Mini’s brand new Clubman will raise eyebrows.
If not at least for its looks. However, while a little odd, the third-generation Clubman is yet the brand’s most resolved offering.
If the barn doors didn’t drop a big enough hint, the Clubman is about being able to lug around more than an Ikea pot plant.
With an extra 103mm of wheelbase woven in to a platform shared with both the 2-Series Active Tourer and Mini hatch, the new Clubman is so much longer than before it scores two new full sized passenger doors over its predecessor, and a proper boot.
Luggage space is expectedly healthy, being able to gulp 1250 litres after the rear seats are folded.
Along with the stretch job, Mini’s widened the Clubman, pumping out its track to make it the longest and widest offering in the range.
Climb aboard the Cooper S variant and you’ll also notice a new cabin layout when you plonk in its superb sport front pews.
Unlike the three-door hatch’s haphazard interior design, the Clubman’s is more compartmentalised, looks more resolved, and is finished with a mix of nice-touch-surfaces.
More width also equals more shoulder room, as you’ll no longer rub elbows with passengers, either. However foot well space isn’t as liberated.
Its general ambience, defined by standard leather on the steering wheel and gear stick, will pacify posh tastes, while eccentrics will appreciate typical Mini details, such as when the polished metal starter switch lights red after you first stab the brake pedal – like a looming detonator.
Performance wise, though, the Clubman Cooper S isn’t very explosive.
If you had a blat in the Clubman Cooper S after another similarly priced performance hatch, you’d ask yourself: “is this it?”
After snacking on high-strength steel to reinforce its chassis, girth has become its biggest enemy.
And while its 2.0-litre turbocharged four manages a healthy 141kW and 280Nm, at 1360kg it will need 7.1 seconds to pass 100km/h. Even with its new eight-speed gearbox adding two ratios to the six the base Clubman makes do with.
Luckily it redeems itself when the road begins to snake, as all those extra millimeters in dimensions lends its chassis impressive ride and handling abilities.
You can easily place the Clubman despite a steering system that feels lazy, and there’s a wonderful suppleness to its secondary ride that sees it smooth out unruly road terrain.
And yet, while it feels more planted than any other ‘practical’ Mini in the range –like the high-riding Paceman—it comes at no expense of the adjustability you’d find in a Mini hatch.
What ultimately stifles the Clubman Cooper S is its price. On one hand, few rivals offer the personality and charisma of such a car. And many will buy it purely on point of difference.
They won’t be disappointed, either, to know BMW’s reputation for build quality, high technology, and depth of engineering remain part of the package.
But at $42,990 for an automatic or manual variant, the Clubman Cooper S’s price drops it in the ring with the compact segment’s deadliest contender, the VW Golf GTI, which is just as practical, better looking, and significantly faster.
The Clubman Cooper S has glimpses of greatness, seen in its cushy chassis and interior. But it won’t be until a rabid JCW version, maybe, that the Clubman will raise eyebrows for the right reasons.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Engine: 1998cc, inline-four, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 141kW @ 5000rpm
Torque: 280Nm @ 1250rpm (300Nm with overboost)
0-100km/h: 7.1*sec (claimed)
Top Speed: 228km/h (claimed)