MINI is now in its second decade under the BMW aegis, and apparently, it's time for some soul-searching.
Breathe easy, now. The Cooper is fine. Even though it's bigger than ever, it's also a pretty nimble, fun-loving hatchback, even with a three-cylinder engine. It's unscathed by the reshaping going on further up the family tree.
The rest of the MINI range, well, it's being pruned like so much privet. The helmet-headed Cooper Coupe and its concomitant Roadster? Axed. The two-door Paceman? Can't be long for this world, can it?
Proliferation is dead or dying, as MINI is refocusing its fortunes on the Cooper essentials and the Countryman crossover SUV. On the Cooper front, there's a new five-door model, and a convertible is on the way. The Countryman's headed into a second generation, when it will share its running gear with the marvy new BMW X1.
We're missing something, right? What about the Clubman?
Hinted at by last year’s Clubman concept, the odd duckling in the MINI family is coming back for a second generation, too. But this time, it's addressing all its shortcomings with big changes. The odd counts of side doors have been resolved--two on each side now, thanks. It's also much longer, too, a true compact car now, one notably bigger inside than the the Hardtop four-door that now occupies the size and niche where the former Clubman sat.
2016 MINI ClubmanEnlarge Photo
Stretching the envelope
Sportier Cooper S variants get the sizzling powerplant, a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 189 hp and 206 lb-ft (221 lb-ft with overboost) on tap. Of course, there's a more potent John Cooper Works model packing at least 228 hp and 236 lb-ft in the pipeline, but the turbo four's 0-60 mph times in the six-second range are amply fun in the meantime. Fuel economy reaches 24/34 mpg or 27 combined with the automatic, 22/32 mpg or 26 combined with the manual.
The standard transmission is a six-speed manual, and MINI claims credit for being the only brand to offer a manual on every model it sells, at every trim level. And it's a good manual, too, with a very light shift action and clutch uptake, which might explain why MINI drivers #GiveAShift. The paddle-shifted automatic is exceedingly well-mannered, though--it even offers satellite-aided shifting a la Rolls-Royce, and even launch control, but is more useful for the urban scuttling that shows off the Clubman's size to its best.
Underneath the Clubman's skin, there's a new front-drive platform that will eventually underpin every BMW compact car, tough and rigid. There's electronic power steering with quick, clean responses; a multi-link suspension and available adaptive dampers, and a Driving Modes system that lets you choose how you'd like your shift quality, throttle delivery, damping, and steering weight.
Finally, the Clubman comes standard with 16-inch light alloy wheels, while the S gets 17-inchers. Wheel sizes up to 19 inches can be specified.