Over the course of 60 years, Mini has unquestionably developed a reputation that many other competing manufactures envy. What started as a project to create an all-around car that combatted the post-war fuel crisis while maintaining practicality and civility for the everyday driver, Mini has undeniably accomplished this task and continues to deliver an equally competent product in today’s day and age. The new Mini Clubman S still follows the original recipe of success that put Mini on the map over a half-century ago. The Mini Clubman S is the biggest, roomiest and most practical Mini one can buy.
While the Mini bloodline is evident on initial inspection, the new Mini Clubman S certainly sports some noticeable styling elements that you won’t see on a Mark I from 1959. The sportier and more aggressive front bumper available on the Clubman S model adds a bit of seriousness to the otherwise mellow exterior. With the intercooler ever-so-slightly peering through the lower bumper mesh, the Clubman S ups its intimidation factor. The optional black bonnet stripes and artificial hood scoop call back to Mini’s rally days and tie the modern look together nicely. To polish off the look, the test vehicle we drove came in an optional Emerald Grey Metallic paint ($1,000) that you can’t look away from. The rich tones will have you looking back and seeing a new shade in different light.
If you thought that the 2019 Mini Clubman S was eccentric and rousing on the outside, just wait for the interior. Very few automobile manufacturers have the audacity to create an interior as funky and captivating as Mini. Unlike the exterior that harkens back to Mini’s origins, the interior of the Clubman S will teleport you to the 22nd century. It’s hard to know where to begin; I know I was lost for words.
The front cabin has earned the right to be called a cockpit, complete with a starter switch straight out of a jet fighter. The surrounding switches and buttons would make any adult start to fidget worse than a child. While there is a lot to take in, the array of instruments is ergonomically masterful, with everything exactly where you’d expect it to be.
Our test vehicle came with even more equipment to add to the smorgasbord of features. With the $2,400 Multimedia Pro package, our Clubman S came equipped with a larger 8.8-inch touch screen monitor, Harman Kardon surround sound speakers and an intergraded heads up display. While the price is steep, the Multimedia Pro package is unquestionably worth it if you are tech inclined or a hardcore audiophile. The larger monitor makes on-screen navigation much easier and eliminates the need to squint to see smaller text. In my opinion, Harman Kardon provides one of the sharpest in-car audio system on the market, delivering deep bass and rich mid-tones. The integrated heads up display is also a treat, displaying speed and GPS instructions whilst keeping your eyes where they ought to be.
In addition, our test vehicle also came furnished with some experience enhancing creature comforts. Included in the Mini Climate Package is a panoramic glass roof for midnight star gazing, front seat heating for the colder days of the year and sun protection glazing to prevent sun induced blindness on your evening commute. For $2,400, these additions are hard to pass up.
To keep the interior even more entertaining, Mini has opted to fit the Clubman S with enough lighting equipment to illuminate a stadium. The colored LEDs on the dash scream for attention, dancing and bouncing when changing driving modes. With 12 color options to choose from, getting bored of the Clubman S’ interior lighting is extremely unlikely. While even this is a lot, there are even more notable lighting features to mention, some good and some not so good. The Clubman S’ has some comical features worth mocking. When the vehicle is locked, the roof mounted antenna fin flashes as if to say “look, but don’t touch.” The car alarm indicator light under the rear-view mirror is also extremely prominent at night, illuminating bright red whilst the interior dash also has a LED strip which dances around like something out of David Hasselhoff’s Night Rider flick. While you’ll never question if your Clubman is locked upon a quick glance, it might also draw some unwanted attention.
Okay, enough tech and spec mumbo-jumbo, on to the important question; How does it drive? In short, it shines in some areas and falls flat in others. Acceleration and delivery of power are certainly the Clubman S’ saving grace. With 141 kW and 280 Nm of torque on tap, the Clubman S is no slouch. With a BMW designed 4-cylinder motor coupled with a lag-less twin scroll turbo system, the 2019 Clubman S races from a standstill to 100km/h in an impressive 7.2 seconds. Motorway passes won’t be an issue. The lack of flat spots in the torque band make power delivery smooth, even and consistent. The 8-speed sport automatic transmission is also a place of promise, as it sorts the power nicely. No power is lost at redline and the Clubman S seems to always be in the right gear at the right time.
Now for the not so good. The Clubman S handles like a go-kart. With the Clubman S weighing 400kg more than a standard Hardtop 2-door Mini Cooper, the extra weight definitely factors into dulled handling characteristics. In comparison to other vehicles in the premium hatchback class, such as VW Golfs and Ford Focus’, the Clubman S can still compete in terms of handling, but just barely. The additional weight of the Clubman can especially be felt coming out of bends. Due to the front wheel drivetrain and nature of the steering damper setup, torque and brake steer are always present, and not fun. You are consistently fighting for composure as steering dampers send feedback straight to the steering wheel.
The Clubman S’ suspension is also a point of contention. Mini has opted to fit the Clubman S, and others in the Mini lineup, with severely stiff suspension and run flat tyres. This combination makes rough roads catastrophic and nicely paved roads simply a joy to drive.
In sport mode, performance of the Clubman S is significantly sharpened. Accelerator input is also more sensitive, making the Clubman seem to go much faster, much quicker. The exhaust clears its throat as well, turning heads on residential streets. As an onlooker from the outside, downshifting sounds somewhat interesting, but results in a rather hideous tone from the cabin, whereby the monotone pops produced sound more like the start of a corny knock-knock joke than a high-performance automobile.
In truth, the Mini Clubman S isn’t a poorly performing vehicle, it was just designed with other purposes in mind. While the Clubman S isn’t the most agile or composed car in its class, that was never its intended purpose. The Clubman S is a platform made for large, extracurricular activity participating, families.
So, what do you get for sacrificing a bit of fun for a wealth of practicality? An astonishingly capable, well-rounded, daily driver. This is especially true for those hauling young kiddos to and from school. It is no question that the Clubman S is the most spacious vehicle in Mini’s lineup. The generous legroom in the back will easily allow even full-grown adults to be able to stretch a bit and in style. The detailed stitching on the leather seats and Mini Cooper Works badging on front row seats adds a sense of elegance from the rear cabin. The Clubman S also has a deceptively huge amount of available boot space. With the rear seats upright, the Clubman S has 360L of space at your disposal and 1250L with the 40/20/40 seats in their folded position. Unless you’re trying to haul a grand piano, this should be more than enough space for everyday use. For a base price of $45,900, you certainly get some bang for your buck.
It seems that all walks of life can find something attractive about the 2019 Mini Clubman S. Whether it’s a nostalgic motor enthusiast who owned a Mark I Mini in the early 60s, or a new-car buyer, the Clubman really is an all-rounder. While lacking true hot hatch performance, the Clubman S is certainly more entertaining than other vehicles that comprise of the same level of practicality. It is clear that Mini found a winning formula from the company’s inception and continue to use it to this day.
By Amandeep Sethi