- MINI JCW CLUBMAN
- Base price: $79,650
- Powertrain and economy: 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder, 225kW/450Nm, eight-speed automatic, AWD, combined economy 7.7 L/100km, CO2 177g/km (source: RightCar).
- Vital statistics: 4253mm long, 1441mm high, 1800mm wide, 2670mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 360 litres, 19-inch alloy wheels.
- We like: Unbelievably good fun to drive, most interesting Mini currently on sale
- We don’t like: Probably a bit too expensive, busy interior
- This road test was completed before the current coronavirus lockdown restrictions came into effect.
Mini updated the Clubman last year, giving the JCW version a power bump and refreshed looks inside and out. This year, it has given the six-door another tiny update and, thankfully, we got the chance to drive it before we went back into lockdown.
How is this the most interesting Mini?
Because the three-door Hatch is too obvious, and this is technically a wagon with a set of van-style barn doors at the rear. It’s also the JCW variant, which makes it automatically awesome.
Compared to the 2020 model, the powertrain hasn’t changed. It’s still a 225kW/450Nm turbocharged four-cylinder paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, sending drive to all four wheels. The engine has been given JCW-spec internals, a larger twin-scroll turbo and better cooling to generate 84kW more than the lesser Clubman Cooper S.
Exterior changes include slightly different headlights and taillights with the Union Jack motif.
The new model also gets the same multifunction display as the Mini Electric, which is nicer than the old analogue gauge, as well as a head-up display and a redesigned steering wheel. The large round centre console remains, with a slim rectangular screen in the middle and media controls below.
It’s a bit unnecessary, but I know Mini loves its history and tradition. Let’s just ignore the fact that the Clubman was originally a square-nose hatchback and the rear barn doors were actually a Countryman design point.
Is this the most powerful Mini available?
Sure is, on par with the JCW Countryman. The extra power brings it up to modern hot hatch standards (sorry, hot wagon), and it feels great, with most of the torque coming in low in the rev range and power peaking at just over 6000rpm.
The eight-speed automatic is quick and smart enough to be left alone, although there are paddles if you’d like to shift yourself. Which can be worth it, if you like pops and burbles through the exhausts. Flicking the switch into Sport mode changes the gearbox parameters for more abrupt upshifts and longer-held gears.
Thanks to all-wheel drive, there are huge reserves of grip, and even with the power increase, you’ll be hard-pressed to unstick either end. The chassis is very neutral without being too sterile, which might be a negative if you like your hot hatches (sorry, hot wagons) more unhinged.
While the Clubman is based on the same larger UKL2 platform as the current BMW 1 Series (and the Countryman) somehow the JCW engineers managed to trim weight down to a scant 1220kg. Compare that to the twin-under-the-skin M135i, which weighs around 1600kg. Both use the same engine, platform and have all-wheel drive too. Does that make the JCW Clubman a better hot BMW than an actual BMW hatchback? It’s hard to argue against that idea…
What about practicality? Since it is, as you say, a wagon…
Rear boot capacity isn’t the biggest at 360 litres, which is 10 litres fewer than the Mercedes-AMG A 35 offers, but it’s still enough for most day-to-day stuff like supermarket shopping.
The rear doors are a bit odd in that you have to open the left one first, then close it starting with the right, and they open quite quickly, so watch out. And, because of that split rear window, vision out the back is worse than a normal car, but you get used to it fairly quickly. There’s a reversing camera too, so it’s not the end of the world.
Space in the back seats is fine for most adults, although taller folk might be a little squished. And while the JCW Clubman is a hoot on fast roads, the harder suspension makes itself known in town, even in Comfort mode.
Aside from the firm ride, does the JCW Clubman do anything wrong?
Not particularly. I don’t know if I really like the interior – the centre console is quite busy and the big circle seems to house a lot of unnecessary plastic.
I do like the bidirectional toggle switches though, and the big start/stop switch in the middle that glows when you put your foot on the brake before start-up.
Aside from a few other minor infotainment niggles (the rotary dial scrolls through the menus the wrong way), and the fact the intake vent on the bonnet is fake, there’s not much here to really complain about.
Any other cars I should consider?
Compared to the mechanically related BMW M135i, the JCW Clubman is a steal. If you go into BMW’s 1 Series online configurator, the M135i starts at $102,235, which is too expensive.
The Mini also undercuts the Audi S3 ($85,900) and the Mercedes-AMG A 35 ($87,900).
But, if you compare the JCW Clubman to something like the Cupra Leon ($59,990), you’re looking at very similar performance for a decent amount less money. There’s also the new Golf R to look forward to as well.
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