Mini is at it again. Among rumors of a mid-size Mini sedan and a production version of the Mini Superleggera Roadster concept, Mini is shuffling the current models around the showroom, and it can be a bit confusing.
For example, the Mini Countryman used to be the biggest Mini and the only true four-door. The Mini Clubman, from 2008-2015 was a sort of a three-door, with a suicide door on the right that was overlapped by the front door so as not to open with disastrous effects while the car was moving (hence the suicide designation). It was a longer Mini hardtop with something of a back seat and side-hinged barn doors instead of a hatch in back.
On the other hand, the Mini Countryman is a mini-SUV (Mini SUV?), with standard all-wheel drive and increased ride height, and the ability go off-pavement if not hardcore off-roading. It has four conventional front-hinged doors and a top-hinged hatch out back. The Mini Countryman was the biggest Mini, but it had a different role.
And that brings us to the 2016 Mini Clubman. Like its predecessor, the 2016 Clubman has the endearing double barn-doors at the rear. But it’s longer overall, not only from the first-generation Clubman but also wider, longer and wider than the Countryman as well. The numbers with the relative size inches (the Clubman’s specifications and how much larger the 2016 Clubman is than the others):
The Clubman has grown, a foot longer than the old Clubman, a half foot longer than the Countryman. It’s marginally wider than the Countryman, but a whopping four-plus inches wider than the old Clubman. The Countryman, of course, is taller, thanks to its off-pavement capacities.
The new Clubman looks almost limousine compared to the others, the rear doors and rear windows stretched, and from the rear, the 2016 Clubman looks almost squat. Though just barely wider than the Countryman, being shorter makes the width appear much greater. Not that one would confuse the Mini Clubman as anything but a Mini with its googly-eyed headlights peeking through the hood, the near vertical windshield and overall boxy shape.
The differences are bigger—literally—inside. The the new Clubman has two inches more legroom than the older model, and we put the 2016 to a test, not only putting a 6’ 2” passenger in the back seat but also taking him for an hour long ride. Getting in wasn’t easy. The 2016 Mini Clubman sits low and the gap between the B-pillar and seat bottom isn’t big. But once folded into the second row seat, our passenger didn’t complain—too much. Well, it’s not a 7-Series BMW.
Think of the 2016 Mini Clubman as a station wagon and you’ll be close to the mark. A lot of the added length of the Countryman goes into the cargo area. At 17.5 cubic feet, the new Clubman has almost double the stuff space than the last one. It’s also 4.4 cubic feet bigger than the Hardtop 4-door, while it’s exactly the same as the Clubman.
The Clubman’s cargo capacity swells to 47.9 cubic feet when the rear seatback is folded. That’s a massive 15 cubic feet more than the previous Clubman. As an added bonus the 2016 Clubman has a flat cargo floor with the rear seatback down, making it easy to slide cases of Newcastle all the way to the front seatbacks, stacking them without an awkward wedging. It greatly increases the utility of the cargo space.
That folding rear seatback, however, was likely the source of complaint from our back seat riders. Not only from our taller subject but also one 5’6” tall cited a stiff section that cut across their backs, making the ride uncomfortable. Based on that and not so much the room, we’ll never double date in the 2016 Mini Clubman with that couple again.
The front seats are a matter of preference. Our test 2016 Mini Clubman was equipped with the $2,000 Sport Package, which also includes LED headlights, 17-inch wheels, Dynamic Damper control…and sport seats. These seats have tall bolsters on both the seat bottom and back. If you like them, you’ll love them. Otherwise, not so much.
Like other new generation Minis, the 2016 Countryman has abandoned the central speedometer/steering column-mounted tachometer. Instead, the big circle in the center of the dash is simply the standard BMW multi-information display set in a ring. The ring lights up jukebox style when you do various things, such as accelerating or turn the heat up or down. It’s harmless but entertaining. It’s standard equipment, but we wonder how much it adds to the cost of making the Mini. We know that it adds some funkiness lost elsewhere, such as the speedometer/tachometer cluster on the steering column. Note that the speedometer is mentioned first in that sentence. That’s because it’s bigger, with the tach small and relatively hard to see. Really, Mini?
