2016 MINI Cooper Clubman; Meet the biggest little man
The all-new 2016 Mini Cooper Clubman is the largest Mini the UK-based auto manufacturer has ever produced. It’s a big one; a legit compact car. Like a little limousine to the brand, it stretches nearly a foot and a half longer compared to the smallest MINI. This isn’t much of a stretch considering the new Clubman is based on a longer and wider version of the latest MINI hardtop platform; the predecessor now available as a four-door model.
The much bigger and longer Clubman beats it on that tally too, as it has six doors. Four of which are for passengers including the driver, and at the back instead of a liftback, its hatch is accessible through side-opening split doors. The kind you will find on a massive cargo van. They open into a 17.5 cubic feet of cargo space, which is more than even its “SUV” model; the Countryman, can offer.
Just don’t park too close to the car behind; the rear doors do swing out wide. I should suggest, don’t let the car park by itself. Yes that’s right. If you check the right options box, it can do that, just in case you aren’t confident in your ability to steer such a gentle goliath into a parking slot.
Inside there’s room for four tall persons, five if they’re friendly enough. But the rear seats are almost as rigid as a park bench despite their smart and fashionable upholstery (Leather is an option, but not a softer one.) You won’t crave sitting there for too long, which may be the reason why there aren’t any cup-holders. Just two bottle slots in the doors and not those open coffee cups.
But step up front and things are perfect. There are deep sporty seats, a refined not-too-cheeky version of MINI’s archetypal signature interior style featuring a lot of toggle switches and rounded elements. As with all other Minis, the large one in the center console houses an infotainment system controlled by a knob fitted with a touchpad. A touchpad that allows you to write the names of destinations with your finger. In addition to that there’s a voice recorder, lest you get any bright ideas on the boulevard.
Like them or despise them the three-cylinder engines are here to stay. The Clubman is powered by a 1.5 liter turbocharged 3 cylinder engine shared with the lighter MINI Hardtop. This doesn’t make it the quickest car in the company’s lineup given its added weight. But its smooth 134 hp and 162 pound foot turbo torque won’t leave you longing for the missing forth piston. If it does then you have the option of stepping up to the high-end Cooper S Clubman with its 189 horsepower four-cylinder engine with a turbo and top speed of 140 mph.
The Clubman tested was a front-wheel-drive with a six-speed manual transmission. But it also comes with an 8-speed automatic, as is all-wheel-drive. The shifter is firm, and automatically blips the throttle on downshifts to keep the car from lurching along. You can turn the feature off, but with it you lose the stability control. Am not sure that’s what you will want on normal driving but certainly something you’d do before hitting the track or an autocross. Now that feels right for the racers but this isn’t really that kind of MINI though. Case in point; it has an electronic parking brake, so no handbrake turns and drifting and races aren’t complete without these.
Regardless, it’s very agile, and entertaining to drive on twisty country roads. As the manufacturer puts it; “the speed of a cheetah and the agility of a gazelle”. The suspension handles bumps and curves with some expertise while the extra-long wheelbase adds stability to the ride. All said, the mini Clubman has a near-luxurious comfort. That’s pretty impressive for a car its class and with a starting price of $24,950, it’s a premium machine for its size.
Its much comparable to the slightly larger but much more powerful Volkswagen Golf GTI, the four-door, fun to drive compact that’s considered by many as one of the best cars in the world, but a little short on character. MINIs have plenty of that too, even ones like this that don’t quite live up to their name.