Tom Crosby: Mini Cooper pumps more size into the 2016 Clubman

Tom Crosby

Tom Crosby

In the automotive world, some feel bigger is better, which accounts for hefty sales of pickup trucks and SUVs.

But when seeking small, nimble, cute, gas sipping and offering enough luxury and performance options to satisfy a Wall Street trader, there is the iconic compact Mini Cooper.

Paying some homage to size, the 2016 Mini Cooper S Clubman, our test drive, added 475 pounds in weight while bulking its body size like a flyweight boxer moving up to bantamweight.

So for 2016, the BMW-owned company has built the largest Mini ever, bulking up the previous Clubman while still retaining its easily recognizable profile.

The wheelbase, length and width all grew several inches, thus adding 475 more pounds for total weight now exceeding 1.5 tons. It surpasses the Countryman, formerly the biggest Mini.

Interior materials are rich looking and feeling and the speedometer and tachometer now sit behind the steering wheel following a total redesign of the Mini line-up last year.

Larger headlights, one-piece chrome grille and bigger horizontal taillights subtly differentiate the exterior look of the 2016 version. Our Cooper S (there is a base Cooper) with the larger 4-cylinder turbo engine zipped to 60 mph in under 7 seconds using steering wheel mounted 8-speed manual paddles. A dominant 6-speed automatic kicks in when the paddles aren’t used. Driving modes are normal, sport or green, which is designed to save fuel, along with a stop/start feature to get decent miles per gallon.

Handling was excellent and the ride composed with a sport suspension package included among 15 options costing nearly $12,000 that made our Clubman customizable and more luxurious. Getting in can challenge taller and heavier adults but once inside they reside in comfortable Chesterfield leather quilted seats, along with expanded head and shoulder space. Rear seats fold, adding decent storage space behind the van-like split rear doors.

Neat features include toggle switches to complement the BMW-like center spine knob that controls a plethora of easily drilled down infotainment, phone, navigation and setup features. At night a Mini logo shines on the ground when the chrome clamshell front door handles open doors. Inside multi-color lighting is soft and changeable, creating a relaxing, modern cabin ambiance.

Fit and finish is excellent, crash safety ratings should be high for its category and the rear camera with parking sensors works well, while warning drivers to still look around.

LIKES: Looks, handling, mileage, power, cockpit design
DISLIKES: Entry/egress, need for options
BOTTOM LINE: For those who love small, cute, peppy and iconic

2016 MINI COOPER S CLUBMAN

Base price w/destination fee: $28,500 ($40,800 as tested)
Vehicle weight: 3,235 lbs
Wheelbase: 105.1 inches
Length: 168.3 inches
Width: 70.9 inches
Engine: 2.0 liter, in-line 4 cylinder, turbo
Horsepower 189 horsepower at 4,700rpm
Torque: 207 ft.-lbs. at 1,250 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, 8-speed manual paddles Steptronic
EPA rating:  24 mpg city and 34 mpg highway
Range: 13.2-gallon tank, premium recommended
Performance: 0-60 in about 6.9 seconds

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