The motoring public’s love of Mini literally began the moment it was unveiled by BMC in 1959. A darling of the 60s, the tiny yet ‘oh so practical’ car came at a time when fuel prices were high and skirts were short. It was an instant family favourite and most, if not all of us have a Mini tale to tell.
In global news, 1961 saw work began on the Berlin wall, Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space and the great British compact car teamed up with auto racing legend John Cooper to form the basis of what was to be Mini JCW (John Cooper Works). Around six decades later, I found myself behind the wheel of their latest iteration, the Mini Clubman JCW All4 and I couldn’t have been happier. For although the ‘new’ range of BMW inspired Minis may have grown in size and road presence over the years, the F54 Clubman JCW retains its Go-Kart handling and its very ingratiating drive.
The Clubman sits in the middle of the Mini range style offering plenty of extra room over the 3-door Mini but is lower to the road than the Countryman ‘SUV’. My model came in white silver metallic with enough red ‘go-faster decals’ to attract attention from speed radar guns in space (I bet Yuri could’ve seen it).
As luck would have it, my review dates coincided with a planned weekend away, a camping trip with my son to Raglan. To be honest, I somewhat scoffed at the thought of trying to fit the camping gear plus bike, plus scooter into the Mini but its tardis-like 1,250L of seat down luggage space swallowed it all, with room to spare.
Holiday weekends mean traffic, thankfully the Clubman’s ultra-modern infotainment tech had me covered. With realtime traffic updates, it had me heading off the beaten track just past Hampton Downs and onto some winding country roads that both the JCW and I enjoyed. The handling of the powerful Clubman was a thrill a minute. The all-wheel-drive, sturdy chassis, firm suspension and wide, low-profile rubber combination barely had me touching the brakes and the steering is pinpoint accurate with just enough road feedback to keep you on your toes. Sport is the driving mode to select to truly immerse yourself in what this car has to offer, it instantly unleashes the twin-turbo power of the 2L engine (225kW/450Nm), however, once I was through the tighter curves, economy mode prevailed (also my son was starting to look a little pale).
We unpacked at the campsite. When I say ‘we’ I mean me, my son went off to play/explore all that Raglan Holiday Park had to offer (which is loads by the way) and while I pitched the tent, the Clubman continually caught my eye (and that of fellow campers). It casts a timeless silhouette, boasting a loveable face with big round LED eyes and plenty of sporty garnish to keep you happy (even though some of it is purely aesthetic). The double doors at the rear are a crowd favourite and although they do block a bit of rearview vision, they are too cool to be mad at. Then there’s the multitude of Union Jack references, designed to make a Brit like me proud. From the taillights to the small badges on the seats, headrests and even mats on some of the cubby holes, and when you throw the JCW badging into the mix, the Mini/Sport/British heritage is truly complete.
Plenty of miles and plenty of smiles would be the simple way to sum up my Mini Clubman JCW All4 experience. It’s a vehicle that is surprisingly spacious yet feels compact and sporty. The ride is firm but even on the long weekend excursion away, I came back raring to drive this fun mobile more and more. It’s not as small as the first generation but then again it’s far more powerful.