The 2016 Mini Cooper S Clubman is unique in the sense that it’s genuinely like nothing else currently on the market.
The Mini brand has been saturating quite a bit as of late. With niche offerings like the now-defunct Paceman and a full-on crossover in the form of the Countryman (see review here), the nameplate once associated with a pint-sized hatchback is now representative of so much more. I was always a fan of the original Clubman, with its three-door setup and traditional barn doors in the rear. When I learned of it being fully redesigned for this model year, I just had to have a go in it. I spent a wintery week with the 2016 Mini Cooper S Clubman to see just what it has to offer.
One of the biggest changes to the new Clubman is that it now has two functional doors for rear seat passengers. The styling is unmistakably Mini-brand, with a series of unique design tweaks unique to the Clubman. Cargo access is via two barn doors in the rear, which pay homage to the original Clubman – I’m glad Mini hasn’t done away with these. The taillights are more of a horizontal design than in other models, helping the stance look wider and more hunkered down. Painted in a lovely Pure Burgandy Metallic with a contrasting silver roof and packing 18” Star Spoke wheels, my Clubman was a sure stunner.
It’s beneath the hood though, where every Mini bearing the “Cooper S” badge demonstrates its capabilities. The base model offers the turbocharged three-cylinder, but the Cooper S Clubman boasts the same 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder that we’ve seen in a few other Mini variants. Output is 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque at 1,250RPM. There’s a torque over-boost mode that bumps that figure to 221, helping the Clubman hit 100km/h in just 7.1 seconds. Though not a rocketship, the hot little number is capable of satisfying the vast majority of hot hatch buyers.
Using Mini’s drive mode select feature to indicate your choice into “Sport” mode, the Clubman happily obliges by displaying “Let’s Motor Hard!” on the display screen, as well as changing all interior ambient lighting to a sporty red colour. At this point, the throttle response sharpens up considerably, the adaptive dampers (optional) firm up, and the exhaust develops a throatier note, complete with backfiring pops. The Clubman is actually very responsive despite its size – turbocharger lag is there but not too prominent.
Steering response is electric but still very crisp and the Mini goes where pointed. Despite having grown the lineup considerably, the Mini Group has not given up on their roots, with excellent handling throughout the lineup. In the “Sport” setting, the aforementioned adaptive dampers do their best to eliminate as much body roll as possible, and succeed at this task. On the flip side, ride quality is noticeably affected but not necessarily in a negative way. The Clubman rides firmly without thrashing passengers around too much. In the “Green” and “Mid” modes, the dampers are more favourable towards comfort and softness, allowing for a bit more roll with a much smoother ride.
Though an automatic transmission is available and will likely be the choice of most Canadian consumers, Mini Canada was thoughtful enough to send us a test vehicle equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox. This is, in my opinion, the only way to have anything in the Mini lineup. The shifter’s throws are a bit long, but it falls into its gates nicely, and the clutch is excellent with a definitive bite point. I spent a good amount of time in traffic, and found this transmission effortless. The “Sport” mode will also match revs on downshifts, but I wish there was a way to manually disable this, as it takes away from part of the fun of a manual transmission.
Fuel economy is another forté of all things Mini. One thing I learned from one of the Clubman’s product planners is that the car’s larger footprint means they can fit a larger fuel tank – this one will hold 55L of premium fuel. After a week’s worth of driving that included a significant amount of mileage in the downtown grind, I still came away with 8.0L/100km. Factoring in the fact that my test took place in bitter cold temperatures and the car had barely been broken in, this wasn’t bad at all. The turbocharged engine does mean the Clubman requires premium 91-octane fuel.
Upon entering the cockpit, things continue in a delightfully Mini manner. The Cooper S Clubman has all of the retro touches that have allowed Mini to have a cult following around the world. The instrument cluster has been moved from the center to directly in front of the driver, but this has made room for an excellent high-resolution screen in the center instead. This screen is home to a modified version of BMW’s iDrive system, complete with the ability to input text via doodling on a touchpad. The retro toggle switches that once controlled the power windows now are home to things like stability control and park assist.
Starting the Clubman’s engine is done via a toggle switch on the center console that has lighting capable of beating like a heart. One fun trick I noticed is that when sitting with the engine off, if the clutch is depressed, this “heart” starts beating rapidly, almost indicative of the Mini’s eagerness to go. The power window switches are finished in chrome, and even the drive mode selector is fun – the modes are toggled by flicking a ring that surrounds the shifter boot. One of my favourite Mini touches is the panoramic sunroof; barely any rivals offer these in hot hatches and it has been a Mini staple since the brand’s revival in 2002.
Pricing for the Mini Cooper Clubman starts at $28,990. My tester was virtually loaded, including standalone options such as the 18” wheels ($1,430), Dynamic Damper Control ($500), an anthracite roofliner ($250), performance tires ($50), and metallic paint ($590). The Essentials Package costs $1,800 and gives you the panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, front and rear fog lights, front center armrest, the 6.5” screen with full infotainment, and Mini Connected. The Loaded Package for $1,800 adds powered front seats with memory, Comfort Access, and dual-zone climate control. Add in a few other things like the Wired Package and the Visibility Package, and you’re pushing $38,420 as-tested for our car.
As with all other Minis, there is a plethora of quirks to the Clubman. For instance, the brake lights are actually mounted on the rear bumper rather than integrated within the taillight assembly. The LED headlights (optional, but equipped here) that Mini offers are some of the most brilliant factory setups available on the market today. I once owned a Mini, so I’m accustomed to the slightly unconventional driving position, but other members of our team weren’t so hot on the limited adjustability of the driver’s seat. The available thigh support worked wonders for me personally. Additionally, the tiny wipers on the rear cargo area doors are a delightful touch – and Mini has significantly reduced the size of the center pillar there to ensure maximum rearward visibility.
The 2016 Mini Cooper S Clubman is unique in the sense that it’s genuinely like nothing else currently on the market. It isn’t exactly affordable to the masses, with our tester’s sticker hovering dangerously close to $40,000, but that’s all part of the Mini personality. This is a car that you buy with your heart rather than your brain, and it has a shocking amount of cheeky character. Those “Miniacs” who live and breathe the brand have developed an excellent aftermarket community, as well as owners’ clubs worldwide, that make owning a Mini a real experience rather than just a way to get around.