For years now, the number of manual transmissions has been dropping in favor of the automatic transmissions. True car enthusiasts have bemoaned the loss of the stick while automakers pander to growing consumer demand for automatics (plus, many drivers can’t drive a manual). However, with the Mini Cooper Clubman, the manual vs. automatic debate is at the heart of the car. Is a Mini Cooper, well, a Mini Cooper without a stick? Nope.
A few weeks ago, I reviewed a 2016 MINI Cooper Clubman S manual and enjoyed all of its quirkiness including the thrill of getting off the line and rowing through the gears. With its small size and 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, it was a thrill to drive and felt more like a highly powered toy than a 5-passenger hatchback.
Then, a few weeks later, another 2016 MINI Cooper Clubman S arrived and this time it was equipped with an automatic transmission and the smaller 1.5L turbocharged 3 cylinder. While this MINI Cooper had a different exterior color and wildly colorful Chesterfield Leather Indigo seats (compared to other markers tan and gray colors), the biggest differences were in the transmission and engine.
Before we get into the transmission debate, let’s examine the two engines offered by MINI for the Clubman - 1.5L turbocharged 3-cylinder and a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder.
The entry-level 1.5L comes standard on the non-S model that starts at $24,100. It produces 134 HP at 4400 RPMs and 162 lb-ft of torque at 1250 RPMs which translates into a 8.9 second 0-60 time. This engine has plenty of low-end torque for its 3,100 lbs and feels fairly quick off the line.
In comparison, the 2.0L is much more powerful with the additional size and cylinder. This engine choice adds $3,500 to your price and comes in the S Cooper line. It produces 189 HP at 5000 RPMs and 207 lb-ft of torque at 1250 RPMs which translates into a 7.0 second 0-60 time for manual (.1 second faster with automatic). The S is a bit heavier at 3,235 lbs in the manual and 3,300 lbs in the automatic.
The larger size engine adds more power while sacrificing some fuel economy. For example, an automatic 1.5L Cooper returns an EPA estimated 25/34/28 city/highway/combined MPG while the 2.0L Cooper returns 22/32/26 city/highway/combined. With a 13.2 gallon tank, the 2 MPG combined fuel economy difference adds up to 104 miles more on the road and not at the gas station.
Manual or Automatic?
Like the clear engine differences in the MINI Cooper, the manual and automatic transmissions provide a much different feeling. Unlike some cars, with the MINI Cooper, there is a clear distinction in the fun factor.
Officially, MINI offers 3 transmission choices in the MINI Cooper lineup. There is a 6-speed Getrag manual, 6-speed automatic and an 8-speed automatic. The additional 2-speed transmission is only for the S and S ALL4 packages to help improve fuel economy.
In the two recent test models, I had both the 6-speed automatic and a 6-speed manual. While the 6-speed automatic was simpler to drive, it really lacked the pop and fun of the 6-Speed manual even with the 6-speed automatic coming with the smaller engine. While I didn’t get the chance to drive a 6-speed manual with the 1.5L turbo, I am lead to believe it would have more pop due to holding the first few gears longer off the line.
Ultimately, this buying decision comes down to many factors like personal preference, the ability to drive a manual and how the car will be used. For me, the decision is clear. If you want a MINI, you want a manual.
Model: 2016 MINI Cooper Clubman
Engine: 1.5L Turbo-charged 3-cylinder
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
- Pure Burgundy Metallic - $500
- Chesterfield Leather Indigo - $1,750
- Fully Loaded (Premium Package, Sport Package, Technology Package/Navigation, Wired Package) - $5,250
- 18” Star Spoke Silver Wheels - $500
- STEPTRONIC Automatic Transmission - $1,500
- Interior surface Piano Black - $200
- Heated Front Seats - $400
- Satellite radio with 1 year subscription - $300
Price as Tested: $35,450 with $850 destination charge
2016 MINI Cooper S Clubman