What Car? says...
Some might argue that there's not much that's mini about the Mini Clubman. After all, it's a Volkswagen Golf-sized family car, even if it does take its design cues from the Mini Traveller and Countryman estates of the 1960s.
After the current Countryman SUV, the Clubman is one of the larger models that Mini offers. Thanks to its size, its four passenger doors, and its unique 'barn' doors boot arrangement, it’s one of the more practical as well. But perhaps the main draw is that it's more distinctive and customisable than many of its rivals, which, include the Volkswagen Golf, Mercedes A-Class and Audi A3 Sportback.
In 2019 Mini gave the Clubman a mild facelift. This included a new-look front end with a revised grille and headlights, plus distinctive Union Flag-aping LED tail-lights to bring it in line with the design of the Mini three and five-door hatchbacks. It also upgraded the infotainment system to offer innovative features such as the ability to connect to Amazon's Alexa voice assistant; this allows you to ask Alexa whether the Clubman's doors are locked, where the car is located and when its next service is due.
The range was slimmed down at the same time, but you can still choose from a diesel engine and three petrols, including the 302bhp Mini Clubman John Cooper Works model.
Speaking of which, Mini likes to position itself as a sporty brand, so is the Clubman any good to drive? Read on over the next few pages to get our in-depth impressions, and we'll give you a rundown of how it compares with its rivals, as well as our recommendations on which of those engine and trim levels to choose.
Don't forget to click on our New Car Buying page for great no-hassle deals on almost any new car, including the Clubman.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Despite being bigger and heavier than the Mini hatchback, this is still a decent car to drive. There’s enough front-end grip, while the steering is quick but less nervous than it is in the hatchback. It never weights up very progressively, though, so you don’t feel as connected to the front wheels as you do in its best-handling rivals, such as the Ford Focus. Ultimately, the Focus and Audi A3 are better-balanced cars, too, and more fun for keen drivers as a result.
If you stick to the smaller wheel options and standard suspension, the Mini Clubman offers a well-controlled ride, but it's not as supple as the Mercedes A-Class and Volkswagen Golf ; the Clubman controls its body movements well but jolts you harder over ridges. Stiffened and lowered sports suspension is a no-cost option on Sport trim and is standard on the JCW, and makes the ride firmer still. Adaptive suspension is a sensibly priced option on all versions, and gives you greater suppleness or firmness on demand.
The entry-level Cooper 1.5-litre petrol is pokey enough and our choice. It'll take you from 0-62mph in a respectable 9.2sec, but, if you want more performance, there's also a more powerful 2.0-litre Cooper S petrol model. The four-wheel drive JCW model aims to rival the best hot hatches, and with more than 300bhp, it's certainly rapid once you get past the automatic gearbox's hesitancy to downshift; you need to stick it in Sport mode to liven it up. However, the JCW still doesn't feel anywhere near as fast as a Volkswagen Golf R or Mercedes-AMG A35, or as excitingly explosive at the top of its rev range as the Honda Civic Type R.
The diesel-powered Cooper D isn’t quite as willing as you might hope, running out of puff at about 4000rpm and feeling a little inflexible below that. It’s fine if you’re just cruising around but can be a bit frustrating when pressing on.
Unless you live in an area that’s particularly susceptible to slippery road conditions caused by snow, ice or mud, we wouldn’t bother with the All4 four-wheel-drive versions; you really won’t notice the benefits over the front-wheel-drive models.
Wind noise is pretty well contained (apart from a little buffeting from the door mirrors), as is road noise, as long as you don't go mad adding massive alloy wheels and tyres. The 1.5 Cooper engine is smooth and quiet once you're up to speed, but the automatic engine stop-start system can be rather abrupt in traffic.
The interior layout, fit and finish
A funky, neatly designed interior is one of the many reasons that lots of people find Minis so appealing, and the cabin of the Clubman is suitably stylish. There are lots of cool details, and it’s all built and finished to a very high standard. Only the Audi A3 goes one better for a premium feel.
The Clubman’s driver's seat is quite short under the thigh and needs a little more side support in corners – an issue not remedied even in the sportiest versions with sports seats. It's a shame that the backrest angle is adjusted using an awkward lever rather than a simple wheel, and that you have to pay extra for adjustable lumbar support on the Classic and Sport trims.
Despite everything, though, the seat is still generally comfortable on long motorway trips, and its actual position is very good in relation to the pedals and steering wheel. Also, the steering wheel has a vast range of movement and, because the instruments are fixed to the column, you can always see them no matter where you position the steering wheel.
Fortunately, the infotainment system is dead simple to use while driving; its rotary controller is placed near the gearlever and there are numerous shortcut buttons. Apple CarPlay is standard but Android Auto isn't offered at all, and it only comes with a 6.5in screen as standard. You can upgrade this to an 8.8in screen (part of the optional Navigation Plus Pack) that also adds the flexibility of touchscreen control, as well as bringing more features to help it compete with the A-Class's excellent system. These include access to a concierge service, online subscriptions and the ability to link the car to Amazon Alexa, as we mentioned in the intro.
Visibility out, in all directions, isn’t bad. It’s only the split in the rear doors that frustrates mildly, because it creates a central blindspot directly behind the car. If you think that will be an issue, go for the Sport trim, because it comes with rear parking sensors as standard. Front sensors and a rear-view camera are included with the (pricey) Comfort Plus Pack. Meanwhile, all models benefit from LED headlights to go with the snazzy Union Flag tail-lights.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Front space is up there with the best models in the class, leg room being particularly generous. A pair of adults will be perfectly comfortable in the back of the Clubman, but anyone much over six feet in height, sitting behind a tall driver, will feel a little tight on knee room. And, while you can squeeze three people in the back, they’re unlikely to want to stay there for long due to the narrowness of the rear bench.
Interior storage for odds and sods is very good, with lots of trays, nooks and crannies dotted about the place, plus a reasonable glovebox and a couple of cupholders.
The boot offers 360 litres of storage space, regardless of whether you opt for four-wheel drive or not. That's a little more than the Golf can offer, and you can expand it further by folding part or all of the 60/40 split rear seat, although doing so leaves a slightly sloped-up boot floor. You can upgrade to more versatile 40/20/40 rear seats for a small charge. Either way, there's enough room for a large pram or a couple of decent-sized suitcases, even without folding the seats. There's some additional underfloor storage space, too, but there are bigger boots in the class, such as those of the Mercedes A-Class and Honda Civic.
Mini’s decision to retain the quirky split rear 'barn' doors makes access in tighter spaces potentially problematic – if someone parks close behind you, for example.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The Clubman is one of the pricier family cars. It trades on its premium badge credibility to go toe-to-toe with rivals such as the Audi A3, Mercedes A-Class and BMW 1 Series, rather than cheaper alternatives like the Skoda Octavia. It holds on to its value reasonably well as a result, but resale values are still behind the A-Class's.
Stick with our suggested 1.5-litre Cooper engine and you'll get reasonable fuel consumption (officially up to 50.4mpg and in reality around 40mpg with a mix of driving) and competitive CO2 emissions (from 120g/km is you go for the automatic gearbox). The Cooper D will manage better fuel consumption if you're a high-mileage driver, but the 4% diesel benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax surcharge levied against it will be felt in the pockets of company car drivers.
As well as being arguably more distinctive than many rival offerings, personalisation is a Clubman speciality. It offers a range of optional finishing touches, such as contrasting colours for the roof and door mirrors. On top of that, you can add a wide array of extra features, including a head-up display, but most of these come as part of pricey option packs.
We recommend entry-level Classic trim with the Comfort Pack, which includes heated seats, a front centre armrest and climate control, along with the Navigation Plus Package. This combination will give you a good equipment count for a reasonable price.
The Clubman didn’t fare as well as some rivals in Euro NCAP safety testing, attaining a four-star rating in 2015, under tests that were less stringent than they are today. With a five-star rating, the Mercedes A-Class scored much higher in more demanding tests in 2018.
Mini, as a brand, came eighth out of 31 in the 2019 What Car? Reliability Survey. That's better than Mercedes managed but behind Kia and Hyundai, both of which also give you a much longer warranty than Mini's standard 36 months.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here
|RRP price range||£27,440 - £41,000|
|Number of trims (see all)||8|
|Number of engines (see all)||3|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||38.2 - 48.7|
|Available doors options||6|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£1,682 / £2,953|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£3,364 / £5,906|