The better Mini - Countryman or Clubman?
The cars we are talking about today aren’t necessarily “mini” anymore. These have grown over the years. Customers who find the base Mini Cooper attractive but slightly less on the practical side opt for the Countryman or the Clubman. That being said, both these cars are basically an embodiment of the Mini Cooper and are just an extension of its personality.
The Mini Clubman is the six-door version that is helpful for carrying extra luggage and looks cool while doing it. The Countryman in the meanwhile is an SUV and comes with a slightly jacked up ride height than the Clubman or the other Mini car for that matter. So, which one is the better Mini amongst these two. Tough call. Let’s get into the details now, shall we?
Looks have always been subjective but there will nary be a person in the world who'll tell you that the Mini Cooper looks bad. All its generations have only improved on the modern factor and ever since BMW took over Mini, the build quality, as well as the general design theme, has only gone north. The new-gen Mini cars share their platform with the BMW X1 and since the Countryman has SUV aspirations, it's a nice place to start with. The proper redesign that happened this year ensures that both the cars mentioned here are up-to-date. However, the Countryman will still fall short in terms of length to even the VW Golf. The roof rails or even the 18-inch wheels give it some sort of presence, distinguishing it from its road-hugging cousin by a mile.
If you are looking at the Clubman, then there is a change there too. In the latest update, it has got two extra doors rather than the gullwing kinds from the previous generation. This has made the car look more conventional and at the same time provided for additional space inside the cabin. The boot doors are convenient for the regular milkman to place his cans as they are split in the middle and offer the convenience factor of electrified opening and closing. Visual drama aside, the Clubman will also give you the estate form.
We will go with the Mini Countryman here. It looks closer to the Mini Cooper and also has slightly lower overhangs which will help with the slightly rough road patches.
Game of Thrones
The Countryman by virtue of being an SUV offers an elevated seating position with memory function as well as electrical adjustment for the driver. The cabin hasn't changed much and you can still feel and understand that this the same layout from the older car. The instrument cluster is done with an orange backlight and has the large speedo in the front flanked by the rev counter as well as the temperature gauge. There is also the optional head-up display that will be happy to show you the speed, incoming calls, message alerts, and navigation. The infotainment system is a circular unit but is still not touchscreen. It will, in fact, change colours depending on the driving mode (Sport, Mid or Eco) selected. The system is devoid of Android Auto or Apple CarPlay gadgetry but will play music off the aux or USB. We like the seats of the Countryman and they are built for sport driving much like the other Mini cars including the Clubman. The rear seats are an upright bench and will play out the perfect host to the family. There are no rear AC vents though. One will not find themselves cooped in the rear like the bog standard Mini Cooper though. The luggage area has improved by a bit over the Cooper but you wouldn’t find space to move the house around.
For moving the house around, the Clubman is the ideal car. It helps by making the rear seats fold and easily accessible. These will be helpful while carrying any long objects too. There is a bit more of space in the cabin for the Clubman and the those sitting at back too will not find it claustrophobic. The instrument cluster largely is the same but by the sheer virtue of being the fresher car here, the Clubman enjoys the touchscreen music system.
Firepower under the hood
Both the cars here use petrol engines which include the use of a hybrid powertrain as well. The 1.5-litre 3-cylinder engine is the same one found in the mighty i8 supercar and makes 136 PS of power and 220 Nm of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission takes care of the transferring power to the front wheels. This transmission enables both the cars to run the 0-100 kmph gauntlet in less than 10 seconds, with a top speed north of 205 kmph and a combined fuel consumption of 19 kmpl. Mini does offer ALL4, its all-wheel drive systems on the Countryman, however for our market, it is not available. It would have vastly improved the performance of the Countryman up where there are less paved roads.
The bigger engine is the standard 2.0-litre motor that makes 192 PS and 280 Nm of torque. This twin-turbo engine is a hoot to drive and comes ably matched to an 8-speed automatic transmission. It does 0-100 kmph in 7 seconds, has a top whack of 228 kmph as well as sip as less as 15 kmpl. A slightly more powerful JCW option is also offered with the Clubman and in this guise, the engine makes 210 PS of power and 300 Nm. The fuel consumption increases slightly while the top speed touches 250 kmph. You get additional frills associated with JCW kit too.
Ride ‘em like you own them
The Mini has always been renowned for handling. And phrases like “go-kart handling” are bound to find their way to a story related to a Mini. There is roll displayed in the Mini Countryman, however, it is still less than the best handling SUV in its category, the Mercedes GLA. You can experience the typical Mini finesse when it comes to going around a curve at speeds. The ride quality of the Mini Countryman is slightly jittery but not unnervingly so. The Clubman fares a bit better and with a full load, it can take more of this stuff. The steering is one direct unit and one which will communicate with you in spades. NVH is slightly on the higher side once the speeds rise but the Clubman seems more isolated from these than the taller riding Countryman.
The brakes are properly sharp and help the Mini cars slow down quite easily. However, opting for the JCW model, be sure to add the JCW uprated brakes which offer a lot more biting power as well as feel from the pedals.
Safety wise, BMW ensured that just like all their cars, these Minis come with a plethora of airbags as well as riding aids. Almost all the crash test organisations have given the car a big thumbs up in terms of safety.
Buy the Mini Countryman if you are looking for an SUV experience with the cornering manners of a sports car. It is that good. However, looking for a tad more of utility, then the Clubman fits your requirement. Prices for the Mini Countryman start from RM 207,888 while that of the Clubman is slightly higher.