2021 MINI Clubman Pros vs Cons. Should You Buy?
If you have your heart set on finally getting the MINI you've always wanted but know you are going to need some extra space, then the 2021 MINI Clubman might just be the right choice for you. The Clubman is the second-most spacious MINI on the market (only slating behind the Countryman), looking like a Cooper Hardtop that has been stretched out. It is still every ounce a MINI and, therefore, very, very British in style.
Performance is also something that you might enjoy with the Clubman. MINI gave the John Cooper Works (JCW, for short) trim a massive performance upgrade last year, and that carries over for 2021. The turbocharger on the JCW's 2.0-L engine was made even bigger, thereby giving it a nice power boost. There was also a new mechanical front differential added, a new 8-speed automatic transmission, an even stronger chassis, and upgraded brakes thrown into the mix to make the line-topping JCW an even more attractive option.
There have been some changes made for 2021, but they aren't as big as what happened to the JCW in 2020. Still, we like what we are seeing, and that is the return of the front-wheel drive, 6-speed manual transmission equipped Cooper S Clubman. It had been on hiatus but was revived due to popular demand. There are also more features tacked onto the 'standard' list for this year. More on that in a minute.
If you think you might like the Clubman, be sure to read through the entirety of this review. We're going to touch on what is new for 2021, what we like about the Clubman, what we'd like to see improved, and how it stacks up to the competition. In the end, we will give you some final thoughts to carry with you as you make your decision.
What's New for 2021?
As we already mentioned above, the Clubman's base Cooper S trim level makes its triumphant return. This trim is front-wheel drive and comes with a 6-speed manual transmission. Stick drivers, rejoice! Also, if you go for the mid-tier Signature sub-trim, you can now get standard smartphone app integration via Apple CarPlay (sorry, there is no Android Auto in any MINI), real-time traffic updates, and a digital driver information display.
Top 10 Reasons to Buy a 2021 MINI Clubman – The Pros
1. The Cooper S Trim is Back
The most exciting change for the 2021 MINI Clubman is the return of its base trim, the Cooper S with a 6-speed manual transmission paired up with a 2.0-L 4-cylinder engine. Together, this powertrain nets a power output of 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. While acceleration might feel a bit sluggish, once you get it moving, the Cooper S feels easy to manage. Front-wheel drive comes standard, but you can opt for all-wheel drive (known as the All4). And, of course, it can be paired with any of the three sub-trims (the Classic, Signature, or Iconic).
2. Unique Styling Inside and Out
MINI's strong suit is style, and it is insanely British. The body itself is designed in a manner that is current with what you see on England's roadways - small and practical but full of style and grace. The white or black bonnet stripes are eye-popping-ly cool, and you can even see a Union Jack design in the taillights of each MINI. If you love the UK, then this is the car for you.
3. Premium Materials Inside the Cabin
Through and through, MINI's use of high-end, high-quality materials never ceases to impress. There are enough soft touch surfaces inside of the cabin, and the number of leather and leatherette upgrades you can make to the surfaces and upholstery is mind-blowing. Just check out the Iconic's lengthy list of interior materials options. Everything feels cozy and looks well-paired no matter what you choose.
4. Fuel Efficiency
Fuel efficiency is concerning to many buyers, and the Clubman won't disappoint. On the base Cooper S with front-wheel drive, you can get 26 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. This blows competitors like the Fiat 500L right out of the water. All4 takes these numbers down to 23 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. In real-world tests, the Clubman's Cooper S with front-wheel drive managed to get 27 mpg, showing that the EPA estimates are pretty accurate.
5. Superb Handling Capabilities
Handling is something that the Clubman has down to a science. You will not feel any body roll while rounding through turns, and the wheels stay firmly planted as you go. Curvy mountain roads are manageable, and the All4 makes for a good winter driver thanks to its extra traction and stability with the AWD system.
6. Endless Ways to Customize
You can customize the 2021 MINI Clubman just about any way that you want. Any of the main trims (the Cooper S, Cooper S All4, and John Cooper Works All4) can be paired up with any of the three sub-trims (the Classic, Signature, and Iconic). The sub-trims offer a number of different stand-alone options for the exterior and interior designs as well as the infotainment and safety features. Pick what you want, avoid what you don't want. It is that simple, but it might take you some time to figure out exact how you want to configure it.
