Most automakers try hard to balance the practical with the fun aspects of the cars they produce. BMW does that on its main product line, but throws caution to the wind with the MINIs. What MINI represents is a car that is dedicated to fun, different in many significant ways from the rest of the cars it competes with, and with a premium price tag that includes performance, but not much else.
2016 MINI Cooper S Clubman – Layout
This MINI Cooper S Clubman is a four-door with the rear cargo doors of a Ford Excursion SUV. The doors are split in the middle and open to the sides of the vehicle. Check out this short video:[youtube
There are even a pair of little mini wipers on each of the small rear glass windows. This is very cool, but has debatable practicality. Being a four-door, the Clubman S, as we are going to call this car for the remainder of the review, is a legitimate four-passenger vehicle. There is a fifth seating spot in the rear of the car. However, that is for a human with less than eight-inch hips (we measured it) or for securing a child seat in the rear-middle spot for the best safety possible. The Clubman S does have a surprisingly large cargo area with an added storage below the floor where a more practical car might store a spare tire.
2016 MINI Cooper S Clubman – Drivetrain
Jumping to the good part, this Clubman S has the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with 207 lb-ft of torque and 189 HP you want in a MINI. Our tester had the optional $1,750 “Sport Automatic Transmission” that maybe you don’t want. Many enthusiasts will surely prefer the 6-Speed Getrag manual that the car comes standard with. Personally, I enjoyed the automatic in this car. It has paddle shifters and also a manual mode on the gear selector and enough low-end torque when in the Sport mode to pull you around nicely in town or be your partner in extra-legal antics on back roads. I am not a huge fan of front-wheel drive cars with stick shifts. Just my taste. Having now sampled all levels of MINI power, the base 3-cylinder turbo, the 2.0-liter S engine, and the JCW versions, it is easy to say that MINI has the most compatible engines to its cars’ missions of any automaker. They are all splendid.
Like all MINIs we have tried, this Clubman S has more than enough power to scoot you rapidly from turn to turn. It can easily overpower its front wheels if you let it. Honestly speaking, there is no need for more power in this vehicle. It couldn’t put more down if it had it. That is so refreshing. Most cars feel like they could use about 20% more power. This MINI has power to spare. Every time you tip that throttle you feel great about this car. It also sounds wonderful when you floor it.
2016 MINI Cooper S Clubman – The Ride
The ride is the best part of this MINI. It has such tight steering it feels unlike most cars. There is almost no slop in the wheel and when you turn it sharply, it does not lean at all. Many call this “go-cart-like.” Truthfully, it is much better than that. In all situations you feel in complete control of the Clubman S. The best way to enjoy it is not at 9/10ths or beyond. Rather, you sort of zip along at about 7/10th and never worry it will lose adhesion. On the highway it tracks dead ahead and has a solid, planted feel.
The Clubman S offers a firm ride. However, we must note that our test vehicle had its run-flat removed and replaced with 40-series winter tires. One would assume that would soften the ride, but we can’t comment. Steering is laser-sharp. There is no front-wheel drive brand on the market with better steering response in this tester’s opinion. The Clubman S can turn on a dime and its short wheelbase, even in this larger than standard MINI, makes it easy to dart around in. Spring pot-holes and broken up roadways are a bit of a concern. With no backup plan for a damaged sidewall, one false move and you will be waiting for a tow truck.
Acceleration is muted in the standard mode, called “Mid” by MINI. In relaxed driving, the car can pull itself around adequately at about 1200 RPMs using the torque of the engine. If you toe the throttle, there is a delay in its response. However, don’t do that. Instead, move the lever built into the gear selector surround to choose “Sport.” Doing so makes the car hold gears longer and sharpens throttle response noticeably, but not so much that it ruins the car’s drivability. I drove around with this setting 90% of the time. There is also a “Green” mode if you want to hobble your sports car.
2016 MINI Cooper S Clubman – Content, Value, Safety, Fuel Economy
At the $33,950 purchase price of our Clubman S tester you do not get a sunroof. That is a big deal in this particular car because its design has you sitting well back from the top of the windshield. The effect is claustrophobic. Do not buy this car without a sunroof. The heated seats are cloth and have manual adjustment. There is no navigation system. There is no backup camera. This may well be one of the last remaining cars at any price point without one. The car we tested also had no forward collision prevention, nor did it have adaptive cruise control. Normally we would say, “The performance makes it so.” However, over at VW they have a little gem of a car called the GTI. Do your own comparison of the features for the money.
The MINI Clubman S aced all its crash tests. Even the tricky small frontal overlap test. Small cars are always at a disadvantage in a crash with a larger vehicle, but you can at least get one that is built well. The MINI is. Our tester also had great fuel efficiency. Although the EPA says it gets 27 MPG combined, in mixed driving we did much better at 31 MPG. Unfortunately, the sticker on the fuel door hints strongly that you should only use premium fuel.
2016 MINI Cooper S Clubman – Conclusion
Two thumbs up for the 2016 MINI Cooper Clubman with a footnote that you either have to spend more to get the basic luxury items many of us want in a premium car or go without. The MINI Cooper S Clubman is fun every minute you’re in it.
As Tested 2016 MINI Cooper S Clubman
Thunder Gray Metallic / Cloth Double Stripe -Carbon Black
Sport Automatic Transmission, Comfort Access Keyless Entry, Heated Front eats, LED Headlights, Sat Rad with 1 year subscription,
Base Price $ 27,650.
Approximate MSRP as of time of review: $33,950
Image of Clubman wheel and dash courtesy of MINI. All other images by the author.