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Mini 2020 review: Clubman JCW

Can this maxi Mini handle family duties?

The very first thing you need to know about the Mini Clubman is that it ain't that mini. This is the brand's bigger, more practical offering - a car designed more for families -  not the three-door icon the Mini brand has built its image around, and so it can tend to get lost in the noise a little bit. 

But not anymore. For my family test this week I drove the 2020 Mini John Cooper Works Clubman Pure. Courtesy of the folks at JCW, this full-fat hatch is the most powerful Mini currently on sale in Australia.

Which is fine if you live on a twisting alpine road. But how does the Mini perform around town with three kids on board and family duties to contend with?

My kids and I had the week to find out.

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✅ What does it look like?

The Clubman is a  curious shape and size for a hatchback. At 4.2m long and 1.8m wide, it could easily be mistaken for small wagon or low-slung SUV. Its small barn doors at the back are an added quirk. Overall though, I prefer this design over previous iterations. 

At 4.2m long and 1.8m wide the Clubman could easily be mistaken for small wagon or low-slung SUV. At 4.2m long and 1.8m wide the Clubman could easily be mistaken for small wagon or low-slung SUV.

Other design treatments that lift its look include the liberal use of gloss black plastics at the front end, framing the headlights and grille. It's better looking than the chrome trim it replaces and a nice complement to the Starlight blue metallic paintwork ($1000 option).

The headlights and grille are framed with gloss black plastics. The headlights and grille are framed with gloss black plastics.

Hints of performance emanate from the smart looking black 18-inch alloy wheels with red brake callipers underneath, while the rear spoiler and exhaust pipes at the rear complete the sporty look. Subtle JCW badging adorns the front panels and boot.

Inside, you can expect the usual mix of Mini goodies, with the familiar circle screens and toggle switches. While they may favour style over substance, the layout and design provides a distinct feel and flavour unique to Mini that I can’t help but like. The use of quality materials throughout both look and feel the part, too.

✅ How does it drive?

There’s plenty to like here for hot hatch fans, with Mini bestowing the Clubman JCW with a turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine pumping out 225kW and 450Nm via all four wheels.

The Clubman JCW has a turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine pumping out 225kW and 450Nm via all four wheels. The Clubman JCW has a turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine pumping out 225kW and 450Nm via all four wheels.

Matched with an eight-speed automatic transmission, this little powerhouse will smack 100km/h in 4.9 seconds and hit a top speed of 250km/h.

The car has plenty of attitude under foot in sport mode, which also generates a satisfying exhaust note that accompanies every drive. It has plenty of urgency at low- and mid-range speeds, handy for getting out of tricky situations.

In true Mini fashion it’ll keep you stuck fast to any corner you choose to throw it around. When left to its own devices, gear changes are relatively smooth and intuitive. Ride quality is a little firm, though.

The Clubman turns the most mundane family hauling duties into something fun. The downside being it can play havoc with the groceries in the boot. The cracked eggs are worth the return trip to the grocery store, though.   

At the end of a week of suburban and city driving the trip computer displayed a fuel consumption reading of 9.9L/100km. Mini claims the JCW Clubman will do 7.7L/100km on the combined cycle.

✅ How spacious is it?

This 4.2m long this hatchback has enough space for four adults to sit in reasonable comfort, but don’t expect too much from the boot space.

  • Opening the small barn doors to the boot you’ll find 360 litres of space. Opening the small barn doors to the boot you’ll find 360 litres of space.
  • Folding the 60/40 rear seats increases that capacity to 1250 litres. Folding the 60/40 rear seats increases that capacity to 1250 litres.
  • A pram fits snug in the boot of the Clubman. A pram fits snug in the boot of the Clubman.
  • There is a small amount of extra storage under the boot. There is a small amount of extra storage under the boot.
  • The boot does fit some luggage. The boot does fit some luggage.

Up front the cabin is cosy, feeling more like the three door hatch version, but rear seat passengers score the lion's share of the space on offer with good leg and headroom.

Up front the cabin is cosy. Up front the cabin is cosy.

Width wise, it's more of a squeeze, particularly if you were to try and fit three adults across the backseat. For kids, though, the rear space provided ample space with firm (but still comfortable) seats.    

The backseat is a bit of a squeeze, particularly if you were to try and fit three adults. The backseat is a bit of a squeeze, particularly if you were to try and fit three adults.

Opening the small barn doors to the boot you’ll find 360 litres of space. Not quite what I was expecting for a car that looks more station wagon than a hatch, however folding the 60/40 rear seats increases that capacity to 1250 litres, enough to fit a child's bike.

✅ How easy is it to use every day?

The Clubman is a practical family taxi well suited to school runs, weekend jaunts and trips to the local supermarket. It’s small enough to park easily and punchy enough to have a bit fun while transporting kids and gear around.

Storage is light-on, with two cupholders up front, a small bin in the centre console, a glove box and bottle holders in each of the doors. Storage is light-on, with two cupholders up front, a small bin in the centre console, a glove box and bottle holders in each of the doors.

Storage is pretty light-on, with two cupholders up front, a small bin in the centre console, a glove box and bottle holders in each of the doors. The kids travelling in the back had air vents and a pair of USB ports to keep them company.

 

✅ How safe is it?

Awarded a five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2017, the Clubman JCW arrives with six airbags, a reversing camera, AEB, active cruise control, forward collision warning and front and rear parking sensors. For parents, there are two ISOFIX points and three top-tether points for capsules or booster seats.

For parents, there are two ISOFIX points and three top-tether points for capsules or booster seats. For parents, there are two ISOFIX points and three top-tether points for capsules or booster seats.

 

✅ What’s the tech like?

Standard equipment includes an 8.8-inch screen that brings wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and sat nav as standard. Operated via a large dial located in the central console, it’s a pretty simple piece of kit to navigate with easy-to-read graphics.

Standard equipment includes an 8.8-inch screen. Standard equipment includes an 8.8-inch screen.

✅ How much does it cost to own?

The JCW Clubman Pure is priced at $57,900, and that’s before you dive into the options list. Our test car was $58,900 thanks to the Starlight Blue metallic paint it came dressed in.  

The Clubman comes standard with LED head and taillights. The Clubman comes standard with LED head and taillights.

Standard goodies for your money include 18-inch alloys wrapped in Michelin rubber, adaptive suspension, roof rails and LED head and taillights. Inside, expect cloth sports seats, adaptive cruise with stop/go, autonomous emergency braking, parking sensors at both ends, a reversing camera, and niceties such as keyless entry/start and dual-zone climate control.


The Wrap

The Clubman in JCW guise is a genuinely fun family taxi. It has plenty going for it, from its quirky looks to its driving dynamics. Sure, it's not the most practical option available, but it is plenty of fun. 

Likes

Hot hatch performance.
Engaging drive.
Distinctive looks.

Dislikes

Firm ride.
Boot size.
Light on storage.

Scores

Dan:

3.8

The Kids:

3.8

$56,900

Based on new car retail price

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