We've got a Mini Cooper S Clubman as part of our long-term fleet: the aim is to see whether the six-doored small car is liveable and likeable, or just a silly styling stunt.
It can’t just be nostalgia that makes the world need a car like the 2016 Mini Cooper Clubman, right?
So while the six-door (yes, six!) Mini Clubman is now more of a wagon than a panelvan than it ever has been, does that mean it’s a good option for buyers?
We decided to get one for a few months in the Sydney office to find out.
Our car is the Mini Cooper S Clubman, the hottest Clubman you can buy (until Mini adds the inevitable JCW model later this year or early next). It’s powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, with 141kW of power and 280Nm of torque.
Those figures aren’t huge in the ranks of mega-powered hot hatches of today, and Mini claims a sluggish 0-100km/h time of 7.1 seconds. Fuel use, though, is claimed at a miserly 5.9 litres per 100km. Let’s see whether we can match either of those figures in the next couple of reports…
Buyers of the Cooper S can choose from a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearbox, and our car is fitted with the latter. Being a Cooper S, of course there are paddleshifters fitted.
We’ve come to be quite fond of this perky engine in the other Mini models, but the extra weight of the Clubman – about 100 kilograms over the three-door version – is noticeable on first impressions.
While we will aim to delve deeper into the car's performance attributes in a coming update, the steering has been found to be a little bit lacking when compared to Minis of old. But, it's clear the optional adaptive dampers are worth the cash, as they help the Mini smooth out bumps better than any car from this brand in recent memory (Minis tend to be quite hard riding, particularly Cooper S ones with run-flat tyres!).
Speaking of optional extras, the list price for this puppy is $42,900 plus on-road costs, but our little wagon has a fair few optional extras on it.
The options include: metallic paint ($900); black bonnet stripes ($200); black roof and mirror caps (no cost option); the Chili package ($3000: includes 18-inch alloy wheels with run-flat tyres, LED headlights and LED fog-lights, and black leather interior trim); dynamic damper control ($700); chrome line interior trim ($250); piano black interior finishing ($300); Multimedia Pro Package with 3D maps, 8.8-inch screen, head-up display, Harman Kardon 12-speaker stereo, and DAB+ digital radio ($2700); and the Control package, including collision warning and auto braking, speed sign recognition, automatic high-beam headlights ($1600).
All those added items make you wonder just how basic the regular $42,900 Mini actually is. Ours, if you didn’t do the maths in your head, is a $52,850 Mini. Youch. Read our full pricing and specifications story here.
To its credit, though, it looks premium inside and out. And while it may appear quite long from the outside, the Clubman is actually shorter in length than a Volkswagen Golf five-door hatchback (4253mm versus the VW’s 4268mm).
Everyone who has sat in the Mini over the first couple of weeks of tenure has stated that the interior feels a bit more upmarket than expected. There is a lush blue diamond-stitched leather finish with maroon piping in some markets that takes that luxe to another level, but it’s not available here, and it clearly wouldn’t work with our car’s British Racing Green metallic paint.
The black “cross-punched” leather feels of a decent quality, and the Clubman introduces a new media system interface that is more like the iDrive version used in BMW models. There’s a more malleable rotary dial controller with, er, a bigger knob that makes for much easier interaction with the screen when you’re on the road.
That apparent maturity is dampened somewhat by Mini’s insistence on having a silly coloured ring of light that surrounds the circular dash display zone.
Many staff have pointed out that it looks dated and twee, as the ring changes colour depending on what you’re doing in the car. Turning up the volume on the stereo? The ring colour reflects that. Changing drive mode? The ring colour reflects that. Turning the temperature down or up? The ring colour will change between blue for cooler and red for warmer.
It is a bit daft, really, and made all the more bemusing by the graphics on the media screen. We all know Mini is trying to be fun, but having a Mini graphic on the driver information screen where the headlight winks at you when you get in, or images of a go-kart and rocketship when you choose sport mode (with the caption “maximum go-kart feel” – blergh).
However, there are nice elements to the media system, including the fact that when you’re using the digital radio system, entertainment details including photos of presenters will show up on screen for some stations. The 3D maps are also great, and the touchpad on the rotary dial is a cool gimmick, too.
Bluetooth phone and audio streaming is standard on the Cooper S, and in the first few weeks we already ran out of space on the list of connected devices. The sound quality, though, has been excellent in these early days, and call quality has been good too.
Being a bigger Mini means it should have good space, and there is definitely more room in the back seat for adults in the Clubman than in the other Mini models. Knee room is decent, if not brilliant, and headroom is also fine.
The biggest issue that people have noticed with the back seats is that the sill is quite high, and the big-footed among the CA crew have found it a bit awkward getting in and out.
The biggest improvement here is that the previous Clubman had a rear door only on the driver’s side, because Mini didn’t engineer the car to have it on the kerbside for right-hand drive markets. That meant getting out into traffic – not ideal.
Then there’s the boot. With two barn-style boot doors, the Clubman requires the right-side to be opened first to allow to open the left door for full access, and some of the team have been a bit flummoxed by it at first. The cargo capacity is small at 360 litres (20L less than a VW Golf hatch).
For our coming reports, the car will do the rounds of editorial team - with our resident surfer Tony set to see if his boards fit in the back of this slightly more practical Mini model. Stay tuned to see what he thinks of it.
Mini Cooper S Clubman
Date acquired – December 2015
Odometer reading – 1593km
Travel since previous update – N/A
Consumption since previous update – N/A
Click the Photos tab above for more images by Sam Venn.