Extended test: Mini Clubman 2021 review

Everybody (and the dog) in the club

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Mini Clubman specifications

  • Model Mini Clubman F54 Cooper S Sport
  • Price £26,790 OTR
  • Price as tested (with options) £31,575
  • Colour Midnight Black
  • Cost options fitted Midnight Black paint (£795); 19” John Cooper Works Course Spoke alloys (£500); Sport Automatic DTC Transmission (£1,800)
  • Engine 1,998cc, 4-cylinder, petrol
  • Transmission 7-speed automatic with dual-clutch
  • Power output 192bhp @ 1,250rpm
  • Torque 280 lb ft at 1,350-4,600rpm
  • Weight (DIN/EU) 1,280kg / 1,305kg
  • Luggage capacity 360 / 1,250 litres (seats up / rear-seats folded)
  • Top speed 142mph
  • 0-62mph 7.3sec
  • Fuel consumption (WLTP combined cycle) 44.1mpg
  • CO2 emissions (WLTP) 145g/km
  • VED (road tax) £230 for first year; £165 thereafter
  • BIK tax payable (2020/21) 33%; £1,828 (20%) or £3,657 (40%)
  • Insurance group 27E

Test details

Test period February to July 2022
Starting mileage 739 miles


  1. April 4, 2022 First impressions of the Mini Clubman
  2. May 17, 2022 The scores from the paws … how dog-friendly is the Mini Clubman?
  3. June 17, 2022 Is the Mini Clubman style over substance or a genuinely good drive?
  4. July 27, 2022 Dog-friendly showrooms and more at a Mini x Dogs Trust event
  5. August 16, 2022 Final Verdict – paid up members of the Club?

April 4, 2022: First impressions of the Mini Clubman

Extended test: Mini Clubman 2021 review

Compact, sleek, sporty, upmarket and retro. It might sound like a roll call for a Spice Girls spin-off but these are the adjectives that best describe the Clubman Cooper S Sport, on first impressions, at least.

After my previous review took me into large SUV territory, I was pleased to have a less gargantuan vehicle on test. The Clubman had piqued my interest over recent months, as it picked up The Sunday Times Dog Friendly Car of the Year prize, in part thanks to the car maker’s collaboration with the Dogs Trust. With many UK families now having to factor a post-lockdown pooch into their car-buying criteria, I’m keen to find out if the Clubman barks louder than rivals when it comes to dog-carrying.

Extended test: Mini Clubman 2021 review

Some surprises helped my early evaluations get off to a positive start. Mini has been super-generous with the model supplied, namely a very sporty Cooper S that has flashy John Cooper Works upgrades, such as the steering wheel, seats and wheels (full details to come in future instalments).

It’s taken a while to get acclimatised to the low ride compared with the SUV I had last year, but the go-kart vibe is welcome, as is the punchy acceleration: 0-62mph is achieved in 7.3 seconds.

The interior is snug and comfortable, and while it can accommodate five passengers, it’s clear that anyone with longer legs won’t want to be seated in the tight back row on a long drive. 

Mini has a very loyal customer base and has come a long way under BMW ownership in recent times to broaden what is still a relatively small range, layering in new derivatives and spec options on what is essentially the same iconic shape, famous round headlamps and interior design cues.

Probably the most distinctive feature of the Clubman is its six-door set up, with the split barn door rear opening. I’ve seen these frequently on display on the road and in local car parks and they certainly are an intriguing point of difference, so it’ll be interesting to see if they’re a gimmick or a clever design feature.

I can see the advantages as it negates any height restrictions when loading the boot, but you need to be careful with any potential obstacles on either side and it’s taking time to adjust to the door frames obscuring the rearward view — a point I’ll return to in future updates.

Extended test: Mini Clubman 2021 review

The Clubman doesn’t seem to have a lot of rivals, as it’s pitched as Mini’s estate car but there aren’t too many estates this small: an Audi A3 Sportback or Skoda Fabia Estate are ones that jump to mind. But with this engine and JCW sports upgrades, it’s verging on hot hatch territory, too.

