THE 2016 MINI COOPER CLUBMAN, ALL SIX DOORS OF IT, IS MORE ‘MAXI' THAN ‘MINI’ – HELL, IT’S AS LONG AND AS WIDE AS AN EH HOLDEN SEDAN, TRUE, AND THIS IS A MINI?
Stretched, it most certainly is, and it comes with proper rear passenger doors, not the narrow openings of the five-door MINI, but one on each side and made for people (not Hobbits and small dogs).
And the space there is also made for people – there is room for average legs and average feet.
More, there are barn doors at the back that open up to a proper wagon cargo space. The kind of space a family might find useful – like, enough for larger cases and golf bags and ‘school projects’.
And the thing is, Cooper or Cooper S, the new Clubman is a racy drive, it goes and turns and stops just like a MINI, and not like a fatty-boombah wagon.
Better yet, starting at $34,900 for the Cooper, and $42,900 for the very rapid Cooper S, it’s priced for families.
Vehicle Style: Compact wagon
Price: MINI Cooper Clubman - $34,900; MINI Cooper S Clubman - $42,900
Engine/trans: Cooper Clubman: 1.5 litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol; 100kW/220Nm, 6-spd sports automatic
Cooper S Clubman: 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol; 141kW/280Nm, 8-spd sports automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: Cooper Clubman: (claimed) 5.4 l/100km; (tested) 8.1 l/100km
Cooper S Clubman: (claimed) 5.9 l/100km; (tested) 8.4 l/100km
It is classified a ‘compact’ car which puts it at ‘smaller than small’, but it will shatter the illusion if you were to run a tape measure around it, or open the doors and look inside.
Because the new MINI Clubman, a six-door wagon, is 4.2 metres tip-to-tail, has a wheelbase of 2.67 metres, and is 1.8 metres wide. That, as we mentioned at the head, and you may be surprised to learn, is almost exactly the dimensions of an EH Holden (except the Clubman is 200kg heavier).
So this compact is no tiddler. It’s like a MINI, but stretched, with good sized doors, a long roofline, and a half-reasonable load space.
The surprises extend to the engine combinations. The Cooper has just three cylinders puffing away, but you’d never guess. And the Cooper S goes quicker than the spuds at an Irish breakfast.
Standard features to Cooper and Cooper S include:
- Dual-zone climate control air-con
- Radio with USB interface, aux-in socket, Bluetooth with audio streaming
- 6.5-inch display (Cooper); 8.5inch display (Cooper S)
- Rain sensing wipers, multifunction sports steering wheel,
- Keyless entry, toggle-button start
- Rear park distance control with reversing camera
- Forward collision warning, brakes pre-conditioning, flat tyre warning,
- Dynamic stability control, traction control, electronic differential lock, six airbags, among a suite of dynamic and passive safety features
You had better ignore my views here and just concentrate on the facts, because I am not much of a fan of the over-stylised MINI interiors.
Inside, except for the instant impression of space, it is quite the same as other MINIs.
That means a sporty wheel that is beautifully hooked-up to what’s happening at the road, beautiful hip-hugging seats, a pair of sports dials ahead of the driver (as well as the optional head-up display in our testers), and a solid, nicely textured feel throughout.
But there is too much ‘going on’ in here for me to warm to the interior styling. Even with the piano-black highlights, the sporty toggle stop/start button, all the nice metal-lipped switchgear and the polished chrome instrument bezels, I just find it all a bit tacky and overblown.
The pizza tray central display also offends my sensibilities. But pay no attention to my opinion until you have a look for yourself, because you might like it (and who then is right?).
There is no shortage of information on the display, and it’s clear, nicely organised and easily read.
In the Cooper S, which gets sat-nav as standard as well as the reverse camera (standard to both models), the 8.5-inch display is as sharp as you’ll find, as is the clarity of the reversing camera display.
Depending upon how you option things up, you can also get parking assistance, surround view camera, adaptive cruise and pedestrian warning, and a whole lot of premium driver assistance features.
Getting into and out of the rear seats is as easy as in any reasonably-sized saloon. The rear doors open nicely square, the opening too is square and wide and a ‘six-foot’ companion on this launch had no trouble getting in and out, and also found room for his knees and feet there.
There are ISOFIX child-seat tethers, and, though the MINI Clubman is lower than an SUV, you won’t have any trouble reaching in to strap in child number one (and two).
The rear barn doors, seen in the original 60s Mini Clubman, and carried over from the previous new-gen Clubman, are beauties.
