Mini’s four-wheel drive performance hot hatch is less than the sum of its parts
It may have been rationalising its rather confusing model range recently, but it seems Mini is still intent on rolling out oddball variants. Such as this 228bhp four-wheel drive John Cooper Works-tuned version of its Clubman family five-door. Does the world need what becomes the costliest Clubman ever?
Mini Clubman John Cooper Works Automatic
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged, petrol
Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic
Kerb weight: 1565kg
Top speed: 148mph
Fuel economy: 41.5mpg (combined)
CO2 emissions: 154g/km
On paper, it sounds exciting. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine has been uprated, with a new turbo and intercooler. So too has the suspension, which is lower and stiffer. Higher-spec brakes are sensibly fitted too. But choose the eight-speed automatic as fitted to our test car, and the price rises to nearly £31,000. That’s a lot for a Mini.
And at first, it justifies it. The interior is nicely finished, with a quality feel that’s suitably premium. Look closer, though, and it starts to stumble. The boot, for example, is fiddly to access through the twin rear doors, and not particularly large when compared to similar-price models such as the VW Golf R estate.
More dammingly, the drive isn’t up to scratch. For starters, Mini’s tried to make this bigger Clubman John Cooper Works feel as agile as the smaller hatchback. Unsuccessfully so: it’s instead made the Clubman feel darty and nervous.
In uprating the suspension, Mini has spoiled the ride as well. This JCW is unyielding and inconsistent, and is plain unsettled in Sport mode. But the handling lacks the dynamism that would justify this.
Even acceleration isn’t as thrilling as a 0-62mph time of just 6.3 seconds suggests – again, because of the car’s significant weight gain over the nimbler hatch. It feels dull and lazy to respond, an effect further reinforced by the slurring eight-speed automatic gearbox. And you rarely sense any benefit from the four-wheel drive system.
Sadly, the overall impression is one of disappointment. A £31,000 Mini should be much more fun than this, feel far more like a little rocketship than it actually does. It’s a step too far that, we’re sorry to say, is tedious and simply not worth the money.
We think you’ll be much better off with a Ford Focus ST estate and £3000 in the bank…