CarSifu drives MINI Cooper S Clubman in Stockholm

By GEORGE WONG | 20 April 2016


Did you know the 70s pop group ABBA has a museum devoted to them? Well, as one of the world’s bestselling artistes who put Sweden on the map, the foursome certainly deserve that ode.

But at RM94, it’s a stiff price of admission into ABBA: The Museum for a two-hour experience. That’s Stockholm for foreigners, where everything seems so pricey.  A nice meal here could set you back RM200 but you could get by with RM50 if you eat where the locals do away from the usual tourist traps.

Stockholm is a lovely place to visit if you have deep pockets. The Swedish capital, straddling 14 islands at the mouth of Lake Mälaren, exudes old-world charm yet remains an elegant maritime city with an orderly sensibility that’s quite appealing. Like that in an IKEA store, you might say.

A ferry crossing on the first day. Two MINIs wait their turn to get on board for transfer to another island.
A ferry crossing on the first day. Two MINIs wait their turn to get on board for transfer to another island.

BMW whisked us off to this part of Scandinavia in October last year, sat us down in the new MINI Clubman and let us loose in and outside the city. The drive over two days covered a good 300km.  Much of what we saw outside the capital were scenic flat lands that became increasingly forested as we travelled northwards to Uppsala before arcing south to Arlanda airport for the next flight out. Lakes and waterways dotted the landscape with bridges or ferries linking land masses. Ferries, we are told, are a great way to see Stockholm. But time was limited, with most of it focused on a car.

For MINI, 2015 was its best year ever globally, with MINI sales achieving a 12% increase to a total 338,466. It is building up momentum into 2016; reports out of the States, a key market, are showing the Clubman is becoming the bestseller in the product range and that demand is outpacing supply. It’s easy to see why it’s so popular. Americans like their cars big, and this second-generation Clubman is the biggest MINI ever, moving the brand up from a subcompact player into the premium compact space.


While it’s about the size of the VW Golf, it’s much classier and chases after its Mercedes and Audi peers. The second-generation Clubman was also an occasion for MINI to right the wrongs in the earlier one. The American reception towards the latest Clubman is confidence-boosting, with MINI hoping it will catch on around the world.

The 4.2m long Clubman is bigger in every way from the old one, with a longer wheelbase resulting in more elbow space and improved comfort for five people.

It is still MINI in spirit. Note the short overhangs and widely set wheels, front-wheel drive and a transversely mounted 4-cylinder engine. Packed with optional kit, the Cooper S tester had a wide sturdy front with inlets for air curtains, bookmarked by the familiar oval headlamps with LED lighting. The car’s width is further emphasised by the shoulder contour, a stretched silhouette and horizontal tail lights.


The Clubman uses the stretched UKL platform as the 2 Series Gran Tourer we had driven a while ago. MINI executives are saying the Clubman size is about the limit MINI would stretch itself without having to make excuses for the disconnect between name and reality.

On a positive note, the enlarged surface area presents a canvas to get creative. Air breathers, first seen in the BMW 4 Series, are adapted for the MINI and are found at the front wheel arches. Adding to the novelty are fin antenna with red alarm system status light and optional projected MINI logo on the ground when the driver opens or shuts his door.

The other obvious change is the loss of the quirky and unloved club door on the right side; the car now gets four regular side doors by popular demand. The two split doors in the rear remain for nostalgic purpose. Count ‘em all and there’s six doors, the only MINI with that many. The split doors can be opened remotely by kicking under the rear bumper with key fob in pocket.



As the Big Brother of the MINIs, the new Clubman has a more mature attitude. And this is played out with more space and stepped-up refinements. Underscoring the cabin space is the wide instrument panel with cockpit fascia frame, echoed in the door trim panels and centre console. Like the 3-door and 5-door hatches, a large round centre display with LED lighting for navigation and infotainment details is complemented by the speedometer that’s now moved behind the steering wheel and right in front of the driver.

A red toggle switch serves as the start/stop button for the engine and air-cond vents are no longer round but rectangular. The Cooper S has standard sports seats up front. Together with the rear bench, five persons are carried along in comfort, buoyed by supportive seats. New to the brand are electric parking brake, electrical seat adjustment and an assortment of options to bespoke the heck out of the car. This MINI, for example, could be optionally specified with LED ambient lighting, backlit door bezels, driving modes and adaptive damping control. A Head-up Display (HUD) is also an option to see speed and navigation details but the BMW implementation through the windshield sans visor is better.

Second-generation Clubman arrives in Malaysia


At 360l, the luggage area is 20l less than the Golf but still affords enough real estate to fit three large suitcases. Space expands to a voluminous 1,250 litres when the rear backrest is folded 40:20:40.

The Clubman’s low, wide and hunkered-down stance contributes greatly to its refined and dynamic driving abilities. Its 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine produces 192hp and 280Nm  of torque from a lowly 1,250rpm.

It’s the same engine from the 3-door and 5-door hatches strapped into a much heavier car, so don’t expect the same nimbleness from the Clubman. BMW’s 8-speed automatic with Steptronic is used for the first time in a MINI here with output going to the front axle.


So how does the Clubman perform? Its BMW-sourced engine is no weakling as it digs deep to summon up power from the four cylinders for a robust display.  But the size and weight of the car make it feel a little restrained, which the upcoming ALL4 JCW Clubman is certain to address.

The turbocharger builds up power with little lag and engine defaults to a distant hum.

A pliant suspension and a low-riding stance results in a smooth and laid-back ride at highway speeds. The good-sized steering wheel offers meaty grip complemented by the car’s sharp and rapid turn-in.



We could do with more steering feel, which is nevertheless accurate for some corner-chucking fun in sport mode, backed by a deeper exhaust roar. In tune with its compact premium aspiration, the cabin has been well-padded to keep the noise down even when pelting the car on highways. However, we didn’t go as fast as we would like to as Swedish law enforcers can be unforgiving to traffic offenders.

While the centre pillars in the split doors have been thinned to improve rearward visibility, they are still obstructive. We look forward to the day MINI could implement a camera-based system like the one in the BMW i8 Mirrorless concept to overcome rear and side visibility issues.

The biggest ever model out of Oxford is likely to draw the usual fans and those new to the brand as it offers intriguing practicality in a premium package. Those who buy into its salient points and embrace it will find a new gateway into the MINI way of life.

> The F54 MINI Clubman is launching in Malaysia tomorrow. Expect the price of the Cooper S to be north of RM250,000.