The 2021 MINI Clubman trades heavily on nostalgia. Those old enough to remember the original Morris MINI-Traveler and its form factor, only two doors, and barn opening style rear doors, will easily be drawn to this new version. Those fresh to the MINI brand may most likely be attracted to the vehicle’s unique visual looks. It’s a five-door hatchback, but not one. So, yes, the Clubman is a car for those wanting to be a bit different from the pack. However, there’s more to the MINI Clubman than quirky styling. There are two other standout features besides the looks. The performance and luxury. Nothing else in its class at its starting price of $7.1 million delivers on these two elements.
John Cooper was the man who defined the performance MINI since the first car bearing his name arrived in 1961. The British Formula One driver, increased the displacement of the engine, added twin carburettors, disc brakes and a close-ratio gearbox, and then set these upgraded MINIs loose on the tracks and rally stages of the world to impressive results.
This continues on the MINI Clubman Cooper S.
As a Cooper S the Clubman gets a drivetrain significantly more necessary than its 3,333lb weight. With 192bhp from a turbocharged 2-litre engine the MINI is a rocket in any of its three drive modes, while still being able to eke out as many miles from a gallon of gas as possible. Stand hard on the accelerator and 60mph comes up in 6.9 seconds. The flexibility allowed from the 206lb-ft of torque on hand and the dual-clutch transmission makes the Clubman a champion at any throttle position. At low speeds it motors along, unperturbed, ready to grab any gap in traffic. On long highway slogs, it’s just a matter of setting the cruise control and relaxing. There never seems to be a hole in the Clubman’s power band.
Near perfect highway, or tight twisty Jamaican lanes are all the domain of the Clubman’s handling abilities. It never feels out of place on either, the Germanic build quality endowing it with rock-solid dynamics. When things tighten up, the transmission keeps the Clubman flowing from corner, while the chassis constantly communicates grip levels to the driver without upsetting the vehicle. In manual mode the Clubman excels, having the shifter operation in the logical motorsports manner, pull back to move up through the gears, push forward for down. The option of the steering wheel mounted paddles further increase the race car feel when used.
Settle down from the high performance driving and the Clubman is premium and practical. All four door handles light up to greet passengers on entry. Drivers get a MINI logo puddle lamp to guide their way into the quality interior filled with soft touch materials that are highlighted even more through the dual split sunroofs. At night, the ambient lighting continues that feel. The switchgear is ergonomically placed and fun due to its unconventional toggle design. Luxury convenience features are abundant. Lights, and wipers can be set to work automatically. Dual climate control does as much wonders for passenger comfort as does the low noise intrusion into the cabin.
The defining feature of the Clubman, its rear barn door style hatch, power opens with a touch of a button or a sweep of a foot under the rear bumper. Modern demands means the MINI isn’t so mini anymore, but that gives it plenty of space for the realities of life, shuffling family around on the daily grind, or packing for that weekend trip to the country.
Grabbing the leather-wrapped steering wheel gives full view of the new digital gauge cluster, while in the centre of the dashboard is MINI’s signature circular infotainment system. The 8.8-inch screen is crystal clear under all lighting conditions, fast to respond to either touch or inputs from the rotary controller. MINI’s eclectic nature is seen as the light ring around the infotainment changes to alert the user based on what function is being used at the time. The whole system boasts excellent sound quality and plenty connectivity options.
The MINI Clubman Cooper S main advantage is that it’s not the usual dull small car. MINI is fully aware of its history, as seen in the round headlights and Union Jack rear brake lights. That history is infused into every aspect of the Clubman. It’s a great purchase for those wanting to stand out, those that enjoy the finer things in life or those who want to soak in a level of driving engagement rare in modern cars.
The 2021 MINI Clubman Cooper S is available from ATL Autobahn.