Wagons. Wagons, wagons everywhere… but not a one to buy. Not in North America, anyway, where wagons have had to take a back seat (likely turned around, and facing backwards) to CUVs and SUVs for quite some time. It’s to the point while most every compact hatch and mid-size sedan you see here in Canada has a wagon variant, we see a grand total of seven here in Canada, plus or minus a couple if you count the various Allroad or Alltrack or XC versions as separate models.
One of the models that is still available: the 2019 Mini Cooper Clubman. While it may look like your usual Mini at first blush (especially now that it has two doors on each side, just like the Mini Cooper 5-door), there are a few key aspects that differentiate it. And, far as I’m concerned, make it one of the most tantalizing Minis available.
While my particular Mini didn’t have much in the way of Mini window dressing – no hood stripes, no Union Jacks on the wing mirrors, no checkered flag roof – it does get swish black/Melting Silver Metallic paintwork, black mirror caps, and black 17-inch wheels. Those cost an additional $800, but I’d say they’re well worth it.
What this Clubman gets that all Clubmans get, however, is the longer roofline and wheelbase over the 5-door, which provides a more hunkered-down and athletic look. Because of that longer roof and more vertical tailgate, it actually looks a little cropped, which is a neat take on the Mini package.
The Clubman, of course, was around during the classic Mini days as well, and its party trick then remains today: the “barn door” tailgate. It’s a cool feature we’ll talk more about in a minute, but I’m mentioning it now as its unique opening seems to have forced Mini to do away with the traditional vertical rear taillights, and go with a pair of horizontal items instead. They fit well with the uniqueness of the tailgate itself, but I’m not sure how I feel about them. Are they awkward, or interestingly aggressive? Tough call, and it will surely be an “eye of the beholder” thing when it comes to buyers.
Inside, the Clubman is all Mini style-wise: big, round infotainment display with colour-changing bezel, toggle switches at the base of the centre stack for engine start and other controls, and plump seats that would make classic Minis blush. My car also had the $650 leather steering wheel, which is nice but somewhat pricey.
Most of the stuff you’d expect from a 30-ish grand car is here: navigation, Apple CarPlay (though this doesn’t come as standard on the Clubman, which is a shame), heated front seats, and power tailgate. The detail I really appreciated was the second sunroof so back seat passengers get their share of light, too – seems that Mini thinks that being a Clubman owner, you’ll have back seat passengers more regularly.
User Friendliness: 8/10
It should come as no surprise that while Mini may call their infotainment system “Mini Connected”, it’s essentially BMW iDrive because BMW is Mini, and vice versa. Which is fine, because it’s not a bad system once you get used to it – I even found myself “drawing” instructions on the scroll wheel pretty regularly. Apple CarPlay is also here, but Android Auto is not. CarPlay worked fine during my test, but it does take some time to get used to operating what is traditionally a touch interface with a scroll wheel.
I’m also not sure how I feel about the control stalks, which don’t stay locked in position; they always snap back to centre and while that’s okay in a large luxury sedan or SUV, something about the Mini’s sharpness in other areas – handling, transmission – makes them seem at odds with the situation.
I can’t count how many times I heard it: “That car’s way too small for you, right?” And every time, me and my 6'3" frame would say the same thing: “Actually, not really.” And that’s the truth: The Clubman has a little more room so I feel less guilty moving my seat a little further back to get that perfect seating position.
While the short windshield would mean I’d have a little more headliner in my peripheral vision than I’d like, I only really noticed it at the occasional stoplight. Otherwise, I love the ensconced feeling you get in this and most other Minis this side of the slightly bloated Countryman.
The longer wheelbase also means it’s easier to fit a rear-facing child’s seat, which, when installed, actually allowed the front passenger a modicum of usable legroom. That makes sense as the Mini – and the Clubman especially – are well-suited for young families.
This is where we come to that party trick – the “barn door” rear tailgate. It’s powered, well, kind of – clicking the fob opens the right side door only; you have to open the left side yourself, and it’s on you to close both. So the quasi-powered rear tailgate (with its twin wipers – funky) opens nice and wide, making it easy to load up the Clubman without ever having to worry about smacking your forehead on an open tailgate door.
If you still want more room, my tester’s seats split 40/20/40, so you can carry longer items without losing an entire rear seat. It is too bad, however, that you can’t lower up the middle portion if you have a child seat installed, as the back seat’s a touch on the narrow wide.
Being the standard Cooper, my car gets a turbocharged three-cylinder engine good for 134 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. Not stratospheric numbers by any means, though the car only weighs 1,529 kg and I had the AWD version so it’s got its fair share of “get up and go”.
