2016 MINI Cooper S Clubman – Fun Every Minute You’re In It

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Road Test: Mini Cooper Clubman

Is This the Biggest Small Car Available?

In the case of Mini, the car company whose witty advertising claims it’s the odd, irreverent member of the auto industry, the answer would be a resounding yes.

Road Test: Mini Cooper Clubman

How else to best explain, or try to, the “extended” version of the Cooper called the Clubman.
Sure, it may be a stretch to call any Mini a stretched version, but it may be apt in this case. The Clubman, who was predated by earlier “stretched” or “extended” version adds 9.45 inches to the car’s backside and 3.15 inches to the car’s wheelbase. Yes, the difference is noticeable. Real people and not the wee people from the Wizard of Oz will fit in these rear seats.
Earlier editions of the Mini faced the same space standoff and solved with larger versions called the Morris Traveler and the Austin Countryman. These “stretched” two-door “wagons” are the same vehicles that are often called “shooting brakes” overseas. Other wagons are sometimes called saloons or estates.

Styling dictates a difference look that’s immediately noticeable as was the car’s color: hot metallic chocolate. Although the car is cute, the color drew polarizing reviews and references to diaper duty.

Road Test: Mini Cooper Clubman

To access the extra rear legroom – there’s an extra 3.15 inches in case you’re counting or pulled out your tape measure – that no longer requires ones knee caps be broken first, Mini has a, pardon the pun, “mini” side door behind the right passenger door to aid access. The door, which has no outward handle – the better to be stylish – requires the passenger door to be opened and a small inboard handle be pulled to open. Since the door opens outward, it’s right to be called a suicide door from the old style gangster cars whereby if the gangster’s gun didn’t kill you, being pushed from a moving car with that setup ensured the door surely would.
An extra door doesn’t ensure immediate access, as the required seatbelt setup will quickly stop you in your track if you can bend that low to try to slide in. This is the perfect setup for “Fantasy Island’s” late star Herve Villechaize.
Auto aficionados may well recall that Saturn had a similar setup several years ago, when it was mired in the depths of stalled sales and the idea for a third door on its coupe – that’s what they called it – came from one of its dealers and was put into production. It’s actually a handy idea and the Saturn commercials – I remember a young child loading a tuba in the back of a Saturn – were quite entertaining.
The other difference is on the backside, where the standard top-hinged hatchback door is replaced by two “barn doors” that open wide to the sides, maximizing the rear storage area and access to same. Opening the doors is a breeze and you may notice that the rear taillight bulb assembly’s size is kept small to allow the doors to swing freely and unencumbered.
There’s an additional storage space under the rear cargo floor as the tested Clubman ($19,950 and $650 delivery) was equipped with run-flat tires as a space-saving measure.

Road Test: Mini Cooper Clubman
Officially, there’s some 17 cubic feet of storage space in the back (way more than a Miata’s trunk for instance) and the room jumps to almost 33 c.f. with the rear seats folded flat. That makes it darn near respectable.
Clubman is sold in a base model with a 1.6-liter, 118 hp, 4-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission or the Clubman S ($24,100) that boasts a beefier transverse-mounted 172 hp motor under the bonnet. If you have the need for speed, that equates to approximately $64.80 per extra horsepower for the S.
The Getrag 6-speed is a short-throw gear mixer that makes driving and interaction fun along the roads. Hey, isn’t that what Mini says in its taglines? Have fun? You will.
Support from the run-flat tires was not jarring and the ride is greatly aided by the low, low center of gravity, all four wheels pushed out to the widest margins possible for better tracking and its feeling like a grown-up slot car. A MacPherson-type springs over struts front suspension and a 5-link central-arm rear axle keeps the ride level and compliant. Of course, if you cross some rough road or unsettled railroad tracks you will feel it as there’s just not that much room for the suspension travel to travel but it won’t loosen you fillings either.
Power from the small engine was plentiful and rewarding along the highways and byways. The Mini’s trip computer pushed out 45 mpg on its readings at 65 mph along Route 101. With the week’s only fillup, the computer showed an estimated driving range of 551 miles on regular unleaded. EPA numbers on the sticker show 28 city and 37 highway.

Road Test: Mini Cooper Clubman
The tester was packed with options – $8,750 – that included a large dual pane sun roof ($1,500), the Sport package ($1,500), chrome on the inside and outside ($1,000), and Convenience package to name a few.
Without the goodies, Clubman boasts six standard airbags, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, Corner Brake Control, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Tire Pressure Monitor, Dynamic Stability Control, and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel.
In keeping with its quirkiness, Mini boasts a huge center-dash speedometer with a large tachometer behind the steering wheel. Switches are toggles on the overhead liner and the dash. Large cupholders, which won’t accept a standard Gatorade bottle or coffee cups easily fight for space when you shift but can coexist otherwise.
The Mini is almost always guaranteed to put a smile on your face, or someone else looking at the Mini when you’re out and about.
The color did nothing to cloud the attraction this car drew whether in motion or parked. If you don’t mind talking to perfect strangers and finding finger prints from the curious peeking inside at the Mini, which happens a lot, you’ll enjoy this real world go-kart.

Specifications as-tested

MSRP: $28,700
Base Price: $19,950
Delivery Charge: $650
Length: 155.0 inches
Width: 66.3 inches
Height: 56.2 inches
Wheelbase: 100.4 inches
Engine: 1.6L I4 | 118-horsepower
Transmission: 6-speed Getrag manual
EPA fuel economy: 28-city, 37-highway (regular unleaded)

Road Test Photo Gallery: Mini Cooper Clubman