MINI Clubman review
The latest MINI Clubman is bigger and more practical than ever before, but still remains funky and fun to drive
MINI has taken the formula of the old, compromised Clubman and made it more useable and comfortable. It may lack the character of the previous model, but it's not your conventional family estate by any means. The looks may also divide opinion, but you can't deny it's striking.
The Clubman can no longer be classed as a quirky alternative to family hatchbacks like the VW Golf and Ford Focus, as MINI has transformed the hatchback into a genuine rival. It may look a little pricey in that company yet it certainly has a quality feel to help justify the outlay.
The MINI Clubman is a name that can trace its roots back to the 1970s original - but it's a different car in every way today. The latest bigger and more practical estate is every inch a modern MINI and a premium product.
Whereas the previous Clubman was unique in the respect that it didn’t really have any direct rivals – besides perhaps the Skoda Fabia Estate – MINI has reinvented the latest version to take on more conventional models such as the VW Golf, Peugeot 308 and Ford Focus.
It’s significantly longer and wider than the old model, while the wheelbase has also been stretched by 100mm meaning there’s more interior space. The old car’s single rear suicide door has been ditched in favour of two conventional doors, a move which makes the Clubman easier to live with day-to-day.
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However, the trademark side-hinged barn doors to access the boot remain. They can be opened by hand, electrically via the keyfob or by kicking your foot beneath the bumper if you have hands full of shopping. They open to reveal a 360-litre load area, which is on par with the VW Golf and folding the rear seats flat increases load space to 1,250 litres.
The latest-generation of petrol and diesel engines have been fitted to the Clubman, too. The entry-level Cooper comes with a 134bhp 1.5-litre three-cylinder and promises 55.4mpg and 118g/km of CO2, while the entry diesel, the One D, claims 74.3mpg and 99g/km of CO2 from a 1.5-litre three-cylinder diesel.
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Other versions in the range include a Cooper D, plus hotter Cooper S petrol and Cooper SD diesel variants, while models can also be paired with manual or automatic transmissions. You can also opt for MINI's 'All4' intelligent all-wheel drive system on the hot models, adding £1,300 to the price.
Standard specification on all MINI Clubman models includes 16-inch alloy wheels, MINI Navigation, Bluetooth, interior lights pack, a central display with LED ring, the MINI Excitement pack and start/stop with keyless start. But this being a MINI, there’s a whole host of customisation options and extra kit available, with sport seats and exterior decals among the most popular tick boxes on the list.
Engines, performance and drive
Despite the stretched-out dimensions the Clubman still steers with the same enthusiasm as the MINI hatch. This eager character is a trait all MINIs posses, from the Convertible to the Countryman crossover.
The steering still has the same crisp feeling as on the MINI hatch, although it does feel a little light for our tastes. However, its responds keenly to fast changes in direction and never feels like it’s being asked to do something out of its remit. While the Clubman still resonates with that classic MINI feel, the area engineers have really focused on is refinement and ride quality.
In the past MINIs have been about as famous for their poor ride quality as for their engaging character but MINI has looked to address that with the new model. It feels noticeably softer than any other MINI in the range and you can really feel that on the road.
Hit a bump and where the standard three-door hatch would really thud into the road, the Clubman feels more composed when dealing with poor road surfaces. It's still firm compared to a VW Golf, but never uncomfortable.
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What really helps is the addition of adaptive dampers for the first time, which let the driver switch between Green, Comfort and Sport driving modes. They are an optional extra but do make a big difference to the way the Clubman drives.
An option on both the Cooper S and Cooper SD is MINI's 'All4' intelligent all-wheel drive system that you could previously only buy in the Countryman. It gets clever features like torque vectoring to shuffle power to individual corners depending on which has lost the most grip.
It works to some extent, adding extra traction off the line and making it feel a bit more surefooted in the bends. It should also make it more stable and useable in really bad weather, but given the extra cost you may find a set of winter tyres does the same job.
The engine range is identical to that of the MINI hatch and includes everything from the 134bhp 1.5-litre Cooper right through to the hot 187bhp 2.0-litre Cooper S.
Our favourite is the Cooper D, which is powered by a 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine that emits 109g/km of CO2 and returns almost 70mpg. It strikes an excellent balance between performance, economy and price. If your budget can stretch a little further the even faster Cooper SD offers more performance without any real impact on running costs.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
The Clubman is around £4,000 more expensive than the five-door MINI hatchback but it’s worth remembering the Clubman is now a rival for the VW Golf so its priced to compete with the larger German hatchback.
That price hike is justified by the extra space, equipment and practicality on offer in the Clubman. The range starts from £19,995 for the Cooper Clubman and rises to £27,410 for the Cooper SD Clubman fitted with four-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Most buyers are likely to go for the Cooper D Clubman that costs from £22,385 with a six-speed manual gearbox. It’s also one of the most efficient models in the range, returning a claimed 68.9mpg with CO2 emissions of 109g/km. An eight-speed auto is a £1,595 option and has no impact on economy, so if you’re doing a lot of urban driving it may be worth the extra outlay.
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But there’s still plenty of performance on offer elsewhere in the range. The current range-topping Cooper S is powered by a 187bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, which gets from 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds and returns 45.6mpg.
You can add ALL4 four-wheel drive for a £1,410 premium, which shaves 0.2 second from the 0-62mph time but hits economy, reducing claimed fuel consumption to 40.9mpg and upping emissions to 159g/km. The SD suffers similar reductions, with MPG dropping from 65.7mpg to 58.9mpg and emissions rising from 114g/km to 126g/km.
With modest power outputs and reasonable list prices, the Clubman attracts relatively low insurances groups. The range starts at 17 for the Cooper Clubman and rises to 23 for the Cooper SD model, which are around the same as those for an equivalent VW Golf hatchback.
Typically, all new MINIs have strong residual values but the Clubman isn’t expected to be one of the best performers in the range. Over three years and 36k miles, you can expect the Clubman to retain between 37 and 40 per cent of its original value, which falls short of the 47 per cent you can expect to get back from an equivalent VW Golf.
Interior, design and technology
From the A-pillars forward, the Clubman is identical to the three and five-door hatchbacks on which it's based. From that point backwards, the love-it-or-hate-it shooting brake bodystyle is unique. It may look like an estate but proportionally it’s the size of a hatchback and is designed to look far more mainstream than the old Clubman model with it’s rear-hinged ‘clubdoor’ on one side of the car.
Inside, the dashboard is pure MINI and it gets a unique design over the standard hatchback to mark it out as the more premium model. There are still lots of retro touches with a LED trimmed center display and fighter jet-style toggle switches.
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Below the centre console is a handy storage compartment, two USB plugs and two large cupholders ahead of the gearstick. The centre armrest can be folded up out of the way and can also be specced with an integrated mobile phone compartment.
MINI expects over 50 per cent of buyers to spec the optional Chili Pack, which adds cloth/leather upholstery with heated sports seats, MINI’s comfort access system (handsfree boot opening), park distance control, automatic air conditioning, LED headlights and LED fog lights. It costs £2,785 across the range, but is 30 per cent cheaper than if you were to spec all of the options individually.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The Clubman has one of the best sat-nav and infotainment systems on the market. Being owned by BMW means MINI can take advantage of its parent company’s iDrive system, which is based around a very intuitive swivel wheel down on the centre console.
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Don’t be frustrated by the lack of a touchscreen as this system is far easier to use and stops those nasty smudges from appearing on the screen. Entry-level models get a 6.5-inch colour display, while a larger 8.8-inch screen comes on high-spec models. It serves as a display for infotainment, phone and navigation functions.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The MINI Clubman is 270mm longer than the five-door hatchback, while the wheelbase is also 100mm longer, which adds much-needed legroom in the back. The ditching of the old, single ‘clubdoor’ in favour of two conventional rear doors makes access to the back far easier, although it doesn’t look quite as cool. The switch to the more orthodox design also opens up the Clubman to a whole new batch of potential buyers who may be considering a mainstream hatch like the VW Golf, Peugeot 308 or SEAT Leon.
Another area of improvement is the boot. While boot space in the Clubman is still not huge at 380 litres, it is 20 litres bigger than before and a match for those aforementioned rivals. Access to the boot is very impressive thanks to the split rear barn doors which open via a touch sensitive button hidden behind the chrome door handles.
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If you spec MINI’s Comfort Access option, a simple kick of your foot under the rear bumper opens the boot. It’s ideal if you have hands full of shopping. One drawback is that while the van-like rear doors are easy to use they do restrict rear visibility when you’re on the move.
The Clubman measures in at just under 4,300mm long and 1,800mm wide, which makes it 270mm longer and 73mm wider than the MINI 5-door Hatch. The wheelbase is also 100mm longer.
Proportionally that makes it slightly longer and wider than a VW Golf, but it is more compact than the new Vauxhall Astra.
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The gain in size will be immediately noticeable to those sitting in the Clubman. Not only is access to the rear greatly improved but leg and head room is also now on par with the Audi A3. Two adults will be more than comfortable in the back, but you can squeeze three in if you need to. If space is a priority your best option will be to look at the new Vauxhall Astra, which offers the most passenger space in its class.
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The 360-litre boot is a decent shape and larger than the load area you get in a Ford Focus. Drop the rear seats and space increases to 1,250 litres and the rear bench sits flush with the boot floor so sliding in longer, heavier items won’t be too much of a chore.
Reliability and Safety
The MINI Clubman scored a four star safety rating in the Euro NCAP test, which means it trails most of its main rivals. The weakest area of the Clubman’s performance in the NCAP test was for child occupant protection and some safety equipment such as Lane Keep Assist is not available, which also marks it down.
The Clubman does benefit from BMW's excellent reliability record, plus the materials used and build quality are all superb. Front and side airbags come as standard, as do curtain airbags which extend all the way back in the Clubman to account for its increased length.
MINI finished mid-table in the 2015 Driver Power survey, placing 16th out of the 32 manufacturers which were ranked.
There are three stages to MINI’s warranty policy. The most basic coverage is called Driveline and covers the main engine, transmission and drivetrain components. The next step is called Named Component and is mechanical and electrical breakdown coverage for a wide range of the vehicle’s components. Comprehensive cover is MINI’s highest level of protection, covering the majority of components on the car.
MINI offers what it calls a TLC pack, which costs £399 and covers all servicing costs for 5years/50,000 miles or which ever is reached first. For an additional £275, you add on a further 3 years and 30,000 miles if you will be covering a lot of mileage.