The smallest new Mini on sale is the three-door hatchback, and the largest is the five-door Countryman SUV. The Clubman being tested here sits somewhere in the middle – it’s essentially a Mini estate for those who want more practicality than the three-door but shudder at the idea of a Mini SUV. Now Mini’s given the Clubman a refresh as part of a mid-life facelift.
The engine range is slimmed down, and at launch there’s a punchy Cooper S with 189bhp, an even punchier John Cooper Works version with 302bhp, and the diesel Cooper D, which combines a useful 148bhp with mid-60s mpg.
We’re testing the entry-level Cooper Clubman, which gets a three-cylinder petrol engine with 134bhp and the promise of up to 42.8mpg. Prices start from £21,200, though it’s easy to spend well over £30,000.
Is a Mini Clubman just a stretched Mini hatchback?
No, the two cars actually sit on different underpinnings, with the Clubman closely related to the BMW X1 and X2 under the skin – BMW owns the Mini brand, remember. That’s why the Clubman is wider, and the distance between the front and rear wheels is longer than a regular Mini, all of which frees up more elbow room and more space in the rear seats. There is decent room back there, with six-feet tall adults being able to sit behind similarly large adults.
The boot is also larger, if far from huge at 360 litres. Dropping the rear seats frees up 1250 litres of luggage space – both figures are 20 litres down on the VW Golf. You’ll also find a handy hidden storage layer under the boot floor, as well as some storage areas in the double-hinged ‘barn-style’ rear doors (which look quite cool but do block your view of following traffic)
What’s the big news with the facelift?
It’s a pretty gentle refresh, and includes a new grille, revised LED lights front and rear (the rears feature the Union Jack), and a couple of new colours and alloy wheel designs (including another Union Jack reference), plus some new leather and trim options.
Classic trim is the entry-level specification, and includes 16-inch alloys, sat-nav with real-time traffic information, Apple CarPlay and Mini Connected Services. The latter lets you send a sat-nav address from your smartphone to the car’s navigation system via a Mini Connected app.
Sport trim adds sportier John Cooper Works upgrades, including a sports steering wheel, sports seats and 17-inch alloy wheels. Our Exclusive-spec test car was marked out by its Mini Yours leather steering wheel and Leather Lounge seats.
What’s it like inside?
It’s quite a mature feel with our Exclusive-spec car’s leather (entry-level models get ‘Firework Cloth’ for a funkier look) and soft-touch plastics, and perhaps a little sombre in black, but it certainly looks well finished.
The Mini’s sense of fun and quirkiness might be muted, but it’s still evident, most obviously with the huge circular infotainment screen at the centre of the dash, which glows as you select different functions like a beating heart.
It’s not the very latest BMW infotainment system, but it’s still one of the very best, with clear graphics and a highly intuitive operating logic. Just remember that a pretty small 6.5-inch screen is standard, and you’ll pay extra for the 8.8-inch touch option.
What’s the Clubman Cooper like to drive?
The three-cylinder motor could never be described as quick, and you need to stir the gears regularly to get a move on (our test car got the optional seven-speed auto, which we’d have preferred with optional paddleshift controls), but there’s adequate performance here for normal driving. A perky chassis and keen steering helps keep up the momentum too, and while the Clubman isn’t as agile as smaller Minis, there’s still a chuckable, fun feel – as well as more supple suspension than the shorter, choppier-riding hatchbacks.
In a nutshell
The Clubman isn’t as fun to drive or cutely designed as the smaller Minis, but it does offer some welcome extra practicality with its larger boot and more generous rear-seat legroom, and it’s still an enjoyable, comfortable drive. It’s also a unique offering in this segment, with far more character than a VW Golf and it makes for a welcome alternative to the ever-growing list of crossover SUVs . Factor in affordable running costs thanks to the frugal three-cylinder engine and an excellent infotainment system and the Mini Clubman Cooper makes a great case for itself.