by Gerhard Horn
The Mini Cooper Clubman fills the gap between the Mini Hardtop and the Mini Countryman. It's aimed at buyers who want the added passenger and cargo space, but without having to buy an SUV. The Clubman competes with a variety of similar models, depending on how much you want to spend and how many options you add to it. Base models compete with the Subaru Impreza in size, while top-end models with a few optional extras elevate the Mini into Volvo V60 pricing territory. While it is aimed at customers in search of more room, it's worth keeping in mind that it is still a Mini, which means it's nowhere near as practical as its main rivals.
It's powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder, packing a 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque punch. Front-wheel drive is standard, but Mini's ALL4 four-wheel drivetrain adds an additional advantage above some of its competitors. Starting prices are on the high side, and the four-pot can be thirsty when pushing on.
Last year, the Signature trim received a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system, leaving only the base Classic trim without a touchscreen. This year, all Mini models finally get a proper 8.8-inch touchscreen. Signature trim now comes standard with in-dash navigation, including real-time traffic updates. Standard features added across the board for the 2022 model year include lane-departure warning and SiriusXM with a year's free subscription. Some new paint colors have been added to this year's palette and the interior colors have been tweaked too.
Given the premium feel of the car and the somewhat generous specs, $29,900 for the base Classic sub-trim isn't a bad starting point for the new Mini Cooper Clubman. The mid-range Signature retails for $34,500, while the top Iconic trim model retails for $39,400. The ALL4 range kicks off at $32,900 for the Classic, $36,500 for the Signature, and $41,400 for the Iconic trim. Optional extras include the $2,000 Premium Package, which includes power-folding exterior mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 40/20/40-split rear seat, a universal garage-door opener, and 8-way electric front seats with memory function. This option is only available on the Signature trim, and comes as standard on the Iconic. Mini charges an additional $850 for destination and handling over and above the price of the Mini Cooper Clubman trims.
See trim levels and configurations:
More than anything, a new Mini is always judged by the driving experience it offers. It's as much a part of the Mini DNA as the round headlights.
The Clubman offers a fun driving experience. Granted, it's not as much fun as its smaller siblings, but it still has enough power to overcome the added weight. In a straight line race to 60 mph, there's around half a second between the Clubman and the two-door hardtop.
Most of its rivals are geared towards comfort rather than fun, and you can tell from the moment you start driving it. It's quick off the line, and the steering is responsive. Unfortunately, there is a downside to all this fun. The Clubman's suspension is quite firm, which has a negative effect on ride quality. This problem is remedied higher up in the range. Both Signature and Iconic models are equipped with Dynamic Damper Control, which allows the driver to choose between a comfortable damper setting for day-to-day use, or a firmer setup for when the mood for enthusiastic driving strikes.
The six-speed manual adds another dimension to the driving experience. Rather than letting the car decide when to change gear, or toggling the flaps behind the steering wheel, the driver gets to engage with three pedals and a traditional shifter. It might be slower than the two self-shifting options, but a manual gearbox fits in perfectly with the Mini ethos of fun above all else.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
There's a lot to like in this review, but you really have to be a Mini fan to write out a cheque for the Clubman. There are cars that are equally good, if not better to drive, more practical, and better priced than the Clubman.
What Mini tried to do here was combine the essence of the original Mini into a more family-friendly package. It worked to a certain extent, but there's just too much weight to get the full go-kart effect. Having said that, it is one of the better handling hatchback/station wagons out there. It also impresses with its quality interior, which does its part to justify the price. Mini also did a good job of combining a fun driving experience with the everyday practicality the modern consumer demands, but not at a palatable price. It is good fun, but it's not $30,000 fun.
You really need to be a die-hard Mini fan, upgrading from a Cooper hardtop two-door because you need the space. If you're just looking for something just as fun and practical, but at a more reasonable price, there are other options out there.
Since there isn't a Cooper Clubman that offers reasonable value for money, this is the kind of purchase where you rely on your heart rather than your head. Having said that, there are a few smart choices you can make for the best Mini Cooper Clubman wagon.
The mid-grade Signature trim offers absolutely everything you need, even including the new standard navigation. The only gadget you'll really be missing out on is wireless charging.
The front-wheel-drive is all you really need unless you live in a state where weather conditions make it an absolute necessity.
To get that ultimate engaging driving experience, go for the manual. Unless you live in a city with crazy traffic. If you can afford the Iconic, nothing else will do. If you can't, a manual front-wheel drive Cooper Clubman S in Signature trim should do the job just fine.
The Clubman and Countryman are very similar in the sense that they aim to offer more space for passengers while trying to retain that sporty Mini feel. Being an SUV, the Countryman adds another layer to the mix. Cargo space is more or less the same as it is in the Clubman, but rear-seat passengers do get more legroom.
The Countryman also received some subtle upgrades for 2021, which made it an even better proposition for roughly the same amount of cash as the Clubman. The base Classic Countryman model now comes with the same 8.8-inch touchscreen as the Clubman, while Signature and Iconic models comes with the touchscreen navigation unit, which includes a digital instrument cluster, Apple CarPlay, and real-time traffic information. It also features redesigned LED headlights across the range, featuring the same cornering ability as found on the high-end Iconic Clubman. Other exterior upgrades include Union Jack LED taillights and LED fog lights.
The Countryman is also available with a wider range of engines, including turbocharged three- and four-cylinder engines, as well as a plug-in hybrid. Overall, the Countryman offers more car for roughly the same price. The only downside is a drop in performance, thanks to the added weight over and above the Clubman.
What the Cooper Hardtop loses in practicality, it makes up for in fun. Even with the small 1.5-liter turbocharged triple engine, it is good fun in two-door guise, while the 2.0-liter turbocharged S is a riot. This is the closest you can get to that go-kart feeling that made the classic Mini such an icon. If the main concern is practicality, it would be best to avoid the hardtop. The two-door only has an 8.7-cubic-foot trunk, while the four-door offers 13.1 cubic feet of trunk space. The same is true when it comes to passenger space. The hardtop Cooper simply can't match either the Clubman or the Countryman.
The four-door Cooper S Hardtop is $2,000 less than the equivalent Cooper Clubman S.
Choosing between these two comes down to how much practicality you need, though neither is especially stellar in that particular department. Having said that, if fun is at the top of the list, the Cooper Hardtop is the way to go.