Car Reviews

2017 Mini Clubman JCW SD4 Review

Alex Rae’s 2017 Mini Clubman JCW SD4 Review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshell: The JCW Clubman boosts its character and is fun to drive.

2017 Mini Clubman John Cooper Works SD4

Pricing From $53,900+ORC Warranty three years, unlimited kilometres Service Intervals 12 months Safety 5 star EuroNCAP Engine 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol Power 170kW at 6000rpm Torque 350Nm at 1450-4500rpm Transmission six-speed manual, eight-speed automatic Drive all-wheel drive Dimensions 4253mm (L); 1800mm (W); 1441mm (H) Boot Space 360 litres Spare space-saver Fuel Tank 48 litres Thirst 6.5L/100km

Comprehensive Car Insurance

JUST LIKE THE SMALLER Mini Cooper hatch and larger Mini Countryman SUV, the Mini Cooper Clubman doesn’t dare deviate from the retro-funky styling which is synonymous with modern Minis. Add 270mm in length and cute little barn doors at the back and the six-door Clubman design really does start to standout compared to, well, anything.

But this Clubman is the John Cooper Works edition, which adds all-wheel drive and a six-speed manual that’s fun to heel-and-toe with crackles and pops in between gear changes. And it feels like a mature sports car rather than a cute spin on the old hatch.

Practical Motoring’s editor, Isaac Bober, got to sample the Mini JCW Clubman earlier this year… he only got 15min behind the wheel but found it to be a competent and quirky go-fast mini wagon. READ HIS QUICK SPIN HERE.

What is it?

The Clubman is a six-door (four plus two at the rear) wagon of diminutive proportions. It measures 4253mm long, 1800mm wide and 1441mm high (same height as a Mini Cooper).

For comparison, the Clubman wagon is 53mm shorter in both length and height than the already small Skoda Fabia wagon… Yet the Fabia manages 145 litres more boot space.

But the Clubman JCW does have a well kitted interior, which includes as standard an 8.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with sat nav and DAB+, 12-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system, heads-up display, leather seats, JCW styling bits and changeable LED interior ambient lighting.

There’s also an excellent safety assist system as standard, which includes adaptive cruise control (up to 140km/h) with stop-and-go function, autonomous emergency braking, speed limit display, park assist and LED headlights with auto high-beam.

The Clubman JCW is priced from $53,900 (+ORC) and extras include electric seats with memory and 40:20:40 split-fold rear seats in the $2200 convenience pack; sunroof and heated seats in the $2400 climate pack, and; adaptive LED headlights and tyre pressure monitoring in the $650 control pack.

Being a JCW edition, it also comes with a selection of improved suspension and wheel options, including either 19-inch alloys with run-flat tyres or 18-inch alloys with Michelin Pilot Super Sports. The 19-inch alloy option receives 10mm lower and firmer suspension, and the 18-inch alloy version gets two-way adjustable dampers.

It’s powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine which produces 170kW at 6000rpm and 350Nm of torque from 1450-4500rpm. The numbers it produces aren’t huge, but good enough to propel its 1475kg 0-100km/h in 6.3sec. An eight-speed automatic is standard but a six-speed manual is a no-cost option (tested), and it’s mated to Mini’s all-wheel drive system which has been borrowed from the BMW X1 and 2 series active tourer.

On spec, the Clubman JCW has similar acceleration and power to the $49,900 BMW 125i M manual and $40,390 Skoda Octavia RS manual. But both are either too small or too large to directly compare with the Clubman JCW. And while both are more affordable, they don’t offer the offbeat looks, all-wheel drive or JCW street cred.

What’s it like inside?

It’s unmistakably a Mini inside and really, the Clubman is just a Cooper with a longer bum and two doors on the rear instead of one.

The infotainment screen sits in a large, round, centrally mounted gauge and provides a very glossy and punchy display. The capacitive touchscreen features a very light glass coating, similar to current iPhones, that has a more responsive feel than most on the market. There’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and instead there is one USB port for charging and connecting devices for media playback.

Below the infotainment stack are climate control dials and a chrome looking plastic switch array which includes the start/stop selector. There’s a fair bit going on aesthetically, and the switch array features on the roof too for things light map reading lights and sunroof control.

The speedo is mounted in a gauge behind the steering wheel along with the tachometer and fuel gauge either side. Behind that, on the dash, is a basic heads up display which requires a little flip up plastic screen to show information and it isn’t as polished as an on-windscreen HUD. But the information provided – speed, current speed limit and navigation – is helpful.

The driver’s seat has a good amount of adjustment and a good seat position can be obtained with the tilt-and-reach adjustable steering wheel. The seats also provide some firm bolstering and feel hugging, increasing the sporty nature of the JCW from the driver’s seat. The steering wheel is small in diameter and has a nice grip in the hands too, but palms can accidently push on the steering wheel mounted buttons on tight corners.

