Not many cars can make a statement like the Mini Cooper. In the last decade or so, this quintessentially British marquee has seen its range inflate dramatically, with extensions of the classic three-door Mini coming in the form of go-faster versions, a full-on convertible range, the Countryman crossover range and, now, the six-door Clubman, which is perhaps the most controversial looking car currently on the road.
Although some variations of the Mini (Read: Cooper D and the Countryman) have left the traditionalists shaking their heads, the brand has had a resounding success globally with the whole range. Now, with the Clubman, which appears to be the most irrational progression of the standard Mini, the brand has introduced something that’s not only truly unique and quirky but also adds some welcome practicality to the 3-door as well as the 5-door Mini.
Who would want to buy the Clubman, you may ask? Presumably those who are thrilled with the idea of an even bigger Mini than the 5-door model, with a more spacious rear seat and a bigger boot. One way to find out is to put it through the full road test treatment and see if this pseudo station wagon is as bright an idea as Mini thinks.
Design and Style
What really sets the Clubman apart from its siblings, or any other premium car for that matter, is the way it looks. For all its design quirks, this Mini has massive road presence – the added length and changes to the basic design are, to most eyes we quizzed, rather bold and hugely polarizing. The front-end is traditional Mini with a splashing of chrome for the headlamp surround and the large hexagonal grille. This car attracts plenty of stares and that’s mainly thanks to the comic-like, bug-eyed LED headlamps which look smashing when lit.
It’s when you view it in profile, the Clubman’s design appears balanced. The added length, the nearly square glasshouse, an upright D-pillar and the lack of character lines give it a nice and clean look that’s typical of station wagons. What’s not at all typical of the latter, though, is the split two-door boot layout which makes the Clubman a six-door vehicle. Mini says the central bar between the glass sections of the split door is significantly narrower than before but as we found out, it still hampers rearward visibility quite a bit.
In comparison to the 5-door Mini, the Clubman is 270mm longer and 90mm wider and its wheelbase is also 100mm larger. The boot volume, too, has grown up to 360-litres which can be extended to as much as 1,250-litres by folding down the rear backrest. The Clubman, then, is surely more spacious and practical than the 5-door Mini but is it any more luxurious? Time to step inside the cabin and find out.
Mini has truly upped the interior game with regards to the look and feel of controls, with their latest range. There is a great deal of character to the Clubman’s cabin which somehow retains that retro 70s charm and yet, comes with the traditional albeit unconventional Mini elements such as the massive 8.8-inch infotainment screen fitted slap-bang in the middle of the dash along with a pile of sturdy toggle switches underneath. As one would expect, there’s an assortment of soft-touch materials, leather upholstery and high-gloss plastics to go with the premium that Mini demands for this car – bits like the chunky steering wheel and the superbly finished air vents reek of brilliant build quality. Being a Mini, it’s in the details that you will find your money’s worth; bits like the toggle switches, the multiple Union Jack motifs (darned across the cabin) and the multicolour LED panel (surrounding the main display) do a great job of livening up the overall ambience.
Sitting fairly high up in the wide and comfortable front seats, visibility outside is good thanks to the thin A-pillar. The front seat itself is snug, perfectly contoured and offers good amount of under thigh support, mainly thanks to the base extensions. As for the rear, there’s certainly more room than the 5-door Mini but it’s strictly comfortable for two occupants – the middle occupant has to deal with a slightly stiffer and narrower seat base. As for the actual rear seat comfort, you get plenty of headroom (thanks to the low-set seat) and decent legroom, too. Again, the talking point here is the way the backrest is contoured – it’s heavily sculpted and fairly large, allowing the occupants to sink into its comfort.
As for the split two-door boot, it opens up like closet doors. Interestingly, the key fob has a dedicated button that will automatically open the right-hand side door for you although it won’t shut on its own.
Safety and Equipment
The Mini Connected infotainment system that’s in the Clubman is easily the most user friendly system from the brand so far. Featuring an 8.8-inch display, it controls all of the car’s functions including media, navigation and the various driving modes. The iDrive-like controller and the way the car is shown in context when switching through driving modes makes the system really intuitive.
In terms of safety features and equipment, you get a multi-function leather steering wheel, body hugging leather seats and commendable quality all-round. Additionally, there’s dual sunroof, all LED headlamps, front, side and curtain airbags, traction control, ABS and cornering braking assist as standard. There are, however, a few pricey optional extras like the fancy Harman Kardon multimedia system, a head-up display and all-around park assist, to name a few.
Engine, Performance and Braking
Mini is selling the Clubman in Cooper S guise, which means you get the same 2-litre turbo petrol motor that powers the 3-door, the 5-door and the Mini convertible. Featuring direct injection and BMW’s infamous VANOS variable valve timing system, this four-cylinder engine makes 192bhp of power and 280Nm of torque. It’s also got a rather throaty exhaust note that only gets better as the revs climb and like in all Cooper S models, the exhaust pops and burbles on the overrun.
This engine makes most of its torque quite early at around 1,250rpm, making it surprisingly responsive for a turbocharged unit. Squeeze the throttle and the Clubman gathers pace easily and pulls particularly hard in the midrange. If anything, you can even palm the tall gear knob and short shift to a higher gear and make the most of that mid-range punch. When going flat out, there’s no neck-snapping boost rush from this engine but a smooth freight-train-like pull. To put it in numbers, the Clubman does 0-100kmph in 7.66 seconds, going on to hit 150kmph in an equally impressive 16.21 seconds. This family-friendly Mini is decently quick in gear, too, dispatching 40-100kmph and 20-80kmph in 5.67 and 4.56 seconds respectively.
The drivetrain’s party piece comes in the form of the driving modes, namely Mid, Sport and Green. Reacting noticeably different in each mode, the car alters the throttle and steering response besides changing the shift points and ferocity of the 8-speed automatic gearbox depending on the mode. In Sport mode, everything is turned up to eleven - the throttle is at its reactive best and the gearbox also hangs onto lower gears and shifts up at around 6,100rpm, near the redline. Now, as one would expect, switching to Green mode calms things down considerably – the gearshifts are noticeably smoother although the throttle does get a little too heavy. What’s more, in Green mode, the Clubman tends to fully use the coasting function wherein the drivetrain is de-coupled at speeds of between 50 and 160 kmph as soon as the driver goes off throttle.
Ride and Handling
A super direct steering, go-kart like turn-in and nimble size are some of the qualities that make a traditional Mini huge fun through the corners. That being said, the Clubman isn’t designed to viciously attack the twisties, but to go round them with a certain degree of poise and comfort. Despite the added width and stretched wheelbase, the turn-in is crisp and there’s hardly any body roll. Now some might find the steering a bit too heavy in the town but it really is a point and shoot affair – the Clubman communicates with you through the wheel, letting you know exactly what the road surface is like and how much the front axle grip there is to be had. Whether it be zipping around town with a load full of occupants or tearing up the ghats, the quick steering, strong brakes and the cracking exhaust note, all add up to deliver a brilliant driving experience.
Sadly, the ride quality is nowhere as good as the handling bit. Admittedly, the suspension is more compliant than the 5-door model but the Clubman’s low speed ride remains crashy over rutted roads and sharp-edged potholes. The potholes, in fact, highlight the fragile nature of the massive alloys and low profile tyres, meaning that one has to be really observant when driving across bad roads.
Price and Fuel Economy
Mini is selling the Clubman in India as a Cooper S model only. Priced at Rs 39.96 lakh (ex-showroom Mumbai), it doesn’t seem pricey until you add up a few optional extras – the latter can jack up the on-road price to nearly half a crore.
As for the fuel economy, the Clubman managed 8.80kmpl in the city and 11.90kmpl on the highway under our testing cycle which is more than acceptable given the grin-inducing performance and the thrilling on-road dynamics.
There’s little question that the Clubman, despite its softened, family-oriented nature, is traditionally Mini in every sense. Everything about this off-beat looking offering is unique and raises eyebrows – the proportions, the cabin design, the stellar drivetrain and its on-road price tag. Speaking of which, for the same price, one could either have a fully specced Audi A3 or a Mercedes GLA. These are alternatives that nail the comfort brief better, however, neither would stand out the way this Mini does.
The Clubman, then, is a bold and eccentric statement to status and success. If you can look past the crashy low speed ride and the unusual looks, it wouldn’t take long to appreciate how well the Clubman blends practicality and fun together compared to the 3-door or the 5-door Mini.
Pictures by Kapil Angane
Click here for on-road prices and full specifications of the Mini Cooper S Clubman
|CAR NAME||Mini Cooper S|
|Valve gear||4 valves per cyl|
|Power||192bhp at 5000rpm|
300Nm at 1250rpm
|Power to weight||135.2bhp per tonne|
|Torque to weight||211Nm per tonne|
|CHASSIS & BODY|
|Tyres (F/R)||225/40 R18|
|Type||Rack and pinion|
|Type of assist||Electric|
|CAR NAME||Mini Cooper S|
|PERFORMANCE & BRAKING|
|20-80kph in 3rd gear||4.56s|
|40-100kph in 5th gear||5.67s|
|80-0kph||2.49s / 22.48m|
|Seat base length||470m|
|Loading lip height||680mm|