ROADSTER GONE FROM LINEUP
AS MINI THINKS BIG WITH CLUBMAN
The last time I scribbled in this space (if you can scribble electronically) I gave a short synopsis on the 2012 Mini Cooper S Roadster and linked to my full review at examiner.com.
I had a lot fun during my week in that car, which was a new model that year, especially since it had a six-speed manual transmission.
Apparently, not enough people shared my enthusiasm, however, because Mini announced in a release dated Feb. 11, 2015, that it was discontinuing production of it and the other two-seater in its lineup, the Mini Coupe. According to the release, the two “will finish their careers together and as planned.”
As planned? Maybe it’s the cynic in me but I would think that lagging sales had something to do with it. A Car & Drive blog post at the time of the announcement noted that after just over two years, worldwide sales of the two vehicles were 27,350 for the Coupe and 28,867 for the Roadster, making it very much a “niche” vehicle.
And that niche has gotten smaller. According to the website GoodcarBadcar.net, 673 Roadsters were sold in the U.S. the first six months of 2016 and 258 Coupes over the same period. Three customers stepped up to buy the Roadster in June. One. Two. Three. Wonder if they knew each other.
But I’m a bit off point here.
I haven’t come to bury the Roadster (or Coupe) but simply to note that my first effort in the revival of my blog after a nearly four-year hiatus also has to do with another Mini. Kind of a symmetry there.
This time, it’s the Mini Cooper Clubman that was introduced for 2008 and redesigned for 2016.
The 2016 Mini Cooper Clubman is a slightly larger version of the basic Mini Cooper Hatchback with more legroom for backseat passengers and more stowage space for your gear. That doesn’t make it a large vehicle by any means — it’s only a tad over 168 inches long — but legroom is a couple of ticks over 34 inches in the rear and there is 17.5 cubic feet of cargo space. Figures for the standard Mini Hatchback are 30.8 and 8.7, respectively. Mini says max cargo capacity for the Clubman is just under 48 cubic feet. Instead of a liftgate, doors to the rear cargo area are side-hinged.
The Clubman is offered in two trims.
My test vehicle for the week was the base Clubman that carries an MSRP of $24,950 including the $850 destination and delivery charge. With extras like a Sport Package (adjustable suspension, LED headlights, sport seats, and 17-inch wheels over the standard 16s), a Technology Package (navigation, rearview camera, and parking assistant), a six-speed automatic transmission in place of the standard six-speed manual, keyless entry, front sport seats, and satellite radio with a one-year subscription, the total came to $32,750.
It has a 1.5-liter, TwinPower turbo three-cylinder engine. That makes it the first three-cylinder that I’ve ever driven (at least I can recall), but with 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque, I didn’t notice anything different or lacking about it from the usual turbo four. Fuel economy isn’t all that great, just 25 mpg city, 35 highway with the manual and 25/34 with the automatic.
The Clubman S comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that bumps up the power to 184 hp and 207 lb.-ft. of torque with fuel mileage at 24/34 with the automatic and 22/32 with the manual. The 17-inch wheels and sport seats are standard on the S, which starts at $28,550 including destination and delivery. An eight-speed automatic tranny with paddle shifters is available on the S.
Considering how much kick you get driving the base Clubman, you’ve got to figure the S gives even more fun behind the wheel. That’s one of the benefits of driving a smaller car, by the way. Even if it’s not, it seems nimbler than a larger car, and you can get the feel of really ripping off a hot lap without catching the eye of a roadside trooper — 60 mph has kind of the feel of 70.
The Mini Cooper Clubman does face a lot of competition, however. U.S. News & World Report, which does an analysis of reviews from several different critics, rates it no better than No. 8 among 16 cars in the subcompact class. That puts it behind its sidekick, the two-door Mini Cooper Hatchback (No. 4), but ahead of the Mini Cooper Paceman (No. 11). It is just ahead of the Toyota Prius C (No. 9), though I see a big gap between the two.
What I liked about the 2016 Mini Cooper Clubman: It’s fun to drive, even with the automatic, and the quality of the interior is very high, thanks no doubt to the influence of brand owner BMW.
What I didn’t like about the 2016 Mini Cooper Clubman: Road noise at times seemed to drown out the audio system, and the Great Circle display at the top of the center stack is a design turnoff. Pricing seems a bit on the high side for the class, again thanks no doubt to the influence of BMW.
Would I buy this car? Probably not, because that’s not where my tastes run, not because it’s not a good vehicle. If I’m looking for my primary transportation, I’m probably going to look at something a bit bigger, and if I’m looking for a second car to bang around in, I’m probably going to look at something a bit sportier, like the Mazda Miata. And I’m not going to drop $32,000 on it. Still, the Clubman was fun to try out, and it would be a good choice for a younger couple. The extra size makes it good for hauling around recreational gear.
By the way, at the end of my blog back in 2012 I mentioned that I was hoping to drive the Mini Roadster at the annual Rides-and-Smiles event for our automotive media association, SAMA, (see SAMAridesandsmiles.com) and I would report on how it turned out. Well, it turns out that BMW was not able to provide the Roadster for the event that year. So nothing to report.
Just to tie up loose ends.