MINI would like for you to consider this Clubman JCW as the trendy alternative to the more mainstream hot hatch establishment. This is what modern MINI's have always wanted. And on the face of it, you take notice. It's the MINI Clubman we know, but it's the special one. The one that gets the goosies going. Or does it?
In this Clubman cut, it suffers from an estranged identity where it straddles too many lines of segment design and in so doing, doesn’t quite have a firm foot in any. No, it’s not an all-new design by any means apart from revised bumpers and light clusters fore and aft and of course, requisite John Cooper Works badges affixed on every side but the thing that caught our attention were the numbers.
Beyond the performance maturity, the Clubman still oozes MINI charm and bristles with technology, a lot of which can be optioned in. The Connected Navigation services employ the full onslaught of navigation, connectivity and services and the driving assistance featuring adaptive cruise further the high-spec and high tech offering of the Clubman. Interior touches include John Cooper Works sill plates, and you’ll notice a bespoke patterned finish on the dash and trim elements leaving you in no doubt of the MINI Clubman’s heritage.
The overall interior treatment is overtly prismatic. It’s too much for my eye and yet some find it appealing enough. I have to question the overall practicality of the Clubman though. MINI has done away with the weird doors of the previous version and it’s certainly up on practicality from that perspective, but interior space remains difficult for the everyday life. The boot too, with its double-opening doors is compromised by the roof height, not to mention the visibility problem, although packaging it to have 360-litres is commendable.
With the JCW suffixed to its name, what isn’t up for debate is the fact that this new MINI and its owners benefit from a much more powerful BMW-derived 2.0-litre turbo four-pot. 225kW is right up there on par with the Mercedes-AMG A35 and Honda Civic Type R and even higher than the previous Golf 7R. The JCW treatment has always meant increased power and dramatics and by the engine alone, it’s a serious statement making some 55kW more power than the previous model.
The Clubman is now offered with all-wheel drive as standard fare. Also standard is the 8-speed Steptronic sports transmission and from the moment you get the hammer down, you realise why MINI has chosen to endow the Clubman JCW with these components. It has made the power delivery much more usable and directly engaging. Gone is the vagrant torque steer and diving into corners is now a more composed task, devoid of any theatrics. It’s oddly mature even as you dial up into the Sport driving mode, the most excitable, tell-tale sign is an increase in the exhaust note crackles and then a firming up of the throttle responses and steering feel.
There’s vast amounts of grip on offer and you can flex the MINI Clubman JCW around corners with immense speed. Breaking the limit will illicit the call of a very gentle reworked DSC. The chassis is prone to understeer only at the very limit of that front end clutching to the tar, but MINI’s work on the chassis and adaptive suspension has catered to a driving experience that is fast, yes, but quite mature in the overall experience.
It’s a MINI. So that means it really is quite customisable as far as design and optional aesthetic additions are concerned, so you can tailor it to match your eccentric style.
And even better news is that the price, despite an increase recently, is still quite respectable. It’s cheaper than an Audi S3 by a little, and a Mercedes-AMG A35 by a lot. Golf R? We’re guessing that the new one will be in the upper R800k region or higher. So even with many options you can still own a full-pack MINI for good money.
In the company that MINI wants you to consider the Clubman JCW a competitor, it is well-priced for what is a premium and performance offering. But you need to be sure it fits your lifestyle, and the only way to determine that is to go and see it in the flesh and ensure its proportions meet your needs.
The Clubman surprised me with its punchy power and overall performance, but those who appreciate the historic JCW’s extra fanfare will be disappointed in how grown up the Clubman JCW has become.
It also suffers from not being practical enough for those looking for practicality and from not being exciting enough for those looking for hot-hatch thrills…and that leaves it in its own wondering niche, hoping to attract the MINI Cooper buyer who finds a need for just a bit more space and oddity.