With this in mind, the Dogs Trust partnership starts to make sense, as it’s a clever hook to persuade people to take a chance on its quirky design. I’m all too well aware that winning our favourite pets’ hearts and minds is a strong way to win their owners’ car budgets.

Next time, I’ll be getting forensic on the Clubman’s dog friendliness, with subsequent review instalments looking at its drivability, tech features, options and specs.

I do a solid mix of motorway, urban and rural journeys, so it will be a good test to see if the Clubman can be the ultimate alternative all-rounder family car. My brood’s busy weekly schedule and some exciting road trips should see to that.

  • Mileage this month 742 miles
  • Mileage to date 742 miles
  • Average economy 38.1

As ever with our extended tests, you can ask questions at any time via Tina’s Twitter account or the comments below.

Tweet to @tina_milton Follow @tina_milton

May 17, 2022: The scores from the paws … how dog-friendly is the Mini Clubman?

How dog-friendly is the Mini Clubman?

You know your dog approves of a car when she hops into its boot of her own free will. So, when our cavapoo Jessie bounded into the back of the Mini Clubman on the second week of its arrival, it was a definite vote of confidence.

To do it this quickly was her equivalent of bopping a furry paw on the Britain’s Got Talent golden buzzer – top marks.

To be fair, a low boot sill (which makes it much easier for her to jump into) was among the reasons the Mini Clubman scooped the Dog Friendly Car of The Year at the News UK Motor Awards 2021, alongside split rear doors and a dog accessory pack.

Its compact boot is surprisingly spacious for a smaller car but the perfect size for our Jessie, with the mesh dog guard (£150) providing a secure divide and keeping her from jumping into the back seats. There is enough room for a small- to medium-sized dog like ours to turn around and find a comfy spot for the journey.

Netted side cubbies are a bonus for storing the dog essentials always needed on road trips, from waste bags and whistles to leads and treats, as are the integrated cubbies in the split barn doors. Underfloor storage compartments offer even more room for emergency dog supplies if needed.

Opening the Mini’s rear doors one at a time is a useful feature when you don’t want the entire boot exposed. Opening them remotely via the key fob is particularly good when having to lift a dirty dog into the boot after her swim in a forest lake (followed by rolling around on a muddy path, for a tar and feather effect).

A word of caution though, use them with care and ensure clearance space — the automatic pinball flipper-style doors can be enough to catch out humans who are standing in their way or walking past.  

Mini Clubman dog guard

The dog pack has ensured that the boot has remained relatively pristine, despite the lake-swimming antics. While she may look (and act) like a princess, deep down Jessie’s a mud monster who loves to have a raucous roll in ditches and a spin in the sand, so the all-weather car boot mat (£50) has been a welcome shield for the Clubman’s interior, while also helping us avoid many extra hours of scrubbing the boot lining.

The mat is easy to wipe clean so smaller mud clumps can be mopped up or hoovered in-situ, while it’s also simple to slide out and hose down for bigger clean-up jobs (a life saver after post-beach carnage). A boot space divider could also be a useful addition for travel and shopping bags that need to be separated from the woofer.

While tethering points (including the Isofix anchors) are ample in the boot, unclipping Jessie’s lead from them can prove somewhat of a battle as fittings are snug and stiff.

We found it easier to use the dog guard – using one of the lower rungs works best so that Jessie still has plenty of space to sit and lie down. It’s our fail-safe in case she attempts to jump out once the doors are open. The Mini’s boot has a very handy, hidden hook that flips down from its flush position on the boot wall if you need a quick post-walk clip point while you take your boots off, but the dog guard is the sturdiest option for attaching her harness for journeys

Extended test: Mini Clubman 2021 review

The Mini’s rear tinted windows have also helped keep the glare off our Jessie, as it’s important to keep her temperature down as the summer approaches and the weather hots up. All car-driving dog owners know the importance of avoiding any unnecessary sources of stress, so this extra type of protection from the sun is most welcome.

