That the 2020 Mini Clubman John Cooper Works is the most powerful Mini to have landed in Australia isn’t all that surprising. After all, parent company BMW has squeezed the thumping four-cylinder engine from the M135i under its bonnet, and that thing creates a snarling beast of any vehicle it finds a home in.
What is a surprise, though, is that having now driven this angry, crackling, snarling hot hatch, what with its burbling exhaust and properly rapid acceleration, is that it took Mini this long to get around to doing it.
So does the engine upgrade now put the Clubman JCW on the same pedestal as the best European hot hatches? There's only one way to find out.
Mini Clubman 2020: JCW
Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10
It's no real secret that earlier iterations of the Clubman were, well, a little challenging on the eye (Mini itself says “It was cool - if you were built that way…").
This face-lifted version of the Clubman is much easier on the eye that its pervious iterations.
But this face-lifted version is much easier on the eye, if not as a cute a package as the three-door hatch variants. It's dimensions - long, smooth sides, a squared-off rump and bulging grille - somehow work as one to create car that is undoubtedly unique, but also rather fetching.
The addition of wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto making the centre screen far more functional.
Inside, it’s all pretty familiar Mini, what with the circle screens and jet-style switches. And it is a stylish space in the cabin, with a good material mix and the addition of wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto making the centre screen far more functional.
The only downside is that, for mine, it favours that style over substance. It’s not the most user-friendly space I’ve ever sat in, though I imagine you’d get a little more used to it the more time you spent in there.
The Clubman is super practical - for a Mini... This is not a Bunnings bandit, and nor will you be piling endless Ikea flatpacks into the boot.
It measures just over 4.2m in the length, 1.4m in height and 1.8m in width, and while they're not massive numbers, you might find yourself surprised by the room in the backset.
I'm around 175cm, and I could sit behind my own driving position with ease - thanks in no small part to the clever scalloped seas that give you extra leg room - and the headroom isn't half bad, either.
The Clubman measures just over 4.2m in the length, 1.4m in height and 1.8m in width.
Yep, you can definitely fit two adults in the backseat (but never three), and those travelling back there will find air vents to help keep the temp down, as well as USB points and a pair of child seat anchors.
Up front, the cabin somehow manages to feel more cramped, with the steering wheel, centre console and controls on the driver's door all feeling like they're encroaching on your personal space a bit, but it's a comfortable place to sit all the same.
Up front, the cabin to feels a bit cramped.
Step around to the barn-door style boot and you'll find what looks a little bit like a station wagon, only without all the space. Yes, it looks like a positive load-lugger next to the three-door hatch, but you still don't get that much space for luggage, with the official number at 360 - 1250 litres.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 7/10
Mini is rolling the dice on a new specification strategy designed to take the endless questions and options out of buying a new car.
And so the Clubman JCW is the first Mini to be offered in the Pure trim ($57,900), which seriously limits the personalisation options to get you out of the dealership and behind the wheel as quickly as possible. You can choose from two wheel choices, four exterior paint choices, a back roof or a sunroof, and, well, that's about it.
Outside, your money buys you 18-inch alloys wrapped in Michelin rubber.
Outside, your money buys you 18-inch alloys wrapped in Michelin rubber, adaptive suspension, roof rails and LED head and taillights. Inside, expect cloth sports seats, an 8.8-inch screen that's both (wireless) Apple CarPlay and Android Auto equipped, standard navigation, climate control with rear vents and push-button start.
The Clubman JCW features LED head and taillights.
If the Pure doesn't give you enough options, then the regular Clubman JCW ($62,900) will add 19-inch alloys, leather seats, a 12-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, a head-up display and heated front seats. Oh, and all the personalisation options you shake your credit card at.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 8/10
This is a cracking engine; a twin-charge, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder weapon that sends 225kW and 450Nm thundering to all four tyres.
That power is funnelled through an eight-speed automatic transmission, and will see the Clubman JCW clip 100km/h in 4.9 seconds before pushing on to a 250km/h.
How much fuel does it consume? 7/10
Mini says its Clubman JCW will sip 7.7L/100km on the combined cycle, and emit some 175g/km of C02.
What's it like to drive? 7/10
Yes, this is the most powerful Mini to have landed in Australia. And even better, it’ll remain so, or at least equal first, when the Mini GP arrives next year. That car gets this same thumping engine, and the outputs are the same, though the smaller, lighter hatch will no doubt be faster.
It means Clubman JCW shoppers aren't about to lose their street credit, with this engine likely to remain the king of the castle for some time yet.
This is the most powerful Mini to have landed in Australia.
The Clubman It might tip the scales at 1550kg, but the kilos don’t hurt its straight line speed much. Whack it in sport mode, which also adds this deep bass to the exhaust, plant your right foot and the Clubman positively pounces forward.
Better still, it feels - and sounds - quick, too, There’s this angry snap and crackle on the overrun, and the exhaust genuinely booms in the cabin when you really bury your foot.
You’ve heard the cliches before, of course, about Minis feeling like they’re on rails, and we won’t waste your time with those here. Suffice to say we have pushed Clubman around some pretty tight corners at some pretty decent speeds, and while it doesn’t feel like a featherweight, it also picks and sticks to a line with absolutely no nonsense from the tyres and very little in the way of body roll.
We pushed the Clubman around some pretty tight corners and it picks and sticks to a line with absolutely no nonsense.
That’s the good, now the not so good. The impressive handling feels like it’s been achieved by hardening up the suspension as much as possible, and the downside of that is that it can feel plenty sharp and bouncy over big bumps. On the right road, it kind of adds to the experience, but I'd imagine the daily commute would start to fray your patience fairly quickly.
There’s also a kind of skittishness to the way it drives fast too, which I actually don’t mind, but others might say isn’t as natural and flowing as others in the segment.
This is the hardest, fastest clubman you can buy.
But this is the hardest, fastest clubman you can buy, and so you’re going into it knowing there’s going to be some comfort compromises. And if you’re looking a loud and rorty hot-hatch experience, this thing delivers in spades.
And on the right stretch of road, it’s an absolute hoot.
Warranty & Safety Rating
3 years / unlimited km
ANCAP Safety Rating
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 7/10
The Clubman JCW arrives with six airbags, a reversing camera, AEB, active cruise, forward collision warning and front and rear parking sensors and what Mini calls Performance Control, which it promises will reduce understeer and increase traction in corners.
The Mini Clubman was awarded the full five-star ANCAP safety rating when tested in 2017.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 7/10
The Mini Clubman JCW is covered by a three-year warranty, and falls under the BMW group's condition-based servicing program, in that it will tell you when it's time for a service.
The Mini Clubman JCW is covered by a three-year warranty.
The Mini Clubman JCW is quirky in a lot of the right ways, and now has a hard-charging engine to up the adrenalin factor. If you were already sold on the idea of joining the Clubman club, this one will steal your heart more than any other.