The refreshed Mini Clubman not just looks quite a bit smarter, but also drives better.
In the fast-moving world of automobiles, it is not uncommon for automotive manufacturers to update their products at around the three-year mark, and then come out with a completely new car at about the six-year mark.
This means that the second-generation MINI Clubman, launched back at the 2015 Frankfurt IAA Motor Show is long overdue for a mid-cycle facelift. Well, better late than never, as they say.
The BMW-owned car maker is certainly not holding back with the aesthetic changes for this estate MINI, making it easy to play the ‘spot-the-differences’ game when parked up side by side with the previous car. However, if you are not an ardent fan of the brand, it might take a squint or two to pick out the cosmetic updates.
Up front, it gets a pair of new LED head lights that now has a full surrounding ring (half ring on the pre-facelifted car) that serves not only as daytime running lights but also as turn indicators. The redesigned radiator grille with the hexagonal grid design equips the car with a properly sporty appearance.
At the rear, the tail lights now has a Union Jack design motif to them – a very clever yet apt bit of nip-and-tuck to illustrate the British origins of Mini.
For those who are into car-spotting, other than the (non-functioning) bonnet scoop and the ‘S’ badges, the black accents around the head lights – chrome on the lesser brethren – and the hexagonal grid design on the grille – horizontal slats on the other variants – are the only clues to tell the Cooper S apart from the regular models.
Inside, there is a new 6.5-inch full-colour touchscreen for the infotainment system. Oh, and it also now comes equipped with the Mini Connected suite of services. Another notable change is the new gear lever, with an operating logic not dissimilar to the automatic transmission found in the products of Mini’s Teutonic sister brand, BMW.
CarPlay is strangely not available, considering that Mini is a premium brand and CarPlay can now be readily found in many mass-market offerings. Another noteworthy mention in the interior are the front seats – amazingly supportive yet comfortable.
In addition to this plethora of aesthetic updates, Mini has also swapped out the eight-speed automatic transmission for a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox. Let’s see how it drives now.
On the move, it feels no different than before, the new DCT ‘box swapping gear ratios smoothly and quickly. It’s only when the Clubman has its Sport mode engaged that one can feel that the engagement of gears, be it going up or down the ‘box, is noticeably more rapid and punchier.
The Clubman is a good 261mm longer and 150kg heavier than its five-door hatch sibling, and yet it feels almost as agile and peppy to drive. Expectedly, turn-in is immediate, almost darty, giving the impression of the car hunting down corners like a puppy hunting down its doggy treats.
Shod with 225/40 R18 Bridgestone Turanza T005 run-flat tyres, this estate Mini will not hesitate to hang its rear end out if one gets off the throttle abruptly mid-corner. Punt too hard into a corner and it will overwhelm the front tyres, putting the car into a slight understeer.
The 192bhp and 280Nm of torque produced by the 2.0-litre turbo engine is more than adequate for the roads on our island. If anything, it actually feels more planted at higher speeds, thanks to its 103mm-longer wheelbase. While the steering is communicative, its weight can feel a tad too artificial, especially in Sport mode.
With this update, the Mini Clubman Cooper S has stepped up a notch to be a mighty proposition for those looking for a truly practical yet uniquely styled vehicle and has the performance and handling to rival the top guns in the hot hatch segment.