You know that weird, digitized sound you can make by talking into a spinning fan? It’s a simple way to add menace to your voice; Darth Vader impressions are popular. Think of it as a strobe light for audio. Well, good news: Now you don’t need a fan — just a bumpy road and a Mini Clubman does the trick marvelously.
In true Mini spirit, the Clubman’s steering reacts quickly, and the front end responds well to sharp commands. Despite weighing over 3,100 pounds and having a 7-inch longer wheelbase than the hardtop, the Clubman retains Mini’s trademark go-kart feel, but at the cost of ride. It’s not harsh — the Clubman absorbs impact well, but undulations in the road put the Mini in vibration mode.
Don’t get me wrong — it’s a fun car. The 2.0-liter, twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder makes great power with nearly zero lag. Wind it up to 5,000 rpm and 189 hp hustles you through traffic with ease and leaves passers-by with a growly snarl. Seats hug your torso comfortably, there’s plenty of space for stuff inside and it has a cool, hipster look outside. It’s just not an everyday commuter for me. I already own a fan.
–Robin Warner, managing editor
After the Minis we experienced a few years ago, I would only call the ride on this one mildly harsh. I don’t think it has those run-flat tires like the older ones had, which made the ride too rough, even for an enthusiast. I did smash into one monstrous pothole on my way to work, and it felt like the tire was going blow off the rim. Thankfully it did not.
The turbo-four is peppy, with a whine that sounds like a Japanese car. It sounds OK, not too loud, but yeah, 189 hp feels like plenty in sport mode. That mode also adds automatic rev matching. Acceleration is smooth and even; I didn’t feel any turbo lag, and it has plenty to get in front of traffic, should the need arise.
I missed second gear a few times, which was weird. The clutch pedal weight is medium light, but I don’t really like the action on the shifter. I’d say it’s too vague.
Steering and handling? No complaints, really. The steering wheel has some pushback and weight to it, though it might feel a tad elastic, but the chassis is sharp with changes of direction, and there isn’t a lot of dive or roll.
Inside, I like the one knob for all of the functions. It hooked up to my iPhone and played podcasts immediately. The car itself had enough room, barely, to fit my huge new Recaro baby car seat in back, so no complaints.
I’d like to tell buyers to check out the VW Golf at this price, a segment stalwart, but it might be a tad small if this is the cargo room you’re looking for. It is a good combination of practicality and fun, though. And I think that’s where Mini has always excelled.
–Jake Lingeman, road test editor
On Sale: Now
Base Price: $30,300
As Tested Price: $32,330
Drivetrain: 2.0-liter DOHC turbocharged I4, AWD six-speed manual
Output: 189 hp @ 5,000 rpm; 207 lb-ft @ 1,250 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,445 lb
Fuel Economy: 21/30/24 mpg(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)
Options: Panoramic moonroof ($1,000); heated front seats ($500); thunder grey metallic ($500)
Pros: Great handling and lots of power
Cons: Ride may be too stiff for typical hatch buyers