During my year chaperoning the Mini Clubman, I got a lot of comments and questions about the bigger Mini model, but the most common was, “How do you like it?” Answering that question was always tricky because I do like the Clubman quite a bit. I’d think for a moment how I could justify its price premium, but after a second or two I’d concede: “I like everything about it except the price.”
But before we get into the Clubman’s value proposition, let’s talk about the things it has going for it. The second-most common comment I got on the Clubman was some variation of “nice car.” I tend to agree. Even among other quirky Minis on the road, this Clubman S stood out with its two-tone paint job with a deep red metallic hue as the primary color and black accents, including the roof, fenders, mirrors, and 18-inch banana-spoke-style wheels. Swiveling LED headlights and LED taillights with hypnotic concentric rings also helped it to look stylish. The Clubman’s long, wagonlike profile gave it a unique look that’s still distinctly Mini but slightly more mature than the hardtop.
In addition to looking sharp and attracting more attention than expected, this Clubman S All4 never failed to put a smile on my face. A well-sorted eight-speed automatic transmission makes the most of the Mini’s 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4’s 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque, downshifting quickly to an appropriate gear when the right pedal is applied. Clicking the gear selector ring over to Sport mode is said to do a number of things, but the most noticeable include heightening throttle response and stiffening the adjustable dampers (when equipped). I wouldn’t use “go-kart handling” to describe the Clubman S All4, but it’s certainly a lot of fun to drive on a twisty road.
My two-week road trip in the Mini proved it’s good not only for commuting and weekend canyon runs but also for long-hauling—at least when you have only two people plus their luggage to haul around. The Clubman’s longer wheelbase helped its ride quality on long stretches of highway, and the sport bucket seats provided comfort and support where needed. The rear barn doors weren’t as practical as a traditional liftgate, but they added character and came in handy when I wanted to throw something in the back quickly. The Clubman averaged 23.2 mpg while it was in our care—below its 26-mpg EPA combined average.
During its 14-month stay with Motor Trend, the Clubman racked up 23,122 miles. Maintenance over those miles was covered under the Mini Scheduled Maintenance Program, which is complimentary with all new U.S. Mini models. The program offers free regular maintenance—including inspections, oil and filter changes, brake fluid replacement, tire rotations, cabin air filters, spark plugs, and engine air filters—for three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. It’s an especially good deal if you plan on leasing.
With that said, we paid nothing for any of the Mini’s regular services. Outside of regular maintenance, there were two things we took the Mini in for: a four-wheel alignment to fix a tendency to pull to the left (possibly due to hitting a curb) and a software update to address a slow-running clock and door lock issue. The Mini also had two recalls that were performed gratis: one to remove excess material from the curtain airbags and one to reprogram the engine control unit. Initially, upkeep for your Mini will be cheap if not completely free, but after the complimentary maintenance runs out, expect to pay premium car prices for service. We would have paid $628.04 for everything without the program, according to a quote from one dealership. That’s not much less than our long-term 2014 Infiniti Q50S ($651.13) and a lot more than our 2016 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen ($276.71).
The 2017 Mini Clubman S All4 starts at a reasonable though still-pricey-for-a-compact $30,300, but our tester came loaded with $8,450 worth of options to an eye-popping $38,750. You don’t have to choose everything on the options list to get a good car, but many of them help it achieve that premium feel that sways people to choose a Mini over a compact from a more mainstream brand.
Mini made its rearview camera and parking sensors standard across its lineup for 2018, but in 2017 those features were only included if you chose the $1,750 Technology package. Meanwhile, LED headlights and LED foglights are bundled with Dynamic Damper Control in the $1,500 Sport package. Having to pay $750 for the Harman Kardon audio system isn’t surprising, but the $300 charge for satellite radio capability (with a 1-year subscription) is. If you don’t want to row your own gears, Mini will charge you $1,750 for its eight-speed automatic. The nickel-and-diming continues with $250 for 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats, $500 for hands-free keyless entry, and $500 for heated front seats (not equipped on this car).
