This is the Mini you should buy, but you probably won’t.
– Cleveland, Ohio
Mini didn’t sell a lot of Clubmans last year, but I can’t figure out why. Of all the Minis sold in America, the Clubman seems most well-suited to our country’s particular tastes. For one, it’s actually big enough to fit us – four of us, in fact. Secondly, despite being supersized for American appetites, the Clubman is still as charming and quintessentially a Mini as any of its brethren, and if we Yanks like anything, it’s having our pants charmed off and developing an emotional connection with the cars we drive. Make it an S model with an extra shot of performance, and there’s really not much I can say against the Clubman.
- Mini markets its vehicles on their go-kart-like handling and, despite being longer than the two- and four-door Hardtops, the Clubman, particularly this S model, bobs and weaves well enough to uphold the family reputation. Particularly if you’re comparing the Clubman to something like a subcompact crossover, it’s no contest when it comes to being fun to drive. Plus, you can still get one with a manual transmission, and it matches revs when downshifting!
- This is the right-sized Mini in my eyes: not too big but big enough to be practical without much compromise. Unlike the larger Countryman, which is so big it comes standard with its own sense of irony, the Clubman is still a Mini Hardtop both in design and demeanor. It’s just been stretched to fit four adults comfortably and carry some real cargo with the seats folded.
- There are two things I like about all Minis that certainly applies to this Cooper S Clubman: they’re brimming with character and they feel more premium than anything else their size. The character part of the equation is easy to see in pictures: that wide-eyed front end, the red toggle switch for starting the car, the plaid lining of the cubbies and cupholders – I grinned every time I got in. And when you start the car and get rolling, you feel and hear (or rather, don’t) the level of quality of you’re paying a little extra for with a Mini.
- I’d be more gung-ho about recommending the Clubman if it weren’t for its price, which for this fairly loaded S model comes in at $32,550 out the door. There are a lot of larger, equally as nice options out there for over 30 grand. The Clubman starts at just over $24,000 and you can keep its price in check if you’re light on options; not opting for the S model will save you over $3,500 alone. Then there’s the Thunder Grey Metallic paint on this test car, which is a $500 option, and the LED headlights cost an extra $1,000. But just like its parent company BMW, Mini doesn’t offer a lot of standard equipment (not even a backup camera) and bundles everything you really want in expensive option packages.
- Mini calls the Clubman’s vertically split rear doors “iconic.” I call them “pointless” and include them on this con list. For one, they severely hinder visibility from the rearview mirror. Second, they’re surprisingly heavy and bulky for how small they are; Mini does have them on hydraulic hinges so they spring open on their own, but they require a hefty push to close again. And lastly, not once did I ever only need to open one of these tiny doors. And if most people are opening both doors, why not make them one door and hinge it at the top or on the side? In this case, being retro is a burden.
Photos: John Neff / Motor1.com