In line with the adage that the best things come in small packages, for our mini mutt, the Mini Clubman hits a sweet spot.

However, while it’s a winner for quick trips around town, weekend escapes and park runs, for extended jaunts, it doesn’t offer quite enough room for suitcases, bags and dog paraphernalia. Dog owners who want to take their hounds on longer stays may need to explore roof-box options, buy a trailer or size up to the Mini Countryman. Larger dogs will want the extra space to stretch out, too.

  • Mileage this month 1,002 miles
  • Mileage to date 1,744 miles
  • Average economy 38.2

As ever with our extended tests, you can ask questions at any time via Tina’s Twitter account or the comments below.

Tweet to @tina_milton Follow @tina_milton

June 17, 2022: Is the Mini Clubman style over substance or a genuinely good drive?

Extended test: Mini Clubman 2021 review

Having ascertained that the Mini Clubman S Sport has many pooch perfect qualities, I thought was about time to put its human driving credentials to the test.

To those who pay close attention to Mini’s key design cues, the Clubman does look like its been put through a few nip and tuck procedures. The regular Mini Hatch shape has been stretched over a longer wheelbase, the increased length giving it the scope to compete as an estate car, though at the compact end of the scale.

And its much lower than the Countryman, with a low centre of gravity that helps achieve stability even over less favourable ground. The ride quality of the Cooper S Sport could be described as “uncompromised” — as in definitely sporty — with low body roll and large amounts of grip in and out of corners.

2022 Mini Clubman

The Clubman I’m testing comes with Sport Automatic DTC transmission (option added at £1,800), providing super-smooth shifts and allows the 192bhp, 2-litre petrol engine to despatch 0-60mph in 7.3 seconds, making it no slouch off the lights. Such is the ease of the pick-up, I’ve had to be careful with the local speed camera at the end of my road, not something that troubles me with the regular family SUV.

Although most Minis might be stereotyped as nifty, fun, town cars, the Clubman is equally as well suited to the motorway. It purrs along at 70mph for long stretches, with the easy-to-use cruise steering wheel controls coming into their own over weekend jaunts along the M3 and M4.

It hugs the lanes nicely and never feels like it’s having to stretch itself during overtakes, which can be an issue with smaller-sized vehicles.

2022 Mini Clubman

Fuel efficiency-wise, I’ve been getting up to 39mpg on longer trips even though it’s a petrol, which has been welcome given the depressing state of petrol prices in the current economic climate.

The Clubman has many endearing qualities in the cabin, too. The John Cooper Works sports seats offer a premium look and feel, though adjustments are by slightly old-fashioned manual levers. Mind you, toying with them to get my position correct is just as easy and quick as some electric systems I’ve experienced in other vehicles I’ve tested, so it’s hard to grumble. Likewise the air-con and infotainment system have old-school hand controlled touch dials and buttons respectively, which I’m on board with but maybe Millennials and Gen-Zs will feel hard done by. It’s certainly not the most futuristic system available.

The Clubman shares the characteristic large, round central display with other Minis (it harks back to the speedo on the original Mini). The rectangular digital screen isn’t a great fit in its circular housing, but it’s authentically Mini and is a standout feature that the brand will not be in a hurry to drop.

2022 Mini Clubman interior

I loved exploring the interior lighting options, providing ambient settings for both the display and the cabin’s soft glow at night. As with other Minis, colours include blues, yellows, greens and reds, helping you set the mood for the drive ahead.

It’s not all good news, though and there are a few niggles with the Clubman I need to flag. For one, I’m finding the indicators unintuitive and quite often they don’t seem to auto-cancel after a turn. This has become irritating over time, for me and probably drivers behind.

Also, navigation through wireless Apple Carplay is my default option but while it was initially easy to pair up my iPhone with the Mini, in recent weeks I’ve been bumped out three times and have had to start all over again with the pairing process. Inconvenient when you need to jump in and head off in a hurry.

