2016 Mini Cooper Clubman S: Did Mini Really Just Make a Station Wagon?

2016 Mini Cooper Clubman S  | MSRP: $27,650 | Price as Tested: $32,550

Engine: 2.0L; 189 h.p.; 207 lb.-ft. | MPG: 22 city / 32 hwy

 

Features: 17” Vent Spoke Silver, Runflat Tires, Comfort Access Keyless Entry, Sport Seats, Heated Front Seats, Park Distance Control, Ambient Lighting, etc.

When my editor told me we’d be reviewing the new Mini Cooper Clubman, and tried to convince me it was a wagon – I definitely didn’t believe him. Mini has tried to make crossovers, convertibles and a couple other oddball things that aren’t actually Minis. I’ve never been a fan of them, because to me, a Mini is a Mini. Also, if you regularly read our reviews, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of station wagons, as I prefer their combination of utility and driving pleasure. So I was twice as skeptical – here’s a company that has had a few misses in the past, now taking on my favorite type of car.

Then it arrived – I immediately was impressed by the looks of this lengthened Cooper. Instead of looking like a mistake like other iterations of the Mini, this one looked basically like a long Mini. The car already looks great, so adding 17” in the middle actually doesn’t change the overall look that much. But oh does it change the utility! You now have a nice, usable backseat and a huge cargo area, especially if you fold the rear seats down.

An extra bonus for an enthusiast like me was that Mini supplied us with a 6-speed manual Cooper S version of the Clubman, so we got the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine shared with most small BMW’s these days. For those that don’t know, Minis are built by BMW and it shows. Many of the systems function the same way, and the drivetrain is straight from a 3-series. However, you can’t get the current 3-series wagon in a manual transmission, so if you want a new manual wagon, your choices are quite limited.

Along with the powertrain, most of the technology and entertainment come straight from BMW too. The version of the iDrive system used here is simple and straightforward. You can get navigation and all sorts of other features, but there aren’t many options when it comes to safety-collision avoidance. That’s not to say the Mini isn’t safe; it has an excellent complement of airbags and has a very highly engineered crash structure to protect occupants. It just doesn’t come with a ton of active safety features, and that’s quite alright with us – it’s a car for driving, and it definitely does a good job of keeping you engaged with the road. It does, however, have available radar-cruise control and parking assist, neither of which were on our test car.

The interior is typical quirky Mini design. It’s a very polarizing interior style, but I tend to like it – with the large center speedometer and chrome rocker switches for all the functions. It has both a very retro feel. That makes sense for a car that’s meant to invoke fond memories of the tiny British-built Mini’s from the 60’s. Overall, the car looks fantastic, and since it’s gotten so wide, the extra length of the Clubman might make it the best proportioned modern Mini Cooper to date.

The engine puts out just under 200hp, which is a little less than its BMW counterparts. The power delivery is immediate, with no hint of lag. Unfortunately, however, that means the power runs out a bit at the top end. In fact, the peak power is only at a low 4700 rpm. While I applaud the technology behind today’s direct-injected turbocharged engines, they don’t really do much for the enthusiast in me. They are a bit buzzy sounding, and while all that immediate torque is great, they feel like they fall flat on their face up high. What is good is that the aftermarket is ripe with modifications to make your turbo car sound and perform better, if that’s what you’re interested in.

Most owners will be very pleased with the stock power plant, and the combination of the torque engine and 6-speed gearbox make it a joy to drive around town. It really does feel like a car for people who like to drive, and for that we applaud Mini. So many cars are losing their manual-transmission option, and for that we applaud them too. And finally, so many manufacturers are turning their back on the station wagon in favor of more profitable SUV’s and crossovers. So for making a wagon and making it so good, we salute you Mini. Job well done!

Jason.S@mychinews.com

Special thanks to 

BMW of North America, LLC 

for providing this week’s car, 

the 2016 Mini Cooper Clubman S.