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Review of: 2017 MINI Cooper Clubman 4dr HB
2017 MINI Cooper Clubman: Still cool, but now more responsible
By David Miller
Mar. 20, 2017
Each year, Mini’s cars seem to get bigger. It reads like an oxymoron, but the industry is trending to the larger, and BMW’s sub-brand seems to be following suit. And when you’re a niche brand like Mini, expansion is necessary and there’s only one way to go: Up.
The expansion away from selling just subcompacts began in 2007 with the Mini Cooper Clubman. It came with neat side-swinging rear doors that have become its trademark, but those swinging doors used to be found on its sides as well. In its latest generational change in 2015, Mini took a more conventional route by installing four normal doors, turning the Clubman from a gimmick into a larger, more practical family car.
For 2017, the Clubman’s big change was the addition of an all-wheel-drive version called the ALL4, but our tester was an entry-level FWD model.
Pros & Cons
- + Sharp handling
- + Styling
- + Interior space
- - Price of options
- - Fuel economy
- - Interior design
The Clubman door change was both logical and practical, but let’s be honest, its shape still appears a tad odd. It looks like a muscular basset hound dog that was that’s been stretched, mostly in length, but also in width and height.
Even though this was a base version, my test car was still decked out with some exterior extras that included a panoramic sunroof, as well as LED headlights and fog lights that came in separate packages.
It’s easy to test a sportier model with a turbo engine, but most Mini purchases are made thanks to its fun, unique and quirky looks. It might have gotten bigger, but the Clubman stays true to its cheery look with a wide-mouth chrome grille, oval headlights and fog lights that say hi with a large smile. Its boxy side and top stay true to form with a low to the ground stance, while its back end retains that barn-style opening.
It’s a look that has captivated loyal buyers and admirers, yet also has plenty of haters. There’s no middle ground with the regular Cooper hatch, and that net expands further with the irregularly-shaped Clubman.
If you like circles, you’ll love any Mini interior. Whether it’s the tachometer, infotainment screen, door handles, vents, knobs or dials — you name it – they are all round. For the gimmicks lost in the most to conventional side doors, the Clubman could use that same formula to refine the inside. It’s simply too much cutesy, or cheesy; you decide what you want to call it.
To add to this cheesy ‘Full House’ viewing environment the Clubman plays a little song every time you turn it on. And it doesn’t stop there: The circle around the infotainment screen changes colour when you change the drive mode. If I can borrow a line from Full House’s Joey Gladstone, I would simply say, ‘Cut it out,’ and that’s without the goofy hand gestures.
Jokes aside, the Clubman can fit four adults comfortably. There are three seats in the back, but there’s only enough head and legroom to fit two in the back without complaints. The trunk is ample with 496 litres of cargo space, and that increases to 1,356 litres with the back seats folded down.
The Clubman may seem tailor-made for youth with its unique funky designs, but the ergonomics turn out to be quite satisfying. The optional 8.8-inch infotainment screen found in the wired navigation package for an additional $1,000 (the standard size is 6.5 inches) is easy to use via a control pad situated behind the gear shift, similar to BMW vehicles. If that’s not enough, there are other buttons to toy with on the infotainment screen.
One of the best attributes of any Mini is the ability to customize it. It’s not overly techy, but consumers can choose from a variety of colours, stripes, decals and flags to place throughout their Clubman to truly represent who they are or make it one-of-a-kind. The real flashy buyers will be the ones that deck out their hood, moon roof and side mirrors, and the Union Jack appears to be the popular choice.
Powering the base Cooper Clubman is a turbocharged, 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine that produces a modest 134 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque to its front wheels. Two optional turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinders are available: a 189-hp version in the S models, and one with 228-hp in the John Cooper Works. All of the above are matched to either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission.
Power is more than substantial in the base engine, as its best attribute comes down to its super handling and cornering skills that would even get a thumbs up from hockey Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux. As Lemieux zig-zagged through the entire Minnesota North Stars team during the 1991 Stanley Cup finals, this Clubman can do similar wonders in busy urban traffic. If the hockey reference went over your head, think along the lines of the Frogger arcade game.
Regardless of the analogy, the Clubman stays composed and balanced in harsh turns without too many bumps or vibrations, and this ride wasn’t even the new all-wheel-drive version. Despite having a larger frame than the regular Cooper hatch, that extra baggage isn’t felt in the Clubman, and the ride and manoeuvring abilities are fairly similar. Road noise can be intrusive, but after a while you get used to it.
The Clubman is an ideal candidate for a manual gear shift, but alas, my tester was of the more popular automatic version. The automatic tranny isn’t a bad thing, it just puts limitations in the fun department.
There are three drive modes to work with: sport, mid and green. In sport mode, the Clubman’s acceleration adds an extra boost to its mojo and slightly tightens steering while green mode slows the system down for some gas savings, but temper your expectations, as the savings aren’t that great. The Clubman has an official rating of 9.5 L/100 km in the city and 7.2 L/100 km on the highway, but I was only able to muster a combined 10.2 L/100km with a 70/20 city to highway split. For a smaller type of car, that just doesn’t cut it in this fuel-focused era.
My test vehicle may have started at $24,990, but with the addition of six packages and four stand alone features, the Clubman reached an astonishing final price of $35,280, and that’s not even with a turbo engine. However, it has to be understood that the Mini buyer is typically about customization, and spending extra comes with the territory.
Payments for additional personal touches are one thing, but having to buy an extra package to receive a rear view camera is another. It’s part of a $1,300 visibility package that includes a heads-up display, park assist functions and park distance control. Without that package, the driver has to go back to conventional checking methods without the best visuals from this unusually-shaped vehicle. There are sensors to help you out, but the beeps aren’t enough to feel fully confident.
In the end, the Clubman may look mainstream with its funky looks, but it does provide some BMW luxury touches to make up for a bit of that premium price hike.
The Mini Cooper Clubman has evolved into a mature, yet still unique, grown-up. It allows consumers to keep that cool look while providing more space for a family.
While the Clubman has grown in length and flexibility, it super handling skills are still its major asset. The base version that was tested showcases enough power to get by, as this isn’t the car that excels in straight-line speed.
Clearly, the odd shape of the Clubman isn’t for everyone. However, Mini has found a way through, this car, to keep its loyal customer base happy as their needs change.