What is it?
The 2020 Mini Clubman John Cooper Works Works Better
More Power for the Practical Mini
The Mini Clubman is a stretched version of the iconic Mini Cooper Hardtop. As such, it benefits from an increase in both cargo capacity and rear passenger space. The John Cooper Works (JCW) trim is the highest-performing model in the lineup.
The 2020 Mini Clubman JCW's turbocharged 2.0-liter engine gets a significant bump in power output thanks to a larger turbocharger. It now pumps out 301 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, compared to 228 hp and 258 lb-ft last year. At the same time, fuel economy has also improved, though official U.S. figures aren't yet available.
A new eight-speed automatic transmission, mechanical front differential, upgraded brakes, and a strengthened chassis ensure the rest of the Clubman can keep up with the added power. A new grille, LED exterior lighting and piano-black trim round out the styling updates.
Why does it matter?
The Mini Hardtop provides plenty of personality and charm but falls short when it comes to practicality. The solution is the Clubman since its longer interior better accommodates both adult rear passengers and luggage. There aren't a lot of hatchbacks being made today, and even fewer with this kind of performance and personality.
What does it compete with?
Outside of its own Mini stablemates (Hardtops and Countryman), the Clubman JCW faces off against rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf R, Honda Civic Type R and Hyundai Veloster N. Shoppers may also be interested in more conventional hatchbacks such as the Kia Forte and Mazda 3.
How does it drive?
Unleashing 301 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque could conceivably overwhelm the front wheels, but that's when the All4 all-wheel-drive system sends as much as 50% of that power to the rear wheels. You'll feel a slight tug of torque steer to the right if you stomp the gas pedal from a standstill. But it requires minimal wheel correction to maintain your intended path.
The proportioning of that power is seamless as far as the driver is concerned. Shifts are quick in automatic mode, and the Clubman gathers speed with ease. According to Mini, this new 2020 Clubman JCW will reach 100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.8 seconds, which is 1.4 seconds quicker than the 2019 model.
Switching into Sport mode sharpens throttle response and opens up a valve in the exhaust to provide an even sportier noise, though not as much as expected (noise regulations worldwide have limited this). Gear changes are also much more aggressive, bordering on overly harsh. For the typical driver considering a JCW-badged Mini, however, this harshness will likely be a welcome part of the sporty character. As expected, the upgraded brakes are up to the task of getting the Clubman slowed in a hurry. They're also consistently reliable after heavy use.
We drove the JCW on the serpentine roads around Frankfurt, Germany. Here, it proved itself in regard to handling. You can bomb into tight hairpin turns at rather high rates of speed and know that the suspension and tires will keep the Clubman stable through the curves. It's not as nimble as the smaller two-door and four-door Cooper Hardtops, but the Clubman is still plenty entertaining. The JCW's standard sport suspension is 10mm lower than the regular Clubman's. And there's also an option for adaptive dampers to give you a broader range of comfort and performance.
Unlike John Cooper Works vehicles from Mini's past, this 2020 Clubman doesn't seem quite as rough and aggressive. The ride quality isn't anywhere close to punishing, and we comfortably ticked off an afternoon of hard driving with no complaints. As a result, this JCW Clubman is far easier to live with on a daily basis.
What's the interior like?
If you've been in any recent Mini vehicle, the 2020 Clubman JCW will look and feel very familiar. The old Mini heritage styling cues are prominent, from the round gauges to the old-school toggle switches. Technology features are also identical to other Minis and feature healthy contributions from parent company BMW.
From the driver's seat, everything related to driving is well-placed within reach. The main instruments aren't as legible as we prefer, and the infotainment screen is on the small side. But the available head-up display solves that by presenting clear information right in your sightline.
The front sport seats are firm but well-contoured for comfort, and the side bolstering keeps you secure when cornering. Visibility to the sides and front is excellent thanks to the upright nature of the windows. But rear visibility is hampered by the rather short glass that is split in the middle by the Clubman's distinctive barn-door-style hatchback design. The rear seats have plenty of headroom for adult passengers, but taller occupants may find thigh support lacking on longer trips. For anyone else, the rear accommodations will be more than adequate.
Materials quality throughout the cabin is far better than most other hatchbacks and meets expectations for one costing more than $40,000. Wind noise was pleasantly abated on our drive, even on high-speed sections of the Autobahn. But tire noise was more prevalent than we prefer. On coarser surfaces, it could be downright intrusive. We'll have to see how a U.S.-spec model does once we are able to perform a full test.
The infotainment system is an adaptation of BMW's last-generation iDrive. It's easy to use and has a lot of features. Unfortunately, the dial controller is mounted too far back and too low on the center console to be comfortable to use. It forces an awkward crane of the wrist, and to look at the physical shortcut buttons, you'll have to take your eyes off the road briefly.
How practical is it?
The Clubman and Countryman are the most practical models in the Mini lineup but still fall short in some areas compared to rivals. You get 17.5 cubic feet of space behind the Clubman's rear seats. Folding them flat opens it up to 47.9 cubic feet. Both of these figures are similar to the Countryman's.
With four adults taking up seats, it may be a tight squeeze to get all of their luggage in. The dual hatchback doors make loading easy, at least. Once you tug on the handle, the right-side door swings open on its own, followed by the left side if needed. Those doors are rather thick, further limiting the available cargo space. When it comes to finding places for your phone and other personal effects, the Clubman has barely enough in the way of cupholders, pockets and bins.
The 2020 Clubman John Cooper Works may be the more practical Mini, but it's still not as accommodating as its primary competitors from VW, Honda and Hyundai. That said, none of these rivals have quite the personality of the Clubman, either. In an apples-to-apples comparison, the Clubman JCW is also more expensive and, if you opt for the numerous customization features, the price gap widens further.