Being a semipremium compact wagon, the Mini doesn’t have many direct competitors. The larger Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen might not be a perfect match, but it’s the closest thing we can think of. You can only get VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive on the bare-bones Sportwagen S, but a Golf Alltrack SEL (the Sportwagen’s crossover cousin) equipped comparably to our Clubman S All4 undercuts it by about $2,000 and includes driver-assistance features the Mini doesn’t offer. Forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control can be had with Mini’s $4,500 Fully Loaded package, but other safety features such as blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist aren’t available.
For most of the year I drove the Clubman, I couldn’t help thinking I could get a base Alfa Romeo Giulia, our 2018 Car of the Year, for about the same price. In fact, there’s a lot you could get in this price range that would top the Clubman in fun, practicality, or premium feel—but probably not all three in the same car.
Plus, there’s an X-factor that this car and other Minis have, which BMW has built a cult following around. The rowdy, slightly rebellious, fun-loving attitude the brand has become associated with might be all marketing hype, but it does come through in its products. You can hear it in the Clubman S’ exhaust pops and subtle blow-off valve venting noise. You can also see and feel it in the Mini’s unorthodox interior, which uses toggle switches and has an LED ring around the infotainment screen that lights up and changes color depending on driving mode and engine speed. These touches won’t impress and amuse everyone, but they call to a specific type of driver like a dog whistle.
If you’re looking for pure performance, value, or utility, I would shop elsewhere. But if you want something that’s equal parts fun-to-drive runabout and fashion accessory, the Clubman might be for you.
Read more about our 2017 Mini Clubman here:
|SERVICE LIFE||14 mo / 23,122 mi|
|OPTIONS||Technology Package ($1,750: rear view camera, Rear Park Distance Control), sport automatic tranmission ($1,750), Sport Package ($1,500: Dynamic Damper Control, LED fog lights), Harman/Kardon sound system ($750), Blazing Red metallic paint ($500), keyless entry and starting ($500), JCW Interior Package ($400: JCW leather steering wheel, headliner; satellite radio ($300), LED headlights ($250), 18″ Star Spoke black wheels ($250), roof rails ($250), split fold-down-rear seat ($250)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$38,750|
|AVG ECON/CO2||23.2 mpg / 0.84 lb/mi|
|MAINTENANCE COST||$0 (2-oil change, inspection; in-cabin air filter)|
|3-YEAR RESIDUAL VALUE*||$25,300|
|*IntelliChoice data; assumes 42,000 miles at the end of 3-years|
|2017 Mini Clubman Cooper S All4|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD|
|ENGINE TYPE||Turbocharged I-4, alum block/head|
|VALVETRAIN||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|DISPLACEMENT||121.9 cu in/1,998 cc|
|POWER (SAE NET)||189 hp @ 5,000 rpm|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||207 lb-ft @ 1,250 rpm*|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||18.3 lb/hp|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar|
|BRAKES, F; R||12.1-in vented disc; 11.0-in disc, ABS|
|WHEELS||8.0 x 18-in cast aluminum|
|TIRES||225/40R18 92Y Bridgestone Potenza S001 (RFT)|
|TRACK, F/R||61.2/61.2 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||168.3 x 70.9 x 56.7 in|
|TURNING CIRCLE||37.1 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,451 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST, F/R||58/42%|
|HEADROOM, F/R||40.2/38.0 in|
|LEGROOM, F/R||41.4/34.3 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/R||54.7/52.8 in|
|CARGO VOLUME||47.9/17.5 cu ft|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||3.9|
|QUARTER MILE||15.4 sec @ 88.4 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||107 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.89 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.5 sec @ 0.67 g (avg)|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||1,700 rpm|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$38,750|
|AIRBAGS||Dual front, front side, f/r curtain|
|BASIC WARRANTY||4 yrs/50,000 miles|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||4 yrs/50,000 miles|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||4 yrs/Unlimited miles|
|FUEL CAPACITY||13.2 gal|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON||22/31/26 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||153/109 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.77 lb/mile|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||23.2/36.3/27.7 mpg|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||Unleaded premium|
|*221 lb-ft with temporary overboost|