2016 Mini Cooper Clubman First Review
The Mini Cooper Clubman is the "big" Mini, insofar as Minis go at least. With more cargo room accessed through nifty double doors in back, it's an interesting and practical addition to the Mini lineup. But things are getting a little odd in Mini-land. The British car maker now offers up some notably larger vehicles, such as the Countryman crossover, and there's even a four-door version of the original Mini Hardtop. It would seem, on the surface at least, that this "big" Mini is a little redundant these days.
However, the 2016 Mini Cooper Clubman offers more than size, although there's plenty of that. With four traditional doors replacing the passenger side back-hinged rear access door, it's now a true 5-passenger vehicle, at least in theory. The double doors in the rear remain, adding an element of whimsy and, thanks to a new power mechanism, they're more practical. The Clubman also retains its unique visual appeal, with a long roofline accentuating its wagon-ness. But aside from all that is the added refinement you'll find in the 2016 Mini Clubman, which helps bring the driving experience up to a level that matches its somewhat lofty price tag.
MINO (Mini In Name Only)
The new Mini Clubman looks huge, and it's definitely the biggest Mini on the market. It's more than a foot longer, nearly 5 inches wider, and a tiny bit taller than its predecessor, and is even longer than the Mini Countryman by 6.6 inches. However, the 2016 Mini Clubman is actually not much bigger than a Volkswagen Golf, and still smaller than cars like the Mazda3 5-door.
The payoff is in interior space. There's now 17.5 cubic feet of cargo area behind the rear seats, which expands to nearly 48 cu.-ft. when the rear seats are folded. All five occupants have more room than ever before, and there's enough room in the rear that fears of deep vein thrombosis are a thing of the past.
The new Mini Clubman is also an order of magnitude more refined than its predecessor. The cabin is quiet at speed, and the ride quality is improved to the point that a long road trip in the Clubman seems perfectly reasonable.
The Clubman's manually adjusted seats offer enough flexibility for most body types, and the added space means no more rubbing elbows with your seatmate. The interior will be familiar to Mini fans, with the large circular display in the center of the dash for navigation and infotainment, and toggle-type switches beneath the climate controls for the engine start, traction control, and so on. All around are high-quality soft-touch materials, giving the Clubman a more upscale look than previous Minis.
Sadly, the praise ends with the rear seat, and not just because of the tight quarters for three. Even if there are only two passengers, neither will be comfortable thanks to a weird hard lump in the middle of the bottom seat cushion. Undoubtedly some sort of support or bracket, it pushes against your hips and thighs. With head- and legroom already on the tight side, there's no good seating position to avoid it.
The straight, mostly smooth roads around the Georgia coast unfortunately didn't offer many opportunities to explore the Mini Clubman's handling. However, it did let us stretch the Clubman's legs. The Cooper Clubman S and its combination of a 189-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and new 8-speed automatic transmission will be a popular combination, with its smooth shifts and brisk acceleration that belies the Mini's 3,300 curb weight. Similarly, the base Clubman with the 6-speed manual made the most of the 134-horsepower turbocharged 3-cylinder. It feels plenty snappy when accelerating, and although slower than the Cooper S, it’s hardly a penalty box. Credit the slick shifting manual; if you like driving stick, you'll want to check it out.
Ride comfort is very good, and the Mini's character changes notably when in Normal, Sport or Eco modes in both base and S models. If there's any serious downside to the driving experience, it's rearward visibility, which is partially blocked by the thick pillar in the middle of the rear windows. And, take note, the backup camera you're going to want is not standard.
Price vs. Values
Value is a tough call with the 2016 Mini Cooper Clubman. With a stripped down base-model Mini Cooper Clubman starting just under $25,000, and our test vehicle pricing out at nearly $31,000 thanks to the optional navigation and other packages, it's hardly an entry-level econobox. That goes double for the Clubman S, which starts at about $28,500 and climbs to nearly $34,000 with the automatic transmission and a few other options. That's a lot of money for a small car, and there are a lot of larger, more comfortable, and better equipped cars for the price. That said, few of those alternatives offer the unique styling of the 2016 Mini Cooper Clubman. So is it a value? It's going to depend on your personal values, and not price tags.