The MINI Clubman, the quirky five-door hatchback that was probably as difficult a four-seat wagon as one could be made, is finally growing into its market segment with new levels of practicality and versatility.
The original Clubman (under British Leyland ownership) was basically the latest version of the Cooper at the time of its introduction in 1969; an estate (wagon) version added French doors to the rear but kept the two door bodystyle. When BMW created the MINI Clubman in 2007, it also kept the two-door bodystyle and split-door “hatch,” but added a rear-hinged access panel behind the passenger side door and called it a five door.
For the 2016 model year, it finally adopts the four-door bodystyle, yet still keeps the rear-door presentation, and is called a six-door. The new Clubman also features seating for five, and reportedly reaches new levels of comfort, driving dynamics and connectivity.
Dimensionally, it is 315 mm longer than its predecessor (over a foot) and rides on a wheelbase that is 121.5 mm longer (almost five inches). It is 117.1 mm (about 4.5 inches) wider and marginally higher than the outgoing model, making it the largest MINI to date. Yes, it’s larger than the Countryman, eclipsing it in every dimension but height due to the latter’s raised suspension.
Cargo volume for the new model has nearly doubled from the previous one, to 17.5 cubic feet, expanding to 47.9 cubic feet when the rear seats are flipped forward (up nearly 16 cubic feet). The rear seats are split 60/40 but can be optioned up to a 40/20/40 split, which also manages to create more comfortable space for outboard seat occupants but nearly negates the ability to carry a rear centre passenger. Rear seat recliners are also optional.
In addition to the versatile luggage compartment, the new Clubman features seating for five, with interior space emphasized by an exceptionally wide instrument panel and door-trim panels.
The centrestack features a 6.5 inch screen (or 8.8-inch with the optional Wired Package that also includes the MINI Touch Controller with touch-sensitive surface) to display vehicle, infotainment, navigation and phone functions. Choices on the screen are facilitated by a centre console controller. The dash again features toggle switches for certain features, including a big engine start toggle. Two cupholders are located ahead of the shift lever and a now electric emergency brake (a first for the model) switch behind it.
Also new are optional electrical front seat adjustments (with driver’s seat memory), backlit door bezels, and no-touch opening of the rear hatch doors (a first in the segment, using the wave of a foot under the rear bumper). LED headlamps are also new and optional, as are Dynamic Damper Control and a Driving Mode selector (between Mid, Sport and Green modes).
Returning technologies include Head Up Display, camera-based active cruise control, collision mitigation with pedestrian warning and initial brake function, high beam assist, road sign detection, parking assist and rearview camera.
Power comes from turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder and 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines (134 hp and 189 hp, respectively), with both featuring variable valve timing and variable camshaft timing. The choice changes the front end look of the car, with unique front apron, blacked out trim and the addition of an opening in the hood.
Power delivery is entrusted to a choice between a six-speed manual and paddle-shift automatic (first time in a MINI); the Clubman gets a six-speed auto, while the Cooper S gets eight speeds and launch control. In models with navigation system, transmission control taps into the route profile to modify its gear and shift point selections.
Other model specific cues include specific roof-mounted spoilers and lower body trim (matte and high-gloss black in the Clubman; chrome with an S logo in the Cooper S model) outside, and inside cues such as upholstery materials, colours and stitching, and trim panels. Sport seats are standard on Cooper S and optional on the base level Clubman.
Twelve exterior colours are available (including eight metallic finishes) with the no-cost option of finishing the side mirror caps and roof in a contrasting colour (white, silver or black, depending on the main body colour). Light alloy wheels are available in sizes from 16 to 19 inches, depending on trim level, and hood stripes and a chrome line are also available.