These irritations aside, the Mini Clubman has plenty of style and even sass, and can back it up with substance. It retains all the performance and handling hallmarks of the wider Mini range, being compact, nippy and agile, while offering more practicality than the regular hatch.

It may sit somewhere in no-man’s land size-wise, but if you aren’t interested in ultimate load-lugging — just a little more than a Mini Hatch can offer — while remaining low and sporty, then the Mini Clubman carves out an appealing niche.

  • Mileage this month 945 miles
  • Mileage to date 2,689 miles
  • Average economy 38.7mpg

As ever with our extended tests, you can ask questions at any time via Tina’s Twitter account or the comments below.

Tweet to @tina_milton Follow @tina_milton

July 27, 2022: Dog-friendly showrooms and more at a Mini x Dogs Trust event

Mini and Dogs Trust

For an extra special instalment of our extended test of the Clubman Sport S, we were invited to an event hosted by Mini in collaboration with the Dogs Trust.

The wellbeing of our four-legged friends is one most dog owners take seriously. And as the mercury soared and the blazing summer temperatures hit the hottest levels ever this year, there was no better time to consider how to keep our canines safe and cool.

That was just one of the timely themes covered during our day spent at the Dogs Trust’s Basildon Centre with the welfare charity’s partner, Mini. A multitude of tips and tricks (and treats!) were shared and of course, our cavapoo Jessie came along for the ride as a human chaperone and chief road tester.

From pure peanut butter (without xylitol or palm oil) and banana-stuffed frozen banana treats to natural yogurt and strawberry ice cubes, making enrichment snacks is just one way to turn up the chill factor for hot dogs, we learnt.

Keeping dogs cool on hots days with frozen treats

Jessie’s verdict was paw-sitive as she snaffled most of these in an instant.

Using pet-safe sun cream for exposed areas of skin, such as the tips of ears and nose, was also a suggestion. And doing the seven-second pavement test with your hand was also advised, to check pavement temperatures aren’t too hot for your dog’s paws.

Mini’s new dog-friendly showrooms

But that’s not all we learnt. When it comes to being dog-friendly, Mini knows a thing or two. For a start, the Mini Clubman scooped the Dog Friendly Car of The Year at the News UK Motor Awards 2021 thanks to its low boot sill, split rear doors and handy dog accessory pack. The brand clearly recognises just how close to our hearts (and wallets) our pooches are. So, it seemed apt that the introduction of Mini’s dog-friendly showrooms was also revealed during our day.

Over the past year, to become the first Dogs Trust-approved, dog-friendly car retailer, the 131-strong network of Mini retailers have been put through their paces on a tough training programme. The initiative, developed and implemented by Dogs Trust Canine Behaviour experts, was designed to make sure they provide dogs and their humans with a favourable experience.

This might seem like a bit of a fluffy (pardon the pun) concept but it makes a lot of sense. With more dogs in the UK than ever before, retailers are starting to give serious consideration to how they can support their dog-owning customers. What better way to suss out a car’s credentials than to take your dog along for the test drive?

I can see the appeal of trying out Jessie for size pre-purchase! It’s a surefire means of tapping into the power of the ‘paw patrol’ pound. Dogs are, after all, an important part of family life and it follows they are a big influence on car buying decisions.

The next phase of the partnership is to deliver further in-depth training to nominated Dog Champions across the retailers. This way, it can really roll out the red carpet for some VIP (Very Important Pooch) treatment.

While Mini UK retailers will be welcoming dogs through the doors, the brand will continue to work with the Dogs Trust to help make sure they travel safely. Best practice for dogs and car journeys can be found on Mini’s info-packed Dog Hub. You’ll even find pointers on Dog Friendly Beaches (we agree from personal experience on beautiful rolling sands at Holkham Beach in Norfolk). We will be utilising this guide to the max now that the sun has firmly got his hat on.

Dog in the boot of a Mini Clubman

We drove away in our Clubman far more clued up on how to keep Jessie cooler on summer days and longer journeys. She settled in the back seat, gratefully shielded from the sun due to the tinted windows and refreshed by Mini’s blissfully powerful air conditioning, which had the cabin chilled in no time. It’s a creature comfort we’ve really appreciated during the summer months. This July, in particular, we’d love to have extended it to our home.

