Text: Brent Co / Photos: Brent Co | posted February 22, 2016 13:57
The Renaissance of Mini
In the recent couple of years, Mini has been expanding its lineup with new variants to keep up with the fast-changing pace of the auto industry.
The 2016 Mini Clubman can be accurately described as the Mini brand’s renaissance. It's a full transition from an edgy alternative marque to a proper automotive brand which tries offer more vehicles to brand enthusiasts at the same time attracting new customers as well. This change is starting with a new brand identity that is brighter and direct to the point, which it will roll out to all its showrooms in the coming months.
While most people know Mini as the adorable and agile little hatchback, the Clubman's form is not exactly breaking tradition, as estate Minis were traditionally named Traveller or Countryman.
Mini wants to attract the modern gentleman or the young family man with the new Clubman, breaking away from its usual edgy and radical theme. Heading its new thrust in Asia is Filipino executive Sunny Medalla who took the wheel of Mini’s regional operations in August of 2014.
This second generation Mini Clubman first appeared as a shooting brake-inspired concept at the 2014 Geneva Auto Show before officially making its debut the following year at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
For those unfamiliar with the term 'shooting brake', it is an early 19th century British term for a vehicle used to carry shooting parties and their equipment for hunting. The term 'brake' referred to a heavy chassis used for 'breaking in' horses; which eventually led to reference the early wagons. Contemporary shooting brakes follow the traditional three-door configuration but have evolved to a hatchback with a sleeker coupe-like finish. Popular examples are: 1960 Sunbeam Alpine Shooting Brake, 1972 Volvo 1800ES, and the 2011 Ferrari FF.
As automakers try to create market niches, some marques have tried to make 5-door versions of shooting brake, such as Jaguar with its short-lived XF Sportbrake, and Mercedes-Benz with the Shooting Brake versions of the CLA and CLS. Italian coach builder Touring also dabbled into the new 'niche' with the Maserti Quattroporte based Bellagio.
The second-gen F54 Clubman, which is based on BMW’s new UKL2 platform, has evolved to a significantly larger estate, which shuns its single suicide-style rear passenger door in favor of two proper doors. It now measures 4253 mm long, 1800 mm wide and 1441 mm tall, sitting on a 2670 mm wheelbase versus the R55 Clubman at 3960 mm x 1684 mm x 1425 mm with a 2548 mm wheelbase. This makes the F54 longer and wider, giving more space for occupants and their gear.
Styling for the 2016 Clubman is derived from the designers’ interpretation of a contemporary shooting brake. Traditional elements, such as the signature rear barn doors, the distinct Mini face featuring round headlights with chrome surrounds, and the vertically arranged air inlets remain. The essential short overhangs and floating roof finish off the better sculpted exterior to finish off with a finely executed exterior style.
As you open the door, you are welcomed by a fun yet more refined interior which features a lot more color-keyed elements. These elements are a lot less circular, particularly the air vents, which have been squared off to emphasize the significantly more spacious interior. Following the F56 and F55, the instrumentation (despite floating) has been moved into the more conventional placement (in front of the driver). The racing helmet themed shift knob, meaty steering wheel and round center (now infotainment) panel remain. The second row can now comfortably seat three adults.
Under the hood, the standard Cooper will come with a 3-cylinder 1.5-liter turbo which pushes 138 PS with 220 Nm of torque — more able compared to the previous generation’s rather limp 1.6-liter inline-4 NA. It comes mated to a 6-speed automatic which seems well-matched, but we’ll find out more when we get to a lengthier review. Power delivery is adequate for everyday driving on city roads with the occasional run out of town.
For those that desire more oomph, the Cooper S offers the 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder twin power turbo mated to a new 8-speed automatic gearbox. This is rated at 195 PS and 280 Nm with an overboost function which gives an additional 20 Nm of torque. This combination felt a lot more exciting for me, however it will come at about half a million Pesos more than the Cooper.
While the "excitement" of a Mini is still in its heart, the new Clubman is not your usual 'toss-it-around-the-corner' car anymore. Suspension has been tuned more for leisure drives and comfort. It still handled well despite the heft during our relatively "mini" first experience with the car. Brakes were grippy and very responsive as well.
Sure the Mini has grown into something beyond your definition of what it was. But if they kept on living in the past, the brand might as well have ended up like other makers that shuttered because they refused to evolve. What is clear about the F54 is that it will drive the its predecessor 5-door F55 into absolute obscurity.