The current generation model of the MINI Clubman has been around for a few years now – I tested one back in 2016 – so has time enhanced its appeal, or has it gone the other way around?
I initially wasn’t a fan of the second-generation Clubman (F54), feeling that it isn’t as sharp to drive as the smaller 3-door and 5-door Cooper, or preferring the bigger Countryman model for its added practicality. But, something different happened this time around – keep watching to find out!
Styling: The styling hasn’t evolved at all since this model was introduced, and that’s not a bad thing, because it still looks fresh. MINI has done a great job of carrying out the styling theme from the smaller models, but stretching them to create the Clubman. Is it perfect? No -as all Clubman’s, you still have a split rear door, and a roof spoiler that would contact your head if you were carrying something out of it in a hurry- but that is all just keeping with the character of the Clubman; if you want better visibility and easier access to your trunk, buy a Countryman.
Interior: Step inside, and it’ll be familiar to anyone who has been in any new MINI model. The dashboard and centre console all look the same in all current MINI models, and that’s not a bad thing, because ergonomic layout is very good. Pretty much all the switches fall easily to hand -except the drive mode selector switch- and thanks to gimmicks like colour changing mood lighting on the dashboard, doors, and foot well, it does make you feel like you’re in something a little bit special. The carbon black leatherette seats (on my tester) were excellent, I took this Clubman on many long drives, and never once did the seats feel uncomfortable – I’d even say, they are the most comfortable seats of any vehicle in its category – and its three stage heated seats warm up nice and toasty quite quickly. I only wish it had a heated steering wheel, something that’s sadly missing from all MINI models.
Powertrain and Driving Dynamics: The Clubman is currently available in three engine tunes. At the top end is the “JCW” model, which pumps out 228 hp. Just below that is the “S” model which is good for 189 hp. My tester was the base model, which has a turbocharged 1.5L three-cylinder engine that produces 134 hp. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but thanks to its 162 lb-ft of torque -and when mated to the optional eight-speed automatic transmission- this Clubman proved to be far faster than I was expecting. While those who just look at numbers will say that a 0 to 100 km/h time of 9.6 seconds is actually quite slow, but trust me, the feel of the powertrain, the way it pulls in the mid-range, and especially the response it shows in ‘sport’ mode, this Clubman is a really satisfying performer in the real world.
It handles well too, thanks to standard all-wheel drive (ALL4), a well sorted chassis, and a communicative steering, this is a great car for those twisty back roads. Like I said before, I did a lot of travel in this Clubman, and much of it was on the back roads, and never once did it disappoint. So, if you value driving pleasure, even the base engine Clubman should be placed towards the very top of your shopping list.
Fuel Economy: Even despite all the fun I had with it, it still averaged a very respectable 8.2 L/100 KM in my test cycle. I compared notes with the Clubman I tested a few years ago, and had averaged 8.3 L/100 KM back then, so a very consistent result. On the down side, MINI recommends you use premium fuel, with the lowest fuel rating allowed being 89 octane. Given how much extra mid-grade and premium fuel is over regular, that does make driving any MINI a bit more expensive than it should be. However, that is an expense I’m willing to make, because the driving experience more than makes up for the cost penalty.
Pricing: The base 2019 Clubman is yours from $28,690. My extremely well equipped tester was listed at $41,430. That is a lot of money for a vehicle of this category, and power output. But, if you don’t tick all the option boxes, you can come away with a nicely equipped Clubman in the mid-$30K range.
Verdict: Here’s the thing, the modern MINI is not what most people would categorize under “Value For Money” but their appeal is found a bit deeper under the skin. Spend some time with one, and you’ll realize that they are a true, premium compact vehicle -a BMW in cutesy clothes- and then they begin to make sense. This is one of the few cars that I think have enhanced its appeal for me, over time!