Indeed, if you’re a Mini – five-door, three-door, AWD, FWD, whatever the configuration – you need to be zippy because that’s what one buys into when one opts for a Mini. With this powertrain, you’ll be a crosstown-sprintin’, rush-hour-blastin’ mega-mall parking lot star, and you’ll be doing it on a fuel-conscious budget: I saw 10.4 L/100 km during my drive, which I’m okay with for city work.
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Then again, I’m not one to say no to more power. So while the three-cylinder engine is respectably punchy, I wouldn’t mind the Cooper S version and its 190 hp inline-four turbo.
Driving Feel: 8.5/10
This is where it all really comes into focus. Once you start sawing that wheel and exercising that powertrain, it becomes very clear very quickly that this is a car developed with fun handling in mind from the get-go: instantaneous response from the front axle as soon as you twist that chunky wheel, with the rest of the chassis following suit in lockstep. The AWD tech helps here, too, but it’s not something you really think about as you let the Clubman do its thing.
It is just such a riot, such a hoot, that it’s way more fun to simply drive, without all the newfangled tech clouding your focus. It’s so good, that I’m even willing to let the slightly rubbery steering slide.
Less easy for me to get past, though, is the transmission. A six-speed manual is standard but my car had a the eight-speed automatic option ($1,500) that didn’t even have the benefit of paddle shifters so you could at least pretend a little; I tried making use of the somewhat oblong shifter for manual shifts, but that lasted all of about five minutes.
While you do get an adaptive cruise control option, there’s no lane-keep assist system which is too bad; even if – like me – you’re the kind of person who tends to switch off these types of systems, there are many out there that appreciate them, especially for highway work. Otherwise, the Clubman ALL4 comes standard with cruise control, stability control, electronic limited-slip differential, eight airbags, and hill-start assist.
Fuel Economy: 8/10
As mentioned before, the 10.4 L/100 km I saw during my test through town is not bad. Would I like a little more fuel frugality from my three-banger? Maybe, and EnviroCan saw 10.2 L/100 km in their testing, so if you really milk it, you’ll see some nice returns. That’s a tall order, however, as the Clubman is just so fun to toss around.
With AWD, the storage and interior room associated with its wagon-ness, and the way the three-banger is light on fuel, the Clubman actually makes for a pretty good value proposition from Mini – until you start checking off the options, which quickly add over $10,000 to the base price of my tester. The Honda Civic, Fit, Hyundai Elantra, Volkswagen Golf, Mazda3 – they’re all going to cost less for more space and equipment. They won’t drive as well, though, and none of them have that classic Mini vibe.
I love the Clubman’s doors, I love the chopped-roof look, I love darty handling, the plump-yet-supportive seat. I even like the big, circular display – though I do wish I knew why the bezel colour changes when it does. But that’s like being mad at Coca-Cola for changing the way their Diet cans look. It’s a nitpick and I’m guessing if I were to mess around with it enough, I’d probably figure it out.
Which would be the only thing I’d need to figure out because otherwise, I get the Clubman – 100 percent. It’s a Mini with even more spunk, probably because it’s more practical and a small car like this shouldn’t be bothered with that. Sure, Mini has to keep re-inventing itself to stay relevant, given the rather narrow constraints of its platform; but heck if they haven’t worked a treat here, far as I’m concerned.
|2019 Mini Cooper Clubman ALL4|
|Engine Displacement: 1.5L|
|Engine Cylinders: I3|
|Peak Horsepower: 134 hp @ 4,400–6,000 rpm|
|Peak Torque: 189 lb-ft @ 5,000–6,000 rpm|
|Fuel Economy: 10.2/7.6/9.0 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space: 360 / 1,250 L seats down|
|articles_PricingType 2019 Mini Cooper Clubman ALL4|
|Base Price $28,690|
|A/C Tax $100|
|Destination Fee $2,245|
|Price as Tested $42,175|
|Optional Equipment $11,140 – Premier + Line (Comfort access, panorama sunroof, auto dimming interior mirror, electric seats w/driver memory, sport seats, heated front seats, automatic climate control, LED fog lights, LED headlights, rear fog lights, Connected Navigation Plus, ConnectedDrive services, advanced real time traffic information, remote services, Apple CarPlay, Mini Connected XL App, wireless charging, Mini navigation system, 8.8" touchscreen), $5,850; Melting Silver Metallic paint, $590; 17" black wheels, $800; Style Package (Chrome Line Interior and Exterior, piano black interior inserts), $650; Sport leather steering wheel, $250; premium sound package (Sirius XM tuner w/six month subscription, Harman Kardon sound), $750; cargo package (through loading system, storage compartment package, rear armrest w/integrated cupholders), $500; automatic transmission, $1,500; anthracite roofliner, $250|