New Car Review
2017 MINI Clubman: New Car Review
Quick, what's the only 6-door car on the market? Well, you've found it in the 2017 MINI Clubman. While virtually every other vehicle of its size and shape would be deemed a "hatchback," its unique pair of clam-shell doors make the Clubman something totally different ... and make it the only 6-door car that's not a limo. Those doors don't do much for visibility, but more on that later.
Really, they're just one of the many ways the funky Clubman stands out from other vaguely similar cars. It's blessed with the requisite MINI quirkiness, from its tell-tale styling to the toggle switches on its dash. It has a premium cabin that's clearly a step up from cars of its size, while that size itself is a clear step up from the smaller MINI Cooper 4-door hardtop. Its back seat and cargo space are actually quite useable. Of course, you also have that quintessentially fun-to-drive MINI character behind the wheel and an abundance of customization options at the dealer.
There is an awful lot to like about the Clubman, but it literally comes at a price. Though its base price seems perfectly reasonable, a lot of desirable features are locked away in pricey packages and those custom-friendly upholsteries and trim upgrades don't come cheap. Climbing into the upper $30,000 range isn't difficult, which can be tough to justify given comparably priced luxury cars or comparably sized cheaper cars.
What's New for 2017?
The Clubman can now be equipped with ALL4 all-wheel drive on the Cooper and Cooper S trim levels. Also joining the fray for 2017 is the high-performance John Cooper Works edition. On the feature content front, the optional upgrade 8.8-in center display is now touch-operated.
What We Like
Distinctive style inside and out; highly customizable; premium cabin; fun to drive; efficient engines; practical for a MINI; available all-wheel drive
What We Don't
Expensive for a car its size, especially when you inevitably pack it with options; compromised rear visibility; slow with base engine
The base Cooper model uses a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 134 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is 25 miles per gallon in the city, 34 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg combined with the standard 6-speed manual and essentially the same with the optional 6-speed automatic. Optional ALL4 all-wheel drive lowers those figures to 22 mpg city/32 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined with the manual and 22 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined with the automatic.
Drivers who want more power can upgrade to the Cooper S Clubman, which boasts a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that's good for 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is 22 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined with the standard 6-speed manual and is better with the optional 8-speed automatic, coming in at 23 mpg city/33 mpg hwy/27 mpg combined. ALL4 lowers those figures to 23 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined and 22 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined, respectively.
The high-performance John Cooper Works has a version of the same 2.0-liter turbo-4 upgraded to produce 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. It comes standard with ALL4 and returns 21 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined with the 6-speed manual and 23 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined with the optional 8-speed automatic.
Standard Features & Options
There are three versions of the 2017 MINI Clubman available: Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works. Each mostly differs by engine, though there are some feature content differences.
Base-level Cooper models ($24,100) come standard with 16-in alloy wheels, automatic headlights and wipers, selectable drive modes, dual-zone automatic climate control, a height-adjustable driver seat, leatherette vinyl upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth, a 6.5-in display with a console-mounted controller, HD radio, a USB port, various smartphone integration apps and a 6-speaker sound system.
The sporty Cooper S ($27,700) adds the more powerful 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, along with 17-in wheels, sportier styling details, foglights and front sport seats.
The John Cooper Works ($35,100) gets a more powerful version of the Cooper S engine plus standard ALL4 all-wheel drive, a sport-tuned suspension, special styling details and a special upholstery consisting of cloth and simulated suede. It also gets 18-in wheels, LED headlights, a backup camera, rear parking sensors and keyless ignition and entry. These items are available on the other trims.
Options are in abundance. Many are available as either stand-alone options or within packages. The Premium package adds a panoramic sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system. The Cold Weather packages adds heated front seats and auto-dimming mirrors. The Technology packages brings with it a backup camera, rear parking sensors and an 8.8-in center display with touchscreen capability, an upgraded center console controller and integrated navigation. The Sport package (Cooper and Cooper S) add an adaptive suspension, LED headlights, LED foglights (Cooper S) and 17-in wheels (Cooper). The Fully Loaded package adds all of the above and is the only way to further opt for the Active Driving Assistant, which includes adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning with automatic braking.
You can also add separately 8-way power front seats with driver memory functions, a 40/20/40-split rear seat, a head-up display, satellite radio and a variety of upholstery, trim and exterior styling upgrades.
The 2017 MINI Cooper Clubman comes standard with front-side airbags, side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability and traction control. A backup camera is optional and effectively bundled with rear parking sensors. A forward-collision warning with automatic braking is available but only once the pricey Fully Loaded package is specified. It does not offer some common modern safety features like lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert or a blind spot monitoring system.
There has been no third-party crash tests of the Clubman at the time of this writing.
Behind the Wheel
If you've spent any time behind the wheel of a MINI Cooper, you'll expect the Clubman to offer a lot of driving enjoyment -- and it certainly delivers. Its larger size certainly dulls its agility, but its handling and steering are excellent in virtually all forms. While acceleration is lackluster in base models (134 hp just isn't a lot for a car this big), the Cooper S Clubman has some serious pop. The John Cooper Works is even better.
More importantly, the Clubman offers some practicality to go along with its performance. In back, the Clubman touts 2.5 more inches of legroom than in a standard Cooper model, which is no small feat. In the cargo area, there's an extra 3.5 cubic feet -- a grand total of 47.9 cubic feet with the seats folded down. This size makes the Clubman comparable in size to a compact hatchback like the Mazda 3.
Of course, the Clubman is not a hatchback. It has a pair of swing-out doors that, while distinctively funky, do diminish rear visibility. They're also not the only funky thing about the Clubman, which boasts plenty of interior quirks like toggle switches and circular styling details that any MINI fan would immediately recognize. Thankfully, this style doesn't come with as much of a functional or quality penalty as the last Clubman did -- the cabin is more premium and less toylike. The addition of an optional touchscreen for 2017 increases functionality further, since the console-mounted infotainment controller can be awkward to reach.
Other Cars to Consider
2017 Volkswagen GTI and Golf R -- Given its size, performance, price tag, premium cabin and available all-wheel drive (Golf R), VW's hot hatches are the best point of comparison for the Clubman. It's bound to be cheaper when equally equipped.
2017 Audi A3 -- If you're just looking for a premium small car, the Audi A3 could be your best alternative to pricier Clubmans (Clubmen?). Although it effectively only comes as a sedan, the handsome A3 has a beautifully designed cabin, superb tech features and a refined driving experience.
2017 MINI Countryman -- Although we could suggest checking out the 4-door MINI Cooper, if you need the sort of space provided by the Clubman, it's also worth considering the Countryman compact SUV. The price is similar, you'll sit higher and have a more versatile cabin.
Used BMW 3 Series Wagon -- This is a pretty good luxury car alternative to the Clubman given its superior driving dynamics, premium cabin and added versatility. It's also produced by the same company -- BMW. It'll cost more new, so considering a used or pre-owned model is recommended.
Order your car. Don't get stuck paying for stuff you don't want or a color combination that's not exactly your cup of tea. In one to two months, you can have the exact MINI Clubman you like -- you should even be able to get a similar price to one that's just sitting on a dealer lot. And if we were ordering, we'd go with the Cooper S Clubman. While we'd add a few options and extras, we'd try to stay around $32,000. Any more than that and it becomes a lot of money for what is effectively a compact hatchback -- no matter its many virtues.