Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: May 9, 2016
The last decade saw many manufacturers draw design inspiration from their archive of past models. Who can resist the Mustang’s new curves, or all the muscle and sinew of the refreshed Dodge Challenger Hellcat? Understandably so, as the baby-boomer generation got older, automakers hoped designs that reminded buyers of a time gone-by would result in a boost in sales. The decision was clever, but the execution varied – let’s not forget that the PT Cruiser once graced our streets. All told, none quite matched BMW with the re-launch of the MINI marquee.
Launched in conjunction with a remake of the Italian Job, the revised MINI Cooper was an instant success. Customers loved its quirky and fun nature, while many automotive journalists wouldn’t stop complimenting its “go-kart” like handling. So much so in fact that our managing editor has banned me from using the word “go-kart” in this article. Whoops. But as time went on, the reignited sparkle began to lose its flame and as the mid-2000s approached, MINI saw a decline in sales. Ironically, the fad of small cars had come to a halt while demand for larger cars, especially SUVs, soared.
This is where the new MINI Clubman comes into play. The MINI has grown considerably – it’s now 315 mm longer, 117 mm wider, and 15 mm taller than before. Thanks to a set of split-rear cargo doors, the Clubman looks like a clown hearse – instead of carrying one body, it carries fourteen! From the front, it looks almost indiscernible from the rest of the product lineup. Its side and rear profile is where the differences become evident. The 4-door – technically six if you count the two to open the trunk – is noticeably longer than the 5-door variant, and embraces a traditional design in lieu of the suicide door format adopted in the generation before.
Doesn’t the front fascia looks suspiciously like a catfish? Thankfully my tester came in a beautiful burgundy paint colour. Had it been Moonwalk Grey Metallic (read: grey) I’m fairly certain my grandmother would have gone at it with the butcher knife. And yet, despite it looking like a particularly delightful seafood dinner – apparently catfish is quite tasty – I received compliments on the car’s charming good looks all week long.
On a side note: due to new pedestrian safety laws, all MINIs carry a strange plastic protrusion in the front grill. The idea is that during a collision with a pedestrian, it would lift the poor sucker up onto the hood.
BMW promised that the Clubman would be every bit as fun as the standard hatchback, only with a bit more cargo and passenger space. They certainly nailed it with the first generation Clubman S, and they’ve hit the sweet spot this time around as well.
Differences are sparse from other Coopers, and while we would generally like to see some changes between models, its Teutonic refinement and upper-class design make it an exception. Fit and finish is top notch and the anthracite headliner works beautifully in conjunction with the piano black trim. Although this tester came outfitted with carbon black leatherette seats, a mere $2,250 will net you a set of beautiful quilted Chester Indigo leather seats.
There’s a semblance of a “Riva Hoop” too – a term coined by Ian Callum’s designs – which represents a belt that separates the bottom of the windscreen from the top of the dash. Perhaps it’s a tongue in cheek nod to the British origins of both brands.
A firm flick of the start/stop switch located at the bottom of the center console brings the turbocharged four to life. Churning out a healthy 189 hp at 5,000 rpm, the Cooper S Clubman isn’t fast per se, but it certainly feels peppy, and 207 lb-ft of torque is readily available as early as 1,250 rpm. All that twist so low in the rev range makes it easy to exploit empty pockets in traffic.
Power delivery is linear and it feels great to wind out the little four-banger. Let off the throttle past 4,000 rpm and your ears are rewarded with little exhaust pops and burbles like the top-end John Cooper Works model. Speaking of its smaller and lighter little brother, the extra pounds on the Clubman are unfortunately noticeable and does reduce some of the perceived steam from the motor.
While it may be a heavier car, MINI has done great work on the steering feel. Firm but not heavy, the wheel is communicative and gives a good approximation of what’s happening at the front wheels. Paired with a 6-speed manual (an automatic is available too), the not-so-pint-sized MINI is actually a blast to drive. Throw the car in a corner hard and you can feel the front end searching for grip. The engineers did a good job of toning down the understeer via the stability management system which helps reign in the power and forcing the car to rotate.
The clutch and stick combo found in this MINI is among my favourites too. Featuring short throws, a notchy (but not overly so) lever, and a light clutch pedal, this six-speed makes driving the Cooper S Clubman a Sunday treat.
The only drawback resides in the auto-rev matching downshifts. It’s a system present in most modern BMWs, but it takes quite a bit away from the manual driving experience. It’s called manual for a reason right? Also missing is a handbrake lever, instead replaced by an electronic one that automatically activates when the engine is off – another piece of the experience removed in light of convenience. There is a way to turn off the auto-rev matching, but you’ll have to turn off the traction control and be driving in Sport+ as well. A shame, as a simple checkbox in the infotainment system would’ve allowed for utmost flexibility.
Let’s talk pricing for a moment. As tested, this MINI Cooper S Clubman rings out to $38,420. For that money you get the Essentials Package, which offers a large panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, and fog lights. An $1,800 Loaded Package adds comfort access, park distance control, power seats, and an auto-dimming mirror. Finally, a $1,000 Navigation Package upgrades the integrated screen from a 6.5-inch unit to an 8.8-inch one, adds voice-guidance, and Mini Connected XL.
As spec-ed, this Mini is pretty much exactly how I’d order it. Those looking to bring the price down can skip on features like the Chrome styling package, Head-Up display, and the metallic paint. Meanwhile, customers looking for an even more luxurious cabin have two seating options to choose from – a $1,500 leather option, and the previously mentioned Chester Indigo blue leather that I simply adore.
On paper, the Clubman formula shouldn’t work. It’s large and shaped like a catfish. Yet, somehow the marquee has pulled off a miracle and made this Cooper S Clubman every bit a MINI as the one Mark Wahlberg drove in the Italian Job remake. At its core, the car is a hoot to drive and incredibly charming, and the extra space offered by the wagon body style makes this a MINI that is fun to drive without the cargo compromise. MINI just ain’t so mini anymore.
型号 Model: 2016 MINI Cooper S Clubman
顏色 Paint Type: Pure Burgundy Metallic
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $24,990
試車售價 Price as Tested: $38,420
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,670
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,275 / 1,801 / 1,440
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,375
引擎 Engine: 2.0L turbocharged DOHC 4-cylinder
最大馬力 Horsepower: 189 hp @ 5,000 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 207 lb-ft @ 1,250 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed manual
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 8.0 / 5.4 / 6.3
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 10.0
輪胎尺碼 Tires: P225/45R17