by Gord Scott
“The look is lower, longer, and wider but the front of the car remains resolutely smiley-face Mini.”
It’s hard to stand out in this stylish city full of blondes, boats and boutique prices – but a shapely rear end helps.
The 2016 Mini Clubman’s caboose earned its share of stares during a recent debut on the cobblestone streets of Sweden’s capital.
This third-generation Clubman is the biggest Mini yet, taking the famous BMW-owned brand from “subcompact” to “premium compact” territory.
It would have been easy to mess this assignment up: Upsize an odd-duck subcompact model (the previous Clubman, with its bizarre fifth “suicide door” layout), add a host of roomy creature comforts, religiously adhere to the spunky personality of the car, and make it look like a Mini.
Thankfully, the Mini-ons were up to the task.
Read: ‘The 2016 Mini Clubman Is The Cool Mini For Grown-Ups‘ via Jalopnik
They started with a new chassis, shared with BMW’s front-wheel-drive 2-Series Active Tourer.
The look is lower, longer, and wider but the front of the car remains resolutely smiley-face Mini. As the elongated roof stretches over the four full doors and begins to taper, however, things become interesting. The new Clubman is pleasantly two-faced – the trademark “barn doors” combine with sheet-metal and taillight curves to give the rear an arresting “I’m-watching-you” look.
All of this design work has one aim – more cupholders. Well, not really. It’s about making it possible to fit in four of your friends or family, plus some luggage. (If you reduce that to four in total, the two in the back do, indeed, get to enjoy cupholders that spring from a fold-down armrest.)
Project leader Ernst Fricke proudly proclaimed that the Clubman can “be used as the first car in the family.”
The interior certainly lives up to the premium label, and the dash, steering wheel and heads-up display fairly bristle with infotainment connectivity. The presence of a real console (yes, cupholders and storage) comes courtesy of the use of an electric parking brake, and adds unprecedented (for Mini) elbow room. Lots of very cool LED lighting would help ward off some of the inevitable blues brought on by long, dark Swedish winters.
The front seats (electric is an option) offer just the right amount of bolstering for go-kart moves, and legroom is fine for an almost-six-footer. A short ride aft revealed almost un-Mini-like room for backseat drivers, although road noise and roughness seemed more pronounced than up front.
Trunk volume with the rear seats folded down is listed at about 44 cubic feet (compared to the Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon’s cavernous 66.5 cubic feet), and there is an optional three-way splitting rear seat back to juggle loads.
The barn doors allow plenty of access for those Ikea boxes, and get even more fun with the optional easy-opener feature. With the key in your pocket, one kick under the rear bumper opens the right door, another kick opens the left. Chances are most shopping trips will only require a single kick at the Clubman’s can to stow the stuff.
The Clubman shares engine choices with the rest of the Mini clan; a base three-cylinder with 102 horsepower, the Cooper’s three-cylinder at 136 horsepower, or the Cooper S’s four-cylinder with 192. Transmission choices are the six-speed manual, or a new eight-speed automatic. BMW’s usual arsenal of road-conquering technologies are either built in or are available.
The Stockholm area presented a few challenges. Firstly, it is city of 14 islands, with hundreds more nearby. This means a lot of water, which means a lot of bridges – and a good number of ferries.
The rolling, lake-studded Canadian Shield-like landscape northeast of Stockholm does present inviting stretches – but the tempting country roads are home to the very vigilant police force, and dreaded Blue Meanies.
Once the Clubman broke free from these constraints, its inner go-kart was revealed. There was never any doubt that there was more Mini than usual to throw around, but fun could be summoned – especially with Sport mode selected. The manual certainly kept it real, but the automatic really needed to be in its own Sport mode to simulate the experience.
This new six-door strikes a nice compromise between Mini mania and multitasking. Like the car, the families who take delivery after the Clubman shows up in showrooms early next year are growing out, not up. The Mini Cooper Clubman starts at $24,990, the Mini Cooper S Clubman at $28,990. Of course, these being Minis means infinite (almost) options and individualization, which would take you north of that pretty quickly.