My wife has always wanted a compact and cute car as her daily commuter.
She wants a car like the Fiat 500 (reviewed here), MINI Cooper (reviewed here), and smart fortwo. She despises SUVs as she thinks they are too tall and too big, but then she needs to have a car that is big enough to hold our two children and their gear. Good news for the mother of my children and anyone else who has similar taste in cars, there is the MINI Clubman. It is a proper station wagon that shares the attractive looks and fun personality of MINI, and offers practicality like many compact SUVs.
The 2019 MINI Cooper Clubman ALL4 arrived at our office painted in an understated Melting Silver Metallic colour, fitting for the gloomy weather. I would prefer a sharper tone like the Chili Red that highlights the joyful styling of the MINI brand. From the front, with its big round headlights housing the LED headlight, halo daytime-running-lights, and the MINI signature grille, the Clubman unmistakably shares the family DNA.
Moving onto the side profile, this is where things start to look different and a bit more polarizing. It is obvious that the Clubman is over 40 centimetres longer than the MINI Cooper (reviewed here) and over 25 centimetres longer than the MINI Cooper 5-door. This second generation Clubman has lost the suicide-door design of the first generation, featuring two regular rear doors, allowing for easier entry and exit. On the rear are the Clubman’s signature barn-style doors in lieu of the usual hatch. This setup contributes to the unique appeal and the Clubman has created its own niche.
The Clubman ALL4 tester was equipped with the entry-level engine, a 1.5-litre three-cylinder with a turbocharger. It’s rated at 134 horsepower from 4,400 to 6,000RPM, with max torque of 162 lb-ft. from 1,250 to 4,300RPM. The ALL4 designation implies all-wheel drive, and power is sent to all four wheels using an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Driving the three-cylinder MINI Cooper Clubman in the city is a fun endeavour, with minimal turbo lag.
The car appears to be a lot more powerful than its spec sheet suggests. It does run out of breath at the higher end of the rev range, but the good part is that the transmission is quick to downshift when you need to catch up in traffic. The downside to the small displacement engine and the eight-speed automatic gearbox is that they combine to make for a slightly unrefined ride. I observed some rough idling in traffic and coarse acceleration when you want the MINI to move along rapidly.
As with most MINI vehicles, driving the Clubman is an enjoyable task. It feels nimble and light on its feet, with engaging steering feel especially when you engage Sport mode. I had a chance to test drive a regular Cooper 3 Door and a Cooper S Convertible, earlier this year and the Clubman shares similar driving dynamics in the city and on the back roads. This alone is already enough to set the Mini Cooper Clubman apart from its main rival, the Fiat 500L.
Despite the seemingly oversized 17” wheels on the Clubman, the ride is compliant with the suspension soaking up most of the bumps on the road. The main selling point is added interior space compared to the regular MINI Cooper, and it wins in this regard. The Clubman will hold 360L of cargo in the trunk space, a number that might not jump out at you right away, but it is a considerable upgrade from the 211-litre trunk space in the 3-door and the 279L in the 5-door Cooper. If you need to haul extra goods with the Clubman, the rear seats can fold to provide 1,250L of space.
BMW rates the Mini Cooper Clubman’s fuel consumption as 10.2L/100km in the City, 7.6L/100km on the highway, and 9.0L/100km combined. My week of testing had mainly been in the city, with an observed fuel consumption figure of 10.0L/100km. This figure is close to BMW Canada’s estimate, and I would consider this figure to be slightly higher than average when compared to its competitors in the segment. The Clubman will accept 50 litres of premium fuel.
Anyone who has been inside a modern MINI Cooper will be able to familiarize effortlessly. My tester is equipped with the Premier+ Line that features carbon black leatherette seating surfaces on the optional heated sport seats, and an optional MINI Yours package that features a sports leather steering wheel and illuminated piano black trim. MINI has succeeded in building an upscale interior with premium materials. I particularly enjoy the feel of the chrome toggle switches that give it the proper character and completes the retro theme.
The center of attention of the interior is the optional 8.8” touchscreen, controlled by the BMW-patented rotary dial with handwriting recognition. The infotainment unit supports Apple CarPlay but Android users are out of luck here. The interface features the same youthful and charming design as other MINI infotainment systems, and the colourful design extends outside of the touchscreen to the LED centre instrument ring that changes colour to reflect engine speed, interior lighting preference, sound system volume, and climate control, etc.
The MINI Cooper Clubman starts at $28,690, and this is a great starting price. My tester was generously equipped with the optional Premier+ Line ($5,850), 17” wheels ($800), Melting Silver Metallic paint job ($590), Wired Navigation package ($1,600), Style Package ($650), Mini Yours Sport leather steering wheel ($250), Premium Sound package ($750), Cargo package ($500), Anthracite roofline ($250), and automatic transmission ($1,500), bringing the as-tested price to $41,430.
The low cost of entry is attractive for many, but as witnessed here the total can run up quickly if you feel like pampering yourself with customizations. Personally, I would forego many of the options selected and opt for MINI Cooper S Clubman with the bigger and more refined engine for a more dynamic driving experience.
The 2019 MINI Cooper Clubman ALL4 presents an excellent option for those who would like to have a fun car without sacrificing the necessary practicality. Its traditional station wagon styling is not for everyone, but for those who like it, it offers many advantages. It manages to wear the cute and the practical hats at the same time, while carrying on the MINI’s fun personality and driving dynamics to make each journey to the school pick-up and drop-off a little happier.