Road test: Mini Clubman JCW 2019 review

Moving Well | Tim Nicholson | Posted on 16 March 2019

Tim Nicholson road tests the Mini Clubman JCW.

  • Thumbs up

    A genuine alternative to a hot hatch that’s also practical while standing out from the crowd.

  • Thumbs down

    Sheer sunroof shade doesn’t keep all of the summer sun out, and it’s $11k more expensive than excellent Cooper S.

  • Perfect for

    Anyone who enjoys spirited driving on twisty country roads but doesn’t want to follow the crowd.

  • Verdict

    Mini’s Clubman JCW is like nothing else on the road and mixes exciting performance with genuine practicality.

side view of a navy blue mini clubman


Mini’s Clubman of 2008 was a ‘new’ nod to its past, specifically the quirky Mini wagon that was not sold in Australia. But the awkwardness of a single rear passenger door, on the left of the car, kept it from selling in great numbers.

An updated version arrived in late 2015, this time with the more traditional two rear passenger doors, while retaining the unique barn-door tailgate configuration of the original.

Described by the BMW Group-owned brand as a six-door wagon, the Clubman model offers more space and extra practicality missing from the Mini three-door hatchback.

The Clubman is offered in base Cooper and spicier Cooper S guise, and in early 2017, Mini added the John Cooper Works (JCW) performance flagship.

The Clubman JCW is powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine delivering 170kW of power and 350Nm of torque. Power to each corner comes from Mini’s All4 system paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The Clubman JCW is priced from $56,900 plus on-road costs, which is $11,000 more expensive than the highly capable 141kW/280Nm Clubman Cooper S.

At first glance, