MINI Clubman estate
“With its unconventional styling and twin boot doors, the MINI Clubman offers an appealingly left-field alternative to the traditional family hatchback”
- Well equipped
- Fun to drive
- Some won’t like styling
- Options can be expensive
- Still has unusual boot doors
MINI launched the Clubman estate in 2007, building on the success of the hatchback by offering the MINI design and image to buyers who needed something bigger and more practical.
The Clubman badge was resurrected and instead of being a conventional five-door hatch, the car was somewhat unusual; it was a MINI-based estate car with two side-hinged tailgate ‘barn doors’, plus a rear-hinged passenger door on the driver's side. Naturally, the latter opened on the opposite side to the average British pavement, which in truth wasn’t ideal for UK buyers.
When this, second-generation Clubman was launched, designers swapped this curious piece of design two conventional back doors. but retained the quirky tailgates. The proportions of the Clubman are still a little unwieldy but it looks much more svelte than it did before.
In 2019, the Clubman underwent a subtle facelift that gave it an extra dose of ‘Britishness’; gaining the somewhat divisive ‘Union Jack’ rear LED lights of the MINI Hatch. Its nose was given a new chrome grille design and there were several other very minor styling tweaks too.
It’s best not to think of the Clubman as a proper load-lugging estate. Although those unique rear doors open onto a usefully shaped estate-style space, at 360 litres, the Clubman’s load capacity is dwarfed by the smaller, cheaper Skoda Fabia Estate. The Clubman’s true rivals are really conventional five-door premium hatchbacks like the Audi A3 Sportback and Mercedes A-Class, as well as the Volkswagen Golf and MINI’s own conventional five-door hatch, and these boast boots of around 380 litres.
On the road, the MINI Clubman has softer suspension than the five-door MINI hatchback, although it’s still been designed with driver involvement as a priority. This is a winning combination, as you’re well insulated from poor road surfaces and potholes, yet the Clubman remains enjoyable to steer along twisty backroads. The rapid Clubman John Cooper Works even takes on the Volkswagen Golf R Estate thanks to a new 302bhp engine and four-wheel drive that makes it the most potent MINI ever.
The Clubman is offered with a range of petrol engines, and three main trim levels. The entry-level model is named Clubman Classic, or buyers can upgrade to a Sport or Exclusive for extra styling touches and equipment. Sport lends a racy air, with John Cooper Works alloy wheels, body styling and sports seats, while Exclusive brings mature looks with subtle chrome exterior trim and an indulgent leather interior. No MINI is badly equipped though.
Engines are a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol with 134bhp or a four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol with 189bhp in Cooper S trim. With a huge hike in power, the MINI Clubman JCW gets 302bhp thanks to a new engine shared with the BMW M135i. Four-wheel drive helps tame this output and deliver 0-62mph acceleration in just 4.9 seconds, making it exciting to drive.
Inside, the MINI Clubman is much like any other MINI model, with its quirky, well-built dashboard with a dominant central dial for the sat nav and infotainment displays. All MINI Clubmans have a leather steering wheel, sat nav, DAB digital radio, cruise control and rain-sensing wipers. Its specification can be tailored by adding optional packs and personalisation options.
The MINI Clubman scored four out of five stars in its Euro NCAP crash-tests, a lower score than some competition. It still comes complete with all of today’s essential safety kit, including autonomous emergency braking.
Our only reservation about the MINI Clubman concerns reliability. In our 2020 Driver Power owner survey, MINI was ranked a poor 26th out of 30 manufacturers, but at least only 8% of owners reported a fault within the first 12 months.
Hopefully MINI’s newer models will improve its overall score here, because in other respects the MINI Clubman is a very appealing, fun-to-drive and well designed family car that’s a characterful alternative to mainstream models.