MINI Clubman hatchback (2019 - ) review
The Clubman is Mini’s take on the prestige family hatchback, meaning it plays rival to popular cars like the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series, Mercedes A-Class and the Volkswagen Golf.
The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.0
The Mini Clubman has all the same attributes as a regular Mini - those being style, quality, prestige and an enjoyable driving experience – but it manages to add in a fair slice of extra practicality on top. It’s a worthy rival to premium five-door hatchbacks like the Audi A3, Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Volkswagen Golf, and while those rivals are rather conservative, the Mini has a good deal more style and swagger.
- Looks stylish
- Feels high in quality
- Fun to drive
- Not cheap, comparatively speaking
- Options can hike up the price further
- Trails some rivals for practicality
Interested in buying a MINI Clubman?
How good does it look?
Like all Minis, the Clubman has the sort of cute retro looks that buyers have been falling in love with for years, but with its bigger, longer body and unconventional rear doors, it stands out from the crowd even further. Just how glamorous – or otherwise – your car looks is entirely up to you, because not only do you choose from three trim levels that alter the aesthetics, there’s also shedloads of choice when it comes to the colour of the body, roof, and mirror housings, and that’s before you’ve even looks at the stripes and wheel options available.
Your three different trim levels are Classic, Sport and Exclusive, and all of them get alloy wheels. Sport trim adds an aerodynamic bodykit and a spoiler, while the Exclusive car gets extra flashes of exterior chrome trim. Whatever trim you choose, you’ll notice that Cooper S and John Cooper Works cars have an extra air intake in the bonnet that the lesser versions don’t have, while the JCW gets its own bespoke bodywork design with some shiny black elements, a sports exhaust and darkened headlamp lenses.
What's the interior like?
Unsurprisingly, the Clubman’s dashboard has the same sort of design as other Minis, so it combines interesting retro design with a good level of everyday usability. The same applies to the Mini’s infotainment system, which is sensibly laid out and easy to use as a result. If you’re concerned that the unusual arrangement of the boot opening (twin rear doors rather than a conventional bootlid or hatchback) is going to spoil your rear visibility, then don’t. Yes, the small rear window is split in two, but it doesn’t hamper your view as much as you might think. The driving position also has bags of adjustment to help you get comfy. Importantly, the cabin quality’s as good as it needs to be at the posher end of the hatchback market, with nice materials and a really good standard of fit and finish. Being a Mini, you also have loads of optional bits and bobs for personalising your car’s interior, really making it your own.
How practical is it?
The Clubman’s performance here rather depends on what you’re expecting. Some think that the Clubman is an estate car version of the Mini, which it isn’t, and those people are usually disappointed. Take it for what it is, though – a Mini that’s slightly bigger inside and out, making it a rival for premium five-door hatchbacks like the Audi A3 Sportback and Mercedes A-Class – and it starts to look more competitive. There’s decent rear-seat space, certainly enough for tall six-foot passengers to sit behind a similarly-sized driver with headroom and legroom to spare. Fitting three in the back is rather more of a squeeze, but that’s also the case in the rivals mentioned. The boot is competitive for space, with less than some rivals and more than others, but many drivers will find it to be perfectly adequate for their needs and there’s extra space to be found underneath the false boot floor. The rear seats also fold down pretty much flat to let you carry bigger loads, too. However, because the Clubman’s boot is enclosed by a pair of side-hinged rear doors rather than a conventional tailgate, getting to your cargo can be a bit tricky if you’re parked in a tight space.
What's it like to drive?
The Clubman can be had with one of three different suspension set ups. The regular car has the standard setup, while the John Cooper Works version has a sports suspension that’s lowered by 10mm (you can also add this setup to more humble versions as a cost option). On all cars, you can also add an optional adaptive suspension that lets you alter the behaviour of the car according to which of the two settings (Normal or Sport) you select.
So far, we’ve tried the Cooper on regular suspension and have been impressed at the balance it strikes between comfort and cornering ability. Minis are designed to be nippy and agile, which can often mean stiffening up the suspension at the cost of ride comfort, but the Countryman has no more than a firm edge to an otherwise pliable ride. Yet it still feels good through the corners, with a solid feel from the steering and quick reactions from the front wheels when you turn.
We've also tried the JCW on its regular non-adaptive setup, and it’s not as hardcore as you might be expecting. Yes, there’s a rather firm edge to the ride, but it’s not as raw or as raucous as you get in hot hatches at the more hardcore end of the spectrum, cars like the Honda Civic Type R and Renaultsport Megane. Likewise, the car handles with impressive control and agility, and the controls feel alert and progressive, but it doesn’t have the hard-edged, firecracker responses of some hot hatches. All that makes the JCW a more grown-up, more civilised take on the hot hatch, in much the same way that the Mercedes-AMG A35 and Volkswagen Golf R are. That’s no criticism though, because the JCW is still an enormously enjoyable car to fling around when you’re in the mood; it just means that you don’t have to suffer as much when you’re not.
How powerful is it?
The regular Clubman comes with a choice of two petrol engines, the 136-horsepower Cooper and the 192-horsepower Cooper S, and one diesel, the 150-horsepower Cooper D. We’ve tried the Cooper, and it should provide enough performance for a large chunk of the potential audience. It responds well on the throttle and the power is plenty for everyday use, but if you’re looking for proper poke in your Mini then you might wish for slightly more. That’s likely to be catered for by the Cooper S, but we haven’t had a chance to try it yet.
We have tried the range-topping hot hatch version, though, known as the John Cooper Works. It has a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine that develops 306 horsepower - a full 75 horsepower up on the previous Clubman JCW – which puts it on a par with other posh hot hatches like the Mercedes-AMG A35 and the Volkswagen Golf R. Stat fans will want to know that it does 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds, and fans of the real world will want to know that it feels fast and flexible, with a smooth, linear power delivery, rather than the boosty, blow-your-socks-off acceleration that the pottiest hot hatches give you. However, there’s still plenty to be said for the muscular-yet-grown-up way it piles on the pace, and there’s absolutely no doubting how quick it is.
How much will it cost me?
The Clubman will cost you a similar amount to the A-Classes and Golfs with which it competes, and these being premium products, all of them will cost you a good slice more than hatchbacks at the more humble end of the scale. But, although your initial investment will be bigger, these cars will also protect it better by having stronger resale values, and in turn, this will also help bring down monthly costs for finance customers. Figures for fuel economy and CO2 emissions are fairly even between the rivals, too, as are servicing and maintenance costs, so overall, the Mini’s running costs should be very similar to those of its rivals.
How reliable is it?
Look at reliability surveys like the JD Power UK Vehicle Dependability Survey, and you’ll notice that as a brand, Mini has been up and down in recent years. Still, the brand was on the upward end of that spectrum in the most recent survey, so that’s encouraging. So are our owner reviews, which speak about the car’s trustworthiness with a uniformly high regard. Like all Mini Models, the Clubman comes with a three-year unlimited-mileage warranty.
How safe is it?
The range-topping JCW Clubman comes with a few extra bits and bobs to improve on-road traction and grip, such as four-wheel drive, sportier suspension and an differential on the front wheels, but otherwise, all versions of the Clubman come with the same roster of safety kit. You get eight airbags as standard (that’s a lot for such a small space), plus an autonomous emergency braking system that applies the anchors automatically if the car senses an impending impact. If you don’t mind spending extra, you can also enhance your car's safety through the options list by adding either adaptive cruise control and a driving assistant, or a head-up display that projects certain driving data – including your speed and nav instructions – onto the windscreen in front of you. The pre-facelifted Clubman scored four out of five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests back in 2015.
How much equipment do I get?
All versions of the Clubman get basic equipment including air-conditioning, electric windows, rain-sensing wipers and an infotainment system with sat-nav, DAB radio, Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay. You choose between three different trim levels, those being Classic, Sport and Exclusive, but many of the differences between then are aesthetic rather than being about luxury equipment. There are a few little upgrades, though. Upgrade from Classic to Sport and you get rear parking sensors, cruise control and sports seats, while Exclusive trim earns you leather upholstery and cleverer cruise control. On top of that, John Cooper Works cars get climate control, front and rear parking sensors, a parking camera and heated seats.
The Clubman offers a large splash of character and style to an area of the market dominated by more conservative options. It’s good to drive and well-made, and in JCW form offers a fast, fun but still grown-up alternative to cars like the Mercedes-AMG A35 and Volkswagen Golf R. For the right buyer, it’ll be very appealing indeed.