7. All-wheel Drive is Available
In this segment, all-wheel drive is a rarity. The fact that two trims have it is impressive. The All4 is a smart choice for anyone who lives in an area where inclement weather causes slick roads to occur. Otherwise, front-wheel drive on the Cooper S works just fine.
8. Practical in Nature
The Clubman is, like other MINIs, all about practicality. You won't find massive, intrusive consoles, bulky interior storage spaces, or overly complex gadgetry. What you get is simple, smartly laid-out, and efficient. You won't be overwhelmed by huge infotainment screens, and even the digital information display that comes on the Signature trim is easy to use.
9. Plenty of Cabin Space
A spacious cabin isn't something you might expect from MINI. But, in the Clubman, there is enough room for two adults in both rows. Even in the rear, taller adults will have enough head and leg room to keep them feeling comfortable.
10. Plenty of Tech Features
We love seeing the long list of available tech features, and we think you will too. The optional Harman Kardon sound system is a tempting purchase with its concert-like audio quality. Built-in navigation is also on the list of features you can get, and it works well enough. Bluetooth is standard on all trim levels.
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Reasons Not to Buy a 2021 MINI Clubman – The Cons
1. The Price
The biggest thing holding people back from buying the Clubman tends to be its price. It costs more than a lot of the competition, and the price tag will jump up high the more you add on optional features. More buyers tend to stick to the base Cooper S for this reason.
2. Slower Acceleration on the Base Trim
The Cooper S's engine isn't as pwoerful as the JCW's, and you will notice the lack of initial thrust upon launch. For getting onto the highway and passing other vehicles, this can be something of a hassle. However, for getting around town at slower speeds, the lack of acceleration is not as big of a deal.
3. Not A Lot of Cargo Space
13 cubic feet of cargo space is tiny compared to what some of the Clubman's rivals offer. When you fold the rear seats down, you get 44 cubic feet, max. The Fiat 500L manages 22 cubic feet with all of its seats in place, so you can envision how miniscule the Clubman's cargo area seems. MINI opts for cabin space over cargo space on the Clubman, that's for sure.
4. Android Auto Isn't Available
Smartphone app integration is available via Apple CarPlay - exclusively. Sorry, Android owners, you cannot sync your smartphone with the 2021 MINI Clubman. We are not sure exactly why MINI has not yet opted for Android Auto integration, as that would reel in exponentially more buyers. Android users will simply have to utilize the features already integrated into the Clubman.
How It Stacks Up to the Competition:
2021 MINI Clubman vs. 2021 MINI Hardtop 4 Door
The Clubman's most direct competition is its little sister, the MINI Hardtop 4 Door. This vehicle is smaller and costs a bit less, but its 4-door layout is akin to the functionality of the Clubman's. Its handling is just as superb, and you basically get the same options for customization. On the downside, the Hardtop 4 Door is still expensive and has a jittery ride quality at times.
2021 MINI Clubman vs. 2021 FIAT 500L
We have already mentioned the FIAT 500L, so it is worth taking a closer look at how it compares to the Clubman. The 500L is a small hatchback with a wagon-esque vibe to it. Its design isn't as boxy as the Clubman, so it does lose a few style points. For a vehicle its size, there is actually a lot of cargo and passenger room. The infotainment touchscreen system is also remarkably user-friendly. The 500L is also significantly less expensive than the Clubman. However, the rear seats do not fold flat, so you don;t get as much flexibility for storing bulkier items. The ride quality is choppy over various road surfaces, and the interior design looks cheap. Also, a lot of standard and optional infotainment and driver aids are missing from the line-up.
The 2021 MINI Clubman is a surprisingly fun, spunky vehicle to drive. Its character is echoed in its British design, but it is absolutely fit for American roads. Despite a few hang-ups with cargo space being limited and Android Auto not being available, the Clubman is worth the investment over its rivals. Sticking with the Cooper S but getting the Signature sub-trim is the best way to get the most for your money.
• Why buy a 2020 MINI Clubman? w/ pros vs cons