The 2020 Mini Cooper S Clubman is the answer to a very interesting question. What would happen if you take a Mini Cooper hatchback, and try to apply some of its quirky charm and appeal to a segment blurring utility focused model? The end result is the Clubman which tries to add more versatility and cargo hauling ability into its distinctly British flanks. But while the Clubman Panel Van a few years ago was a short lived and ultimately flawed experiment, the standard Clubman has managed to gather a sizable following of loyalists over the years. We were eager to see if the Clubman could live up to its pedigree, and whether it could be a family friendly alternative to the standard Cooper?
Spunky Charm and Those Rear Doors:
When one looks at the Clubman, it’s very pleasing to see that it still manages to be a very handsome specimen to look at. From the A-pillar forward, our Coral Red Metallic tester retained much of its 1960s flavor, with the big headlights, equally large front grille, and the tidy hood scoop all doing there best to make the Clubman the center of attention. The main change for the 2020 model year is a reduction in Clubman trim levels, with the base model and its weaker engine being pitched. We won’t miss it much since driving it was like wearing a very bland pair of loafers, and its meager sales reflected that sentiment. Instead, the formerly mid-range Cooper S trim becomes the default model, and that is a welcome change. The “S” treatment brings a pinch of sportiness to the Clubman, with a light bodykit, the fore-mentioned hood scoop, and spicier wheels helping to project a very playful personality especially when driven through town. While the bigger Mini Countryman received a more extensive refresh of its exterior styling, the Clubman (as well as the standard Cooper) still use the older styling language, which might please loyalists, especially those that are still divided over the Countryman’s face.
But it’s ultimately the rear styling of a Mini product that allows observers to formally separate them from the crowd. In the case of the Clubman, it serves as the most radical example of this trait, with the rear fascia being heavily reworked. Unique LED Union Jack styled taillights are part of the package, while the lift gate is replaced with a pair of side opening rear doors. The doors are easy to operate, and they are a welcome feature for city dwellers that might have to deal with the low roof clearance of a parking garage. When viewed against contenders, the Clubman’s heavily retro theme and its small size puts it in a very interesting gray area between hatchback, compact CUV, and station wagon offerings. While the Mini plays the retro guitar better than the 500L, it does tend to be overtaken by more conventionally styled rivals like the Subaru Outback and the Buick Regal TourX. It’s important to note that the latter is being axed as a result of the Regal nameplate being shelved by General Motors due to a stronger focus on CUV and SUV offerings.
Time Warp Interior Incorporates BMW’s Vision For The Future:
The interior of the Clubman retains plenty of the spunky but lovable character that buyers expect when they slip behind the wheel. Mini designers went to great lengths to improve the quality of materials on hand, while also adding new features to boot. With the removal of the base trim from the lineup, the S is now divided into three sub trims (Classic, Signature, and Iconic.) Our Iconic grade tester serves as the range topping Clubman model, and as expected from a range topping offering, it arrives with a high amount of luxury equipment to coddle occupants. Thankfully, the extra niceties are bundled in with some of the core attributes that define the Mini driving experience. There are toggle switches splashed through out the cabin, and the over-sized dash mounted screen is still present. This area used to house the speedometer in older models, but those two items were swapped a few years ago to help better accommodate the screen. While this was seen as a very controversial move at first glance, the switch makes sense once you look at what the iDrive based system has to offer. For instance, the ambient lighting that surrounds the external unit is very expressive, and actually performs a wide variety of functions. This includes serving as a distance indicator for the rear parking sensors, a volume indicator for the radio, and so much more. Like other BMW based systems we have experienced recently, the system has minimal amounts of lag, and is very easy to use and operate. The optional touchscreen is a welcome addition to the party especially since the control knob can be a bit awkward to reach sometimes.
The leather seats in our tester were very supportive, and we were equally impressed with the amounts of long haul comfort that they had on hand. Head and legroom were very good, with our tester having reasonable amounts of room to relax. The rear seats can be a bit cramped for taller occupants, but look for this space to be a very popular area for children as well as shorter adults. But while the interior of the Clubman is certainly far more premium and less toy like than before, it’s not enough to hide some of the small flaws that join together to make certain things stand out. The rear cargo area that is found when you open the swing away doors for example is tight, and it trails many of it competitors even with the seats folded down. Apple CarPlay is available, but the infotainment system has no Android Auto, and the lack of blind spot monitoring is rather egregious considering that the rear pillars do create very chunky blind spots when out on the move.
Mini is also quick to remind buyers that the interior (like all of their offerings) is extremely flexible with customization, and as a result, buyers can equip a wide array of optional accessories and extras. These frills do add some fat to the pricing, but at the same time, it also works with some of the cool factory touches on hand which include the stylish blue ambient lighting, as well as the sweet sounding Harmon Kardon premium audio system.
