The Mini family can be confusing, what with all the many—ha, get it?—variants that all have a strong family resemblance. Strong? It’s become a little more confusing with the introduction of the 2016 Mini Cooper Clubman, which to the uninitiated can be confused with the Mini Countryman. Actually, just like the old Clubman could.
Here’s why. The Mini Countryman used to be the biggest Mini and the only true four-door. The Mini Cooper Clubman, from 2008-2015 was a sort of a three-door, with a suicide door on the right that was overlapped by the front door so as not to open with disastrous effects while the car was moving (hence the suicide designation). It was a longer Mini with something of a back seat.
The Mini Countryman, on the other hand, is a mini-SUV (or Mini SUV, if you will), with raised ride height, all-wheel drive and, as we noted, the ability go off-pavement to go to the grouse. It had four conventional front-hinged doors and a top-hinged hatch out back. The Mini Countryman was the biggest Mini, but it filled a different role than other Minis.
Which brings us to the 2016 Mini Cooper Clubman. Like its predecessor, the 2016 Clubman has the endearing double barn-doors at the rear, complete with mini wipers on each side. But it’s longer overall, not only from the first-generation Clubman but also wider, longer and wider than the Countryman as well. The numbers with the relative size inches (the Clubman’s specifications and how much larger the 2016 Clubman is than the others):
|2016 Clubman||Hardtop 4-door||Countryman||2015 Clubman|
The Clubman has grown, a foot longer than the old Clubman, a half foot longer than the Countryman. And it’s a heck of a lot longer than the two-door Hardtop. It’s marginally wider than the Countryman, but a whopping four-plus inches wider than the old Clubman. The Countryman, of course, is taller, thanks to its off-pavement capacities.
Once past the overall family resemblance—the googly-eyed headlights through the hood, the near vertical windshield and overall boxy shape—the differences are obvious. The new Clubman looks almost limousine compared to the others, the rear doors and rear windows stretched, and from the rear, the 2016 Clubman looks almost squat. Though just barely wider than the Countryman, being shorter makes the width appear much greater.
The big differences come inside. The knee room of the new Mini Cooper Clubman is two inches more than the older model, and we put the 2016 to a test, not only putting a 6’ 2” passenger in the back seat but also going for an hour long ride. Getting in wasn’t easy. The 2016 Mini Cooper Clubman sits low and the gap between the B-pillar and seat bottom isn’t big. But once folded into the second row seat, our passenger didn’t complain—too much. Well, it’s not a 7-Series BMW.
Think of the 2016 Mini Clubman as a station wagon and you’ll be close to the mark. A lot of the added length of the Countryman goes into the cargo area. At 17.5 cubic feet, the new Clubman has almost double the stuff space than the last one. It’s also 4.4 cubic feet bigger than the Hardtop 4-door, while it’s exactly the same as the Clubman.
Fold the rear seatback down, however, and the Clubman’s cargo capacity jumps to 47.9 cubic feet. That’s a whopping 15 cubic feet more than the previous Clubman. As an added bonus the 2016 Clubman has a flat cargo floor with the seatback folded, making it easy to slide large objects all the way to the front seatbacks or neatly stack items without them wedging in awkwardly greatly increases the utility of the cargo space.
That folding rear seatback, however, was likely the source of complaint from our back seat riders. Not only from our taller subject but also one 5’6” tall cited a stiff section that cut across their backs, making the ride uncomfortable. Based on that and not so much the room, we’d never double date in the 2016 Mini Cooper Clubman with that couple again.
The front seats are a matter of preference. Our test 2016 Mini Clubman was equipped with the $2,000 Sport Package, which includes LED headlights, 17-inch wheels, Dynamic Damper control…and sport seats. These seats have tall bolsters on both the seat bottom and back. If you like them, you’ll love them. Otherwise, not so much.
Like other new generation Minis, the 2016 Countryman has abandoned the central speedometer/steering column-mounted tachometer. Instead, the big circle in the center of the dash is simply the standard BMW multi-information display set in a ring. The ring lights up jukebox style when you do various things, such as accelerating or turn the heat up or down. It’s harmless but entertaining. We wonder how much it adds to the cost of the Mini. We know that it adds some funkiness lost elsewhere, such as the speedometer/tachometer cluster on the steering column. Note that the speedometer is mentioned first in that sentence. That’s because it’s bigger, with the tach small and relatively hard to see. Really, Mini?