost. The stretched overall length and wheelbase equates to more interior room, so front passengers a generous 41.4 inches of legroom.
- Rear Seats: Rear seats use the same, soft leatherette material, providing a nice cushion on the body. The growth in size means that five passengers can comfortably fit in the Clubman, even those over six feet tall. With 43.3 inches of legroom in the back, the second row feels anything but cramped. And, the larger side doors make it easy to slip in and out.
- Visibility: The Clubman's low-slung driving position is comfortable, and also provides good outward visibility, though the sloping roofline and split doors in the rear do hinder outward visibility a bit. Unfortunately, a rearview camera is also not standard equipment, so you'll have to rely on your own two eyes when backing up.
Storage and Cargo Room
While we've mentioned several times already how spacious the new Clubman is, it's worth mentioning just one more time, because the cargo area is probably where the greatest improvement is visible. There's a lot more storage capacity in the rear thann in the two- and four-door Cooper models, making the Clubman a more versatile vehicle that can cater to family needs. The van-like rear doors make the rear space more easily accessible, with 60/40 split-folding rear seats that free up more space to accomodate larger objects.
- Storage: A larger center console is a much appreciated addition to the Clubman, with the ability to hold multiple items. The glovebox is of fairly standard size, and plastic side pockets grace all four doors.
- Trunk/Cargo Room: The Clubman has a decent 17.5 cubic feet of space in its trunk, but it jumps to a generous 47.9 cubes once the second-row seats are folded down.
Final Impressions: The Mini Goes Maxi
The Mini Cooper Clubman continues Mini's legacy of go-kart-like driving dynamics blended with attractive British craftsmanship, even if it departs from the historic Mini sizing. It's still a fresh alternative in the compact segment. With a spacious cabin and cargo, the Clubman can compete as a charming alternative to a family hatchback, wagon, or CUV. It boasts a sprightly engine lineup, especially in the S trim, but I recommend going with the standard manual gearbox for more engagement with the vehicle, though the automatic still delivers fun on the road.
There are few cars on the road that are as enjoying to drive or alluring to behold. But, as the Mini gets supersized, so does it price. While the base starts at $24,100, buyers can easily exceed $30K once they load it with the things they'll want like navigation, a rearview camera, heated seats, etc. That's getting into premium compact territory. On the other hand, it's upscale interior does make it feel like a premium product. If you can live without certain tech, you can keep the price around a reasonable level. While not yet in the luxury market, yet seeming to outgrow the compact segment, the Clubman is moving into a class of its own, proving what capable long-distance machine it is.
Specifications and Price
Engine: 1.5-liter TwinPower turbo 3-cylinder
Transmission: 6-speed steptronic automatic
Drivetrain Layout: front engine, front-wheel drive
Power Output: 134 horsepower / 162 lb-ft
Fuel Economy (mpg): 25 city / 34 highway
Base Price: $24,100
As Tested: $32,750 (incl. $850 destination)
Standard Features: Cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, 6-speed manual transmission, sport leather steering wheel, 60/40 split-folding rear seatback, six-speaker audio system with AM/FM HD radio, auxiliary input, USB port, LED center instrument ring, voice activation system, Bluetooth, 6.5-inch center display with MINI Connected, ambient lighting with adjustable LED colors, 16-inch wheels, driver-side puddle light with MINI logo.
Options on our test vehicle: Melting Silver Metallic paint, Sport Package ($2,000) including: sport seats, LED headlights, 17-inch black wheels, dynamic damper control; Technology Package with Navigation ($1,750) including: rear view camera, parking assistant; navigation system, real time traffic info, MINI Connected XL, automatic transmission, satellite radio, heated front seats, roof rails, keyless entry.
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2016 MINI Clubman, click here: 2016 MINI Clubman.