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First Drive: 2016 Mini Clubman Cooper S Review by Henny Hemmes +VIDEO


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2016 Mini Clubman Cooper S

By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor

         • SEE ALSO: Mini Research and Buyers Guide


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2016 Mini Clubman Cooper S

STOCKHOLM - September 2015: Never before, there has been a Mini as large as the new Clubman. Nor has there been one that would fall within the term "premium." But with the arrival of the 2016 Mini Clubman more things have changed.

The new generation Clubman is based on the new 5-door Mini, or technically, on the platform that is also used for the BMW X1 and 2 Series Active Tourer. The wheelbase and an overall length increased by 10, respectively 25 cm to 2.67 m/(105 inches) and 4.25 m (167.3 in.). The width increased to 1,80 m (70.9 in.), so now the new model offers more space for all passengers, including more leg room in the rear, while the luggage compartment is larger as well. It fits well in the compact segment with a size that is just somewhat bigger than that of the Ford Focus.

No suicide door
Gone is the suicide door on the right hand side to make room for a fourth normal door.

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2016 Mini Clubman Cooper S
The barn doors in the rear have not disappeared, but they are hinged differently and reach to the corners leaving no room – fortunately - for the contrasting vertical panels that ‘connected’ the rear bumper with the roof. Together with the big horizontal tail lamps, the rear of the Clubman looks completely different, wider and less like a commercial van, more like an estate. Even with the brake lights placed impractically low in the bumper, the rear of the new Clubman looks very nice.

The team of design chief Anders Warming has also changed the front end. The grille is like that of the Mini 5-door model, but the lower air intake has a more dynamic elongated shape, flanked by fog lamps and vertical air intakes for Air Curtains. At the side we now see, for the first time Air Breathers. They are taken over from BMW, just like the fin antenna on the roof.

Stylish

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2016 Mini Clubman Cooper S
The exterior may be beautifully restyled, the most notable improvements can be found in the cockpit. The new dashboard design represents a major change: the central ‘globe’ display is still there, but now, the lines are fluent and gone is the quite prominent odometer ring, which has been replaced with a LED lighting ring. The display is used for vehicle information, infotainment, phone and navigation. The center console houses the button for the electric parking brake and the Mini controller, plus cup holders and an armrest. Also gone are the bold round air vents. They have been replaced by smaller ones that form a better and sleeker unity with the new display.

Since the center ‘rail’ console has been replaced by a short console up front, there are two full-fledged seats and one in the middle for a person with a smaller frame. All passengers have ample head and knee room.

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2016 Mini Clubman Cooper S

The luggage compartment of 360 liters can be expanded to 1,250 liters (12.7 – 44.1 cu.ft) by folding the rear seats. The rear doors can be opened remotely by moving your foot beneath the rear bumper, but when you park, you have to remember to leave a space of 53 cm (20.8 in.), so that the doors can be opened fully. The load height is 660 cm (26 in.) and the door opening is 110 cm (43.3 in.).

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2016 Mini Clubman Cooper S

With the large opening, and the flat floor, the Mini is very versatile. The bottom of the luggage compartment can be partly flipped up in order to secure smaller shopping bags and preventing them from rolling through the trunk. What I missed were some straps to secure the handle of my carry on luggage. They should be there, especially in a premium model and you should not have to think about it and order a package with a luggage net.




Driving the Cooper S
All models come standard with a 6-speed gearbox. The 8-speed automatic and the 8-speed sport automatic transmission with paddle shifters are optionally available for the Cooper S, which is a first for Mini and quite unique in this segment.

We drove the Cooper S in Sweden with the manual and later with the automatic transmission. I have to stress the fact that all test cars with either the 6-speed stick shift or the 8-speed Aisin automatic sport transmission were equipped with options such as the Sport Package that includes Dynamic Damper Control adjustable suspension and 18”wheels, which really make a difference.

We drove a lot on 30 and 50 mph roads and felt that the engine is really quiet, however there was some noise from the tires. Even though there are hardly any roads with unrestricted speed, we could push the Cooper S every now and then. The first thing you notice is that it is not as ‘kart-like’ as its smaller siblings; it misses the sharp turn in when you enter a short bend. It must be the higher weight of the larger model that does away with the agility that we are used to in the smaller models.

In comfort mode the Clubman is more comfortable than before. I remember that I took the former model for a long drive from The Hague, to Munich and I loved its long-distance behavior. It all has to do with the longer wheelbase and the adjustable dampers that result in a more balanced behavior. In Sport mode, the steering is firm and responsive and in turns the Clubman is well balanced and the body control is excellent.

The Cooper S is equipped with BMW’s 2.0-liter petrol engine with 192 hp and 280 Nm (207 pound-feet) of torque at 1,250-4,500 rpm. During over boost torque increases for a short while to 300 Nm (221 lb-ft). The four-cylinder engine responds eagerly to ‘instructions’ of the right foot. Mini mentions an acceleration of 7.2 seconds for the sprint from 0-62 mph and it feels like the Clubman should be able to do so. The average fuel consumption in the EU cycle is 37.3 mpg with 144 g CO2. For the model with automatic transmission it is 39.8 mph with 134 g CO2.

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2016 Mini Clubman Cooper S

I always love to drive a car with a stick shift and the Clubman was no exception. But the 8-speed Aisin transmission is working so good together with the Cooper S engine, that I would have to think hard which one to choose. That is, if there was no price difference. Of course, the choice also depends on your daily use of the Clubman. If you often have to deal with traffic jams the automatic is much more relaxing to drive. In that case I would opt for the Sport automatic, so that you can always use the flippers when your mind is getting into dynamic mode. Anyway, I loved the Clubman with its fast and engaging driving qualities. And with the versatility of an estate, it will undoubtedly attract existing customers that have a family now, or people new to the brand who are not necessarily looking for the kart-like behavior of the smaller models.

Youthfulness
When I spoke later with Peter Schwarzenbauer, board member of BMW AG and responsible for Mini, he said that Mini is shifting more up-market. This was after I made a remark about the new colors of the test cars. Why were there no flashy yellow, bright blue, orange or red vehicles available? Mr. Schwarzenbauer pointed out that with moving into the premium part of the segment, the targeted customers may be less expressive.

Admittedly, the Clubman is an all-rounder, comfortable when you are out for a drive with the family or with a full load in the trunk. Fun to drive when you are alone in the car. In other words Mini is losing its youthfulness, but there is nothing wrong with growing up. When asked if this size was the maximum that a Mini will be, Mr. Schwarzenbauer confirmed with: “I believe so, or else we will have to call it a Maxi.”

The Mini Clubman models will reach the German market on October 31, and other European countries in November. It will go on sale in the U.S. in January 2016 and in China in the first quarter of next year. Prices start at $24,100; for the Cooper S at $27,650 MSRP. All prices exclude the $850 Destination and Handling fee.