A practical not-so-Mini. A full four-door riff on the iconic Mini shape, the 2019 Mini Clubman is an attempt to bring British charm to hatchback practicality.
The Clubman has the specs to compete with most other mainstream hatchbacks – 17.5 cubic feet of cargo can fit behind the second row, with up to 47.9 cu. ft. when the seats are down. That’s about on par with competitors like the Volkswagen Golf, although it falls short of some hatchbacks and compact crossovers.
The Clubman does offer one thing many hatchbacks don’t: all-wheel drive. All trims of the Clubman can be had with it. The Clubman seats five, and it’s reasonably comfortable for four adults. All the same, the front seats are where we’d be happiest spending our time.
Cartoon or cachet? It’s impossible to talk about a Mini without talking about the look. Although the Clubman may miss out on the Cooper’s Union Jack taillights, it’s still recognizable from a mile away. Whether that’s a pro or a con will depend on how you feel about Mini, but, in our eyes, it’s more stylish than most hatchbacks.
It also comes with plenty of Mini quirk. The rear hatch opens with two barn doors, which may be inconvenient if you’re backed against a wall, but it does look cool.
The interior isn’t quite as cartoonish as previous generations, but it continues the circular theme. The vents are round, the shift-knob socket is round, the center stack is round, and it houses a color-changing ring that replaces the old center-mounted speedometer. It’s a little over the top, but it’s also fun.
Still fun. The Clubman is longer than the traditional Mini Cooper, but it still manages to bring the excitement. The ride is firm but mostly comfortable, and the short wheelbase lends itself well to carving corners. This is a relief, as Mini’s other practical car, the Countryman, doesn’t always preserve the same sense of fun.
The steering walks the line between feedback and assistance, and the engines can be paired with either an eight-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission. The Clubman John Cooper Works is the fastest of the lot, but the priciest too.
The only exception is the Clubman All4, with all-wheel drive. The base three-cylinder engine produces just 134 horsepower, which is less than even the base trims of the VW Golf or the Mazda3. With the added weight of an AWD setup, the Clubman starts to feel sluggish, and it gets worse with passengers and cargo.
The other downside is the fuel economy. With an EPA-estimated 24 miles per gallon city, 33 mpg highway, and 28 combined, the Clubman is nothing special and it drinks premium fuel.
BMW bones, nearly BMW prices. Mini is owned by BMW, and that comes along with some perks. The interior materials are nicer than you’d expect, and upper trims can come with lovely leather. Fit and finish is what you’d expect from the Bavarians.
But Mini seems to have adopted BMW’s approach to option pricing as well, which means that the Clubman gets expensive in a hurry. The starting price of around $26,000 isn’t too bad, but a John Cooper Works Clubman in Iconic trim can easily pass $50,000. Even slower models can jump thousands in a hurry.
Oddly enough, this means that one of the Clubman’s competitors is the BMW X1. A Cooper S Clubman isn’t much cheaper than an equivalently specified X1, and it’s still less powerful and less luxurious. The Mini may have some added fashion appeal, but we wonder if they’ve gotten a bit too ambitious with the pricing.
Final thoughts. The 2019 Mini Clubman is a quirky choice for a hatchback, but it’s not without appeal. It’s practical enough for everyday use while preserving the classic Mini style and verve. Just be careful on the options list, as the Clubman makes the most sense when it stays close to $30,000.