Once exclusive to Mini’s SUV range, all wheel drive is now expanding across the Mini lineup, with the rorty John Cooper Works Clubman introducing all wheel drive grip to the performance hatch-cum-wagon.
Like a Mini for grown ups, the Clubman sits on a larger footprint freeing up more interior space. But the playful Mini uniqueness remains, including rear barn doors and one of the most iconic interiors in the industry.
Vehicle Style: Performance small hatch
Price: $53,900 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 170kW/350Nm 2.0 litre 4cyl turbo patrol | 6sp manual, 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.2 l/100km
As the flagship if the Clubman range, the John Cooper Works bring more power and torque than the already impressive Cooper S. An extra 29kW and 70Nm in fact, which combined with the added all wheel drive grip results in a 0-100km/h sprint of just 6.3 seconds - an impressive 1.2 seconds quicker than the Cooper S auto.
Priced from $53,900 (plus on-roads), the John Cooper Works Clubman (let’s make that JCW from here on in) is certainly at the high end of the hot hatch market, bit Mini counters that by stuffing it full of premium equipment like Harman Kardon hi fi, adaptive cruise control, and leather trim.
Though there is a five-door JCW Mini hatch that offers a similar level of versatility and punchy performance, the JCW Clubman boosts more interior space, both in the rear seat and the boot, and offers secure handling via all wheel drive - something the smaller Mini hatch range can’t yet match.
- Standard Equipment: Leather seat trim, dual zone climate control, Antracite headliner, JCW three-spoke steering wheel, keyless entry and start, contactless tailgate opening, 19-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 8.8-inch Mini Professional touchscreen navigation, touchpad controller, 20GB hard drive, 12 speaker Harman Kardon audio, DAB digital audio, Bluetooth connectivity, AUX and USB inputs
- Cargo Volume: 360 litres seats up, 1250 litres seats folded
Hop into the Clubman and the low-set seats set you into a sporty driving position just like every other Mini variant, but look into the rear and there’s a family friendly rear seat and big boot following you everywhere.
The design is Mini through and through, with a huge central display dominating the dash, inspired by the speedometer placement of the original Mini, although the speedo and tacho have been relocated to in front of the driver.
A chubby JCW steering wheel and alloy pedals turn up the sporty appeal inside and are matched with JCW-specific side sills, exhaust tips, 19--inch wheels, and grille blades on the outside.
The Clubman is also wider across the cabin, opening up more space between front occupants and less elbow grinding for those in the rear, not to mention the boost in legroom, as well as the far more flexible 360 litre boot.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 170kW/350Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic (standard) or six-speed manual, all wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
- Brakes: Four-wheel disc brakes
- Steering: Electrically assisted power steering
Just a quick blast around the block reveals a very different character to the JCW hatch. The Clubman is no less playful, but it fires from a standstill like a rocket, and bolts out of corners with none of the grip-searching habits of the front wheel drive hatch.
Even on mixed surfaces, the All4 system is quick to send drive to the wheels that can use it best, recovering quickly from two wheels on the gravel shoulder, all the while still piling on speed.
The engine note hints at the JCW’s intent, and the suspension, resolutely firm across choppy surfaces, reinforces the JCW Clubman’s hot hatch positioning.
Although an eight-speed automatic will be the default choice for Australian delivered Clubman’s, and optional six-speed manual (as fitted to the car driven here) is also available.
The clutch is a little on the numb side, but that keeps it light for city use, and it’s still easy enough to balance for a smooth engagement.
In its charming Mini way the gearshift has a nice solid feel to it, mixing in a mid-length throw that’s quite nice to shift about, though with generous torque from the engine it’s just as easy to let the pulling power to all the hard work.
Without a full drive it’s hard to comment on refinement, but TMR will be back behind the wheel soon and we’ll explore more of the Clubman’s virtues then.
This first sample at least proves that Mini has enhanced the JCW formula with the addition of all wheel drive. This isn’t just a boring, safe and stable hatch, it still packs in emotional appeal with finely honed dynamics and a twist of fun retro kitsch.
Some of the go kart feeling has been dialled out, something Mini’s engineers must have noticed because even the little kart logo that represents Sport mode has been removed, but driver enjoyment is still high on the JCW Clubman’s agenda.
Still quick, still a joy to hustle along a winding stretch of tarmac, the Mini John Cooper Works Clubman holds on tight to its sporting appeal but also adds a more capable all-weather component to its list of abilities as a plausible alternative to a bigger, more cumbersome SUV.
This then, is a Mini for grown ups - maybe not quite the perfect family all rounder, but right for active young couples that want something city-centric with a little more room for weekends away with friends or ad-hoc shopping expeditions.
Unmistakably unique and dripping with hallmark JCW styling touches, the John Cooper Works Clubman is a premium hot hatch that’s as individual as you’ll find.
Overseas model shown.
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