  • Mileage this month 753 miles
  • Mileage to date 3,442 miles
  • Average economy 38.1mpg

As ever with our extended tests, you can ask questions at any time via Tina’s Twitter account or the comments below.

Tweet to @tina_milton Follow @tina_milton

August 16, 2022: Final Verdict – paid up members of the Club?

Mini Clubman long-term review

Our extended test with the Mini Clubman Sport S has come to an end and to coincide with the school holidays, it’s time to give the full teacher’s report. Is it top of the class or does it need to repeat a year?

Our testing period truly gave it a proper workout across an extreme set of weather conditions. The Clubman arrived in February as Storms Dudley and Eunice blew in to cause panic and nuisance for a week or so, and it’s strange to think we were still testing the Mini as the UK hit the frazzling peak of 40.3 degrees just a few weeks ago.

However, whether it’s arctic or tropical outside, one thing for sure is that the Clubman is one cool customer and became a real family favourite.

Starting with what we loved most, it’s easy to name the top three features we rated the best:

  1. Acceleration – The Clubman has real oomph and was a total joy when switching lanes on motorway trips. It has a smart and rapid pick up plus its close hug to the road makes it a nifty overtaker.
  2. Lighting – The ambient light settings are a slick added touch, a neat toy to play with and set the mood for the cabin across a range of colours. Externally the Mini badge light beneath the doors also gave going out at night a Batman-esque vibe.
  3. Boot doors – Yes, they’re the signature feature on the Clubman but the novelty didn’t wear off. Practically useful when splitting the boot space, particularly when you want to keep your dog paraphernalia separated.

Honourable mentions go to the John Cooper Works seats, the iconic round dashboard dials and the super-easy cruise control. All of them genuinely added to the full driving experience and would be positive considerations if they were part of a buying decision.

Like with all our cars, we also had a few niggles with the Clubman. All of them were technology related, with the most notable of these as follows:

Mini Clubman infotainment and connectivity
  1. Infotainment – I just never got to the point where I felt this was seamless to use. Switching between menus from radio to car settings did not feel intuitive or consumer friendly. This became frustrating and even distracting when driving.
  2. Sat-nav – The in-built Mini system was problematic visually. It was not easy to view the routes, as the colour coding of roads was not obvious to follow.
  3. Connectivity – As noted in previous reports, I had a few issues with connecting to Apple Carplay, having to log back in or start over again on a few occasions. Once or twice would be OK, but thereafter it became a pain.

So, who would the Clubman suit best in terms of a car-buying profiles? It certainly sits well as a high-spec and sassy second family car. It was big enough to do all of the daily family routines, such as a big family shop, football pick-up/drop-offs, dog walks and even a recent day at the beach. Our kids (and their friends) all gave it a nod of respect and serious kudos.

That aside, in my opinion the Clubman is not an alternative for those looking for a new small family estate or SUV. It’s just not spacious enough to take on a week’s staycation holiday, or even a long weekend. Maybe those with one child in tow might just make this work, but throw in a buggy or scooter and you’re eating into what else you can take with you.

Having said that, Mini has certainly won my heart and mind in terms of their dog-friendly approach and it’s clear this gives them a USP that many rivals have overlooked. I’ve been left a firm Mini convert and can fully appreciate how they’ve built such strong brand loyalty from their owners.

My sister-in-law has a Countryman on order, which is set to arrive in September. I’ll be keen, (and a little envious), to take a look at how this compares to the Clubman. Who knows, if the report is positive, Jessie and I might have to go and start a conversation with one of Mini’s canine-trained retailers.

Tina Milton Mini Clubman review
  • Test period February – July 2022
  • Starting mileage 739
  • Mileage this month 1,061 miles
  • Mileage in total 4,503 miles
  • Average economy 38.4mpg

This extended test has now concluded.

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