As we just mentioned, the interior has lost much of the funkiness of the first generation. The big circles around the interior are mostly gone, for example, though Mini has retained the toggle switches for various functions, including the starter “button,” which is really a starter toggle. The cupholders are in front of the shifter. It’s inconvenient but there’s really no other place to put them. They will, however, securely accommodate large fast food cups, the ultimate test.
The shifter is stubby with short throws for the six-speed manual of our test 2016 Mini Clubman. Overall it’s easy for the experience driver to handle though the detent for going into reverse should be stronger. It’s not hard to overshoot second gear in a downshift. Reverse is to the left and up, fortunately.
Welcome to the new world: Our 2016 Mini Clubman was powered by a turbocharged three-cylinder 1.5-liter engine. It’s rated at 134 horsepower but more importantly, its maximum torque is way down at 1250 rpm, barely above idle, getting the most out of the 162 lb-ft of torque all across the rev range. Revving out isn’t necessary for performance driving and there’s plenty of punch no matter the gear and speed. Even Mini says it takes 8.9 seconds to go from zero to 60 mph.
Don’t expect anything odd out of the three-cylinder. It doesn’t sound that much different than a four—if you didn’t know you couldn’t tell—and vibrations you’d mostly not notice, but then fours have their own shakes. Trust us, you’d never suspect and no one else will if you don’t tell them.
If the 1.5-liter isn’t power enough, the Cooper S powertrain with a 2.0-liter turbo is available. It produces 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque, and it can he had with a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic. You can use it to get to 60 mph in 7.0 seconds, far from nose-bleed speed but still spritely.
The Dynamic Damper Control varies shock absorber resistance for better handing though not so much for a smoother ride. It’s part of a sport package and it bumps and thumps accordingly. Anyone who likes the sport seats will likely prefer the sport ride. Or at least the handling.
That said, the longer wheelbase seems to rob the 2016 Mini Clubman of some of its fabled “go-kart handling.” Things take a smidge longer to happen, especially compared to, say, the 2016 Mini John Cooper Works Hardtop.
The 2016 Mini Clubman is still a Mini however and has that attitude that only a Mini has. If a Mini has become too mini, it’s time to join the club, man.
2016 Mini Clubman, price and key specifications as tested
Body style/layout: 6-door compact wagon, front engine/front-wheel drive
Base price: $24,100
Price as tested: $30,750
- Type: 1.5-liter 12-valve DOHC turbocharged I-3
- Displacement, cc: 1499
- Block/head material: aluminum/aluminum
- Compression ratio:
- Horsepower: 134 @ 4400 rpm
- Torque: 162 @ 1250 rpm
- Recommended fuel: premium unleaded
- Fuel economy, EPA est.: 25/35 mpg city/highway
- Fuel economy, observed: 29.9 mpg
Transmission: 6-speed automatic driver-adaptive
- Suspension, front/rear: strut / multi-link
- Wheels: 16 x 6.5-inch alloy
- Tires: P195/55WR16
- Brakes: 4-wheel disc; 11.0-inch dia. front/10.2-inch dia. rear
- Steering: electric power rack-and-pinion
- Turning circle: 37.1 ft.
- Wheelbase: 105.1 in.
- Length: 168.3 in.
- Height: 56.7 in.
- Width: 70.9 in.
- Curb weight, min/max: 3105 lbs
- Cargo volume, min/max: 17.5/47.9 cu. ft.
- Fuel tank: 13.2 gal.
· Airbags: Front, front side, driver & passenger knee, side curtain
· Anti-lock brakes: Yes Traction control: Yes Stability control: Yes Electronic brake-force distribution: Yes Brake assist: Yes
· Other: automatic wipers
Warranty: 4-year/50,000 mile bumper-to-bumper; 4-year/50,000 mile powertrain; 12-year/unlimited-mile corrosion; 4-year/unlimited-mile roadside assistance