The Closest Thing To A Road Going Go-Kart On The Market Today:
While we appreciate the higher levels of poise and luxury that Mini designers have added to the Clubman, being able to offer great amounts of driving fun has always been a brand hallmark, and our Clubman passed with flying colors. While the John Cooper Works variant will be the one to go to for buyers that want to truly attack a weekend track day, the Clubman S is still a very compelling entry in its own right. While its larger size does dilute the agility slightly, the steering and suspension are still tightly buttoned down, and deliver crisp feedback and communication to the driver’s hands. The lone caveat is that the firm ride does make the occupants pay in ride comfort, with bumpier roads producing teeth jarring feedback. Performance for our tester is provided by the familiar 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder that makes the rounds in other BMW and Mini models. Here in the Clubman, it makes a respectable 189 horsepower and an equally stout 207 lb-ft of torque which is very spirited for a vehicle of its type.
All Clubman S models get a 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission (JCW models get an eight speed trans) which allowed our front wheel drive example to make the sprint to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds. This outclasses the Fiat 500L’s 8.0 second 0 to 60 time, and allows the Clubman to be one of the more exciting entries in the segment. Clubmans with the optional all-wheel drive system can do the same feat in a spicier 6.6 seconds. This excitement does not come at the expense of fuel economy, though the extra weight of the all-wheel drive system does drop the figures slightly to a still commendable 23 mpg in the city, and a respectable 32 mpg on the freeway. While the Clubman prefers to be fed a strict diet of premium fuel, the charming Brit still outshines the Fiat 500L, and buyers looking for even more fuel economy can opt for front wheel drive models like our tester, which gets 26 mpg and 34 mpg respectively in city and freeway driving.
The engineering that is baked into the Clubman gets to really flex its muscles in urban commuting, with our tester being a willing partner when tasked with city driving. Narrow streets and parking jobs were a breeze, and the Clubman even played an assisting role in our evaluation of the Audew digital tire compressor (review pending.) Out on the freeway however, the Clubman felt jittery and darty at times, which forces the driver to have a delicate touch when changing lanes to keep the spunky Clubman from shooting over into the far lane. But despite this minor quirk, the Clubman is still a fun alternative to the bigger Mini Countryman CUV which forces drivers to sacrifice even more agility and poise for the ability to have an interior that is only slightly ahead of the Clubman, and fuel economy that lags behind it. It can also hold its own against the Mazda 3 hatchback, with the Clubman’s punchier engine behavior being a big advantage when it comes to its driving demeanor.
Pricing for many Mini models has always been a very noticeable weakness in recent years, and it’s a pity that it’s largely business as usual with the 2020 Mini Clubman S. While the base Classic has a $30,900 MSRP, going all in on options will cause the price to rapidly inflate. Our tester arrived with the range topping “Iconic” sub-trim which is a hefty $8,000 premium on the Classic, but does allow the Clubman to be loaded with an impressive arsenal of equipment. These include adaptive dampers for the suspension, power folding mirrors, Harmon Kardon premium audio system, a panoramic sunroof, and so much more. The Touchscreen Package is also bundled into the festivities and as mentioned prior, it brings its own roster of standard extras to the car. The end result of all of this is a Mini that ends up wielding a final sticker of $40,600 which includes the $850 destination fee.
This is quite a bit to pay for a hatchback, and while Mini does pride itself in being a premium small car brand, a $40,000 plus price tag is a clear reach into the upper reaches of the luxury sphere. The Fiat 500L is the most direct rival to the Clubman, but while it’s a very dismal automobile for the most part, the big Fiat does have a lower pricing ladder than the Mini, and it comes equipped with a more practical rear lift gate which moves upward out of the way to reveal more cargo space (22.4 with the seats up.) More potent rivals are found with the Volkswagen Golf and the Mazda3 hatchback. Both models have base MSRPs of just over $23,000, but the Volkswagen makes do with the 147 horsepower 1.4 liter turbocharged four cylinder, with buyers having to move to the GTI to get more horsepower. Meanwhile, the Mazda comes equipped with a bigger but naturally aspirated 2.5 liter four cylinder engine which matches the 186 horsepower offered by the Mini. The lack of punch is quite evident, but the Mazda does have a more upscale feeling interior, and more aggressive design to boot.
With an eager to please personality, retro flavored styling, and a whole host of versatility to match its mission in life. The 2020 Mini Clubman S is still a very potent entry in the gray area that resides between hatchbacks and compact CUVs. While the idea of a $40,000 hatchback may turn off some folks, if your a consumer that’s looking for something unique and are willing to go all in, the Clubman will be worth the effort.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.