They are spring-loaded to open gently, or, with the Cooper S can be opened with a kick under each door to reveal a very low loading lip, and a square practical space that won’t have any trouble swallowing a family load.
Boot space is 360 litres with the split-fold rear seats in place, rising to 1250 litres when folded forward.
ON THE ROAD
Key technical specifications:
- Cooper Clubman: 1.5 litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol; 100kW/220Nm, 6-spd sports automatic
- Cooper S Clubman: 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol; 141kW/280Nm, 8-spd sports automatic
- Suspension: Front: single-joint spring strut, multi-link rear
- Steering: electric ‘servotronic’ power steering
It’s a MINI; it drives exceptionally well, whether Cooper or Cooper S.
And even in the lower-powered three-cylinder Cooper, it is not possible not to enjoy the drive. It is hard to imagine, until you drive it, that such a relatively small cubic capacity – the Cooper is just 1.5 litres – can be so fluid and capable on-road.
We drove the Cooper from Adelaide to Birdwood, via a roundabout route through the Adelaide Hills, and then on to Murray Bridge.
The way this little engine pulls if kept on the boil via the plus/minus shift, belies its small capacity. But such is the miracle of modern metallurgy and twin-power turbo-charging of small capacity engines.
It starts and idles with a typical three-cylinder ‘thrum’ but makes a nice rounded burble when pushed.
With 100kW and 220Nm (230Nm on overboost) it will hustle to 100km/h in a worthy 9.1 seconds, accelerates quickly around slower traffic if you ‘prep’ it by dropping back a couple of cogs, and also copes with hills without huffing and puffing.
When cornering, we found it best to change gears manually; the auto is a tad slow to kickdown, then kicks down too far (with a shower of revs) when accelerating out the other side.
The Cooper is a little compromised here as it makes do with a six-speed automatic as standard. The Cooper S however gets a very nice eight-speed Steptonic automatic with paddles at the wheel (both however can be ordered with six-speed manual, a no-cost option).
The Cooper S is a rocket. With one of the sweetest DOHC 2.0 litre turbo engines around, 141kW and 280Nm (rising to 300Nm on overboost), it will whistle around a winding mountain road.
And it does it with a feisty growling and snarling aural accompaniment. Snapping it through the eight-speed transmission via the paddles is sheer joy and as close to ‘tarmac racing’ as you might care to get without putting the licence through the shredder.
The Cooper S comes with three selectable modes; sports mode sharpens engine and transmission responses and handling response, and it will bolt to 100km/h in just 7.1 seconds.
However, Cooper or Cooper S, few cars handle with such an alert and hooked-up feel at the wheel and with such responsiveness when cornering. This is go-kart handling in a family car (so you can have your cake and eat it too).
The handbrake has been replaced with a button (so ‘brakies’ are out), but it will function as an emergency brake if you hold it on.
The big debit, and one you will need to think about if considering a Clubman, is the hard suspension tuning. These cars are set up for the road surfaces of that glass-smooth highway heaven known as Europe.
The tyres are as noisy as all get-out on coarse Aussie bitumen and slap and jolt over broken tarmac.
You will forgive it, because each handles so beautifully, but it may come as a shock when you first take the wheel.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres
Servicing: MINI TLC Basic takes care of scheduled servicing costs for five years (or 70,000 kilometres) for $980 over the period (excluding consumable items like oils and fluids).
Service intervals are not set, but based on usage.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Is there a rival? Small sports wagons with the kind of performance the Cooper S offers are thin on the ground.
Perhaps you might compare it to the Skoda Octavia RS wagon ($41,390), or maybe even to Audi’s A3 Attraction Sportback ($36,500). In reality, the MINI Clubman is priced against up-specced small SUVs like the (more expensive) X-Trail Ti, $45,190, or Sportage SL Platinum ($41,590). But these are way more boring.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
If you like driving, you will love the new MINI Clubman Cooper and Clubman Cooper S; these cars are for drivers.
With that surprising space inside, accessible and roomy rear seats, and the family-friendly load area at the back, these are also cars that cater for families or others needing the space of a typical small SUV.
But driving an SUV is ‘death by beige’ compared to the Clubman.
You will be surprised by the space and delighted by the handling every time you take the wheel. You will likely get used to the hard ride and the tyre noise on harsher surfaces, and the price is pretty good too.
The heart says four-stars, but the head knocks off half-a-star for the compromises to ride comfort.
MORE: MINI News & Reviews