Vision for the driver is good out front but limited in the rear quarters, and out the back, thanks to the barn door style boot. There’s a reversing camera and sensors for slow maneuvers though.

The rear seats are surprisingly roomy, but expectantly only good enough for up to two adults and a child or three larger kids if travelling any sort of mid-to-long distance. There’s a few mods cons in the back like an armrest with cup holders (cost option), 12v plug and air vents, but no USB charging port.

At the rear, the two vertical doors can open either manually or by swiping a boot under the rear bumper. Handy if you’re loaded with shopping. But you’re not going to get a bunch of stuff in the boot, because it’s unfortunately a little too short in depth for hauling much gear.

We struggled fitting a full bassinet pram in, which seems about right given it only provides 360 litres, or 1250 with the seats down. The similarly sized Fabia wagon shows it up here, with 505 litres of boot space. But the Skoda is the benchmark for boot space.

What’s it like on the road?

The Clubman JCW is exciting to drive, and stirs enthusiasm. This is mostly a credit to the real crackles and pops when sport mode is engaged (and the engine has warmed up), and also the addition of a no-cost option manual transmission.

It’s also a little more powerful than the Cooper JCW, with 30Nm more torque to deal with its extra weight, and so acceleration is about the same between the two cars. It’s not rapid, but it is quick, getting from 0-100km/h in 6.3sec and, most importantly, providing peak torque from 1450rpm. If you want to know exactly how much power you’re generating, both kilowatts and torque can be displayed live on the infotainment screen.

Combined with a responsive throttle, the JCW feels eager to accelerate out of corners and doesn’t necessitate a gear change if it’s a gear too high. But you’d probably want to be changing gears, because the pops out of the exhaust really are worth it…

There’s a definite persona to the JCW in sport mode that some other sports cars lack, but it’s not sacrificing much comfort to get it. When really pushed though, it doesn’t supply the surefootedness and sophistication of say, the Audi S3, but it takes a good amount of stick to make it feel uneasy.

The steering firms up from normal to sport mode, and although it feels a little disconnected from what’s happening upfront, it’s quick and accurate. The steering is lighter in normal or eco mode, but this setting can be changed through the infotainment settings. Another party trick is that the led lights around the circular infotainment stack glow in sequence of the tachometer.

The brakes – four-piston units supplied by Brembo –  were consistent throughout a days driving and never felt tired under stress. The suspension is firm – great when tackling corners – yet soft enough to not be jarring during day-to-day driving. Over corrugated roads the stiffer suspension was apparent though, and on coarse chip roads the tyres were 225/40 18-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres were a little bit noisy. But NVH was good overall, and the Michelin tyres provide good grip in both dry and wet conditions.

Grip is also impressive on both sealed and gravel roads thanks to the all-wheel drive system in the Clubman, which is borrowed from BMW X1. It’s a pretty sophisticated drivetrain that will transmit up to 100 per cent of power to either the front or rear axle. Thus it provides front-wheel drive economy when cruising or it can shuffle more power to the rear if the car senses understeer, but it’s not manually selectable.

Perhaps the biggest compromise to comfort when commuting is the six-speed manual, which although has a nice firm gate and feel, will feel a chore compared to the lazy auto option when in traffic. It does however feel like the right choice in the Clubman JCW’s tight package.

What about safety features?

The Mini Cooper Clubman has not been ANCAP tested but was awarded four stars by EuroNCAP, which is the rating system ANCAP will be following from 2018.

It rated 90% for adult occupant protection and 68% for both child occupant and pedestrian protection, and 67% for safety assists.

The Clubman JCW models comes with a good amount of safety assist and technology as standard, which includes adaptive cruise control (up to 140km/h) with stop-and-go function, autonomous emergency braking, speed limit display, park assist and LED headlights with auto high-beam.

Why would you buy one?

If you’re after a capable sports car and want something a little quirky – and you like the Mini styling – there’s not much more reason not to consider the Clubman JCW. Its soundtrack is also pretty addictive and you never tire of the pop and crackle although it’s a little too quiet in the cabin.

Editor's Rating

What's it like inside?
What's it like on the road?
What about safety features?
Practical Motoring Says: The Clubman JCW provides a sporty edge that might convince some buyers but it isn’t as practical as its body shape will lead you to believe and it won't grip to the ragged edge like some.

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Alex Rae

Alex Rae

Alex Rae grew up among some of the great stages of Targa Tasmania, an event that sparked his passion for all things mechanical. Currently living across Bass Strait in Melbourne, Alex has worked for the last decade in the automotive world as both a photographer and journalist, and is now a freelancer for various publications. When not driving for work Alex can be found tinkering in the shed on of one his project Zeds or planning his next gravel rally car.