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2016 MINI COOPER CLUBMAN Review by Steve Purdy +VIDEO

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By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

Sporty-car enthusiasts will agree that one of the most fun brands available in the U.S. is Mini, for a variety of reasons beyond the brand’s traditionally quick handling characteristics. Taking advantage of a storied history, BMW resurrected the nameplate in about 2000 to be a small, cute, hot-handling sub-brand of the German manufacturer. Mini has become a popular little car with a variety of models, not just a tiny sedan.

Our Clubman is a 4-door, 5-passenger, front-wheel drive little station wagon, weighing in at just over 3,000 pounds. The Clubman is in just it’s second generation, having been significantly redesigned for 2016. Unless you are an enthusiast or are paying close attention you would probably not notice the changes led by adding two doors to make it more functional. The previous one was a quirky three-door design. We still have the go cart-like stance and retro design details that define the brand. The almost cartoonesque design details, both simple and aesthetically fun, contribute significantly to Clubman’s fun factor. Large round headlights slant rearward high on the fenders and the sculpted lower cheeks house fog lights on either side of a dramatic, gaping grille. In my subjective view they’ve done a fine job of bringing the ambiance of the old Mini forward.

Lots of circles dominate the cockpit as well including a big one in the center of the dash with a multifunction screen and some other controls housed within. That big circle even sports swirling, changing colors around its circumference. Other surprising details pop out at us regularly in this unusual car. Most controls are kept quite simple and some toggles on the lower center stack add a bit of British flavor. Front seats accommodate even my broad beam well as it feels roomier inside than you might expect. This revised model is a tad wider than the outgoing one and those few inches are used well. We found nothing lacking in materials, fit and finish.

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The Morris Mini in the 1970s offered a little Clubman station wagon version(or, we could call it a ‘shooting brake’ since it was a two-door wagon) of the seriously diminutive original British roller skate as well. It included, as does this new one, handy double rear doors that swing outward like a cargo van. The doors are tiny and perhaps a bit less functional than a lift gate, but it’s so cool, who really cares? Cargo area is decent at 17.5 cubic-feet with seatbacks in position and with the seatbacks folded we have an impressive 47.9 cubic-feet. As you might surmise, that is considerably better than the Mini sedan and coupe.

Our Clubman is a quick little bugger. The 1.5-liter turbo 3-cylinder makes just 134 horsepower but a good 160 pound-feet of torque. (The 4-cylinder Cooper S Clubman comes with substantially more grunt.) Our little engine feeds power through a 6-speed Getrag manual transmission making it plenty fun to drive in spite of a leisurely 0-to-60 mph time of 8.9 seconds. Rated at 25 mpg in the city, 34 on the highway and 28 combined on regular fuel it’s reasonably efficient as well. We managed just over 28 mpg in our week with the car, spiritedly covering a variety of road types and conditions. With a 13.2-gallon fuel tank we have a decent cruising range.

The Mini Cooper Clubman shows a base price of $24,100. (The Cooper S Clubman with more power starts about $3,5000 more.) That price includes a good level of standard content including: leatherette seating surfaces, sport steering wheel, run-flat tires, automatic climate control, real-time traffic on the navigation system, ambient lighting, 16-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, and lots more. Our test car has the Technology Package, 17-inch wheels, panoramic sunroof and a few other options bringing the bottom line on the sticker to $31,750.

Mini’s new car warranty covers the whole car, including the powertrain for 4 years or 50,000 miles. All factory-recommended service is included for the first 3 years or 36,000 miles.

The Mini Clubman gets high marks for driving dynamics. Crisp handling and firm suspension, a comfortable and quiet cabin invite us to drive with spirit and conviction. While we’d like some more power we find the manual transmission makes for an entertaining experience on the road.

Lots of sporty small cars vie for attention in this market rife with competent and fun rides, decently priced, offering comparable content. You can find some with similar content for a bit less money, and some much more pricey, but you’ll be hard pressed to find one with as much character and personality as this Mini Clubman.

©Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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