2022 Mini John Cooper Works Clubman Review - Flight Club
Singapore - If you like a Mini with John Cooper Works performance, but could do with more interior or interpersonal space, you have two options. You could go down the SUV path, by getting yourself in a Countryman… which I personally feel is the least Mini-like of the Minis.
But don’t get me wrong, the John Cooper Works Countryman is a fab car, and I have driven one around the twisty sides of Khao Kho and neighbouring Phu Thap Boek mountains in Thailand. Sorry I digress. So… where was I again? Oh yes… so I was saying, you could get yourself a Clubman instead.
Among the Mini range, the Clubman is probably the quirkiest. The large(r) wagon-like hatchback is the spiritual successor of the Austin Mini Clubman van thing, complete with rear “barn” doors. While it is a tasteful and cheerful modern-day representation, the John Cooper Works treatment on the body gives it a unique quality to its road presence.
The John Cooper Works Clubman has gone through a facelift, and while most of the changes to the exterior are subtle, the Union Jack tail lamps, and a pushed-out re-designed rear bumper are a welcome change. Our test car is also equipped with fancier 19-inch John Cooper Works Circuit Spoke rims.
2022 Mini John Cooper Works Clubman - inside
The interior is familiar ground, with most things remaining the same. The facelift adds a 5-inch colour screen as part of the instrument cluster, new buttons on the steering wheel, and a slightly larger 6.5-inch information touchscreen to the mix.
Sadly, Mini still does not cater for Android users. There is a wireless charger, but it is clearly intended for standard-sized iPhones to be clipped-in, and it is located in the centre console box/armrest. If you are going to try fitting anything else, get a hammer.
So my gripes aside, the Clubman’s interior is a pleasant place to be in, especially if you are someone who loves fun and quirky. And since it is a “bigger” Mini, rear passengers will not suffer from a case of mini leg space.
Pop open the rear “barn doors”, and right away, you can appreciate how resourceful Mini is in planning the cargo area. The 360-litre boot comes with a flat double floor, and there are no oddly-shaped obstructions to deal with. Fold the 40:20:40 rear seats, and cargo space bumps up to 1250 litres. Unlike the Countryman, you do not get that really cool folding picnic bench at the rear.
2022 Mini John Cooper Works Clubman - the drive
But if you are buying a Mini, you would likely also be buying it for how it drives; and it is easy to tell that the John Cooper Works Clubman does not disappoint here. There is just so much shove from that 2.0 litre engine up front. The engine makes 302hp and for its size, a mind-boggling 450Nm. This is split unevenly between the front and rear wheels, via an 8-speed. These performance figures slot the quirky hatchback into the same premium car playpen as the Audi S3, mild AMG-badged compacts, and also its Bavarian cousins, the BMW M135i and M235i Gran Coupe.
You also have to remember, that when this very “JCW” was initially launched, it only made do with something to the tune of 228hp and 350Nm. This was just a little more than the Cooper S model, meaning that its on-paper numbers were more like the then Mk7 GTI, than Mk7 R… Back then, quite disappointing indeed.
With the bump in power, everything comes together. The Clubman’s punchier performance can be evidenced in its quicker 4.9 second century sprint time. The Clubman is actually quicker to 100km/h and also has significantly more power and torque than the 3 Door; though the BMW-sourced four-cylinder needs a little more time to attain maximum torque. While performance has improved, Mini had already for a while, removed the pops and bangs from their John Cooper Works and S model cars, much to our disappointment.
So back to the drive. There is that familiar weighted-quick steering, which is constant on all their cars. The Clubman adds AWD to the equation, which means that it slips into a corner in more of a neutral fashion, compared with its 3-door sibling. It bites to a curve with the same tenacity as a bulldog with a bone between its teeth. That to me, is quite a bit of Mini magic, since it is very hard to shake the Clubman’s rear-end loose. Any slippage, since its drive is more front-biased, is easily corrected with the release of the right pedal.
While I say this, driving the Clubman feels noticeably dissimilar to the 3 Door. You simply don’t get to be as “in the middle of the car” here, and you are also lugging around an additional 125kg. But I have to say that the added heft and size, makes the former feel a little more “grown-up”. And if you were to hop into this from the smaller Mini, you will find that it is more comfortable… moderately.
Comfort is relative.
As a daily driver, thin runflat tyres on larger rims are not going to do any favours, especially with our patched-up city roads. And you have to remember that those hard-soled shoes are paired with a firm suspension that is tuned for that “go-kart” sensation. While this may be a deal breaker for some, there are those who will find favour in the way a John Cooper Works Clubman dances.
But if you are keen on a compact-sized high-performance estate-vehicle, but you want day-to-day drivability, the Skoda Octavia Combi RS could be the way to go.
PHOTOS Clifford Chow
2022 Mini John Cooper Works Clubman
Engine 1998cc, inline4, turbo
Transmission 8spd automatic sport transmission
Top Speed 250km/h
Fuel Consumption 7.7l/100km (combined)