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MINI Clubman, MINI Countryman Reviewed

Of the 1 568 MINI cars sold in South Africa in 2019 so far, about 40% are Clubman and Countryman. These are two of MINI’s three cars with 5 doors, inc

By Thami Masemola on 15 Nov 2019
Of the 1 568 MINI cars sold in South Africa in 2019 so far, about 40% are Clubman and Countryman. These are two of MINI’s three cars with 5 doors, including the MINI 5 door. The Clubman has now been updated as well as uprated, while the Countryman received a hotter version as well. So we are here to tell you about the updated MINI Cooper Clubman, MINI Clubman John Cooper Works and Countryman John Cooper Works.

John Cooper Works (JCW) is basically what M is to BMW; a high-performance brand for the MINI range that adds a bag of spices to what many already consider the performance benchmark in its class. So Clubman is a 5-door MINI with a unique fifth door system that splits in the middle and opens outward. Like a truck trailer. Some of the new highlights include LED headlights with Matrix for the high beam, standard LED rear lights (optional Union Jack design), new light alloy wheels16 to 18-inch -, new exterior colours and of course a new front grille.

Much of the interior centres around the infotainment system with its large 16.5cm touch screen which can also be accessed via the rotary knob at the centre console. The standard sound system comes with 6 speakers, USB port, and Bluetooth connection. Buyers can opt for the bigger 22.3cm screen with satellite navigation and wireless charging for compatible smartphones.

The Clubman JCW comes with extras like 19-inch alloy wheels in two-tone colours, a more rigid, sportier chassis, John Cooper Works logos on the front grille, side sills and rear end. The front grille itself takes on a honeycomb pattern, while the headlights and rear lights sport a new design. Buyers can also opt for the contrast paintwork in red for the roof and side mirror caps. These apply to the Countryman JCW as well, but of course that car sits higher than the Clubman because it is designed as a crossover/SUV. Sports seats and the JCW multifunction steering wheel are a treat in these cars; both are adjustable to suit the driver’s needs and offer a really sporty feeling.

I experienced exactly this sporty feeling when I drove both cars in Mpumalanga during what felt like an endless ribbon of roads. Mpumalanga really needs to fix its massive pothole problem though, and two of my colleagues learned this the hard way when their cars got punctures along the road.

Fortunately nobody got hurt. Otherwise the cars handled themselves with exceptional aplomb. I was especially impressed by the improved Countryman JCW, which is now more powerful and feels lighter, more agile around fast curvy roads.

Baseline Cooper Countryman comes with a 3-cylinder, 1.5-litre turbocharged engine that produces 100kW of power, a claimed 9.2 seconds over the 0 – 100km/h sprint, a top speed of 205km/h and average fuel consumption of 5.4 litres per 100km. The Cooper S Clubman makes 141kW from its 2.0-litre turbo engine, is said to sprint from standstill to 100km/h in 7.2 seconds, top off at 228km/h and average 5.6 litres per 100km. Both cars are driven by a standard 7-speed double-clutch automatic transmission through the front wheels. Of course there is also the Clubman John Cooper Works and Countryman John Cooper Works. These two use the same 2.0-litre turbo motor to produce 225kW and 450Nm each. Both come with
a slick 8-speed automatic gearbox. In addition to that, MINI has installed All4 all-wheel-drive into these cars to maximise grip. It works. The result is that the Clubman JCW can dash from 0 – 100km/h in 4.9 seconds, while the Countryman JCW does the same in 5.1 seconds, according to MINI’s own figures.

Both can reach 250km/h. Impressive figures all round. Where they disappoint is in the aural pleasures. Sure the twin exhaust tailpipes emit some nice standard sounds, but they fail to ignite the senses when changing gears. No snap, no crackle, no pop. Essentially no vrrrrrrr pha. Hopefully the upcoming MINI GP will deal with that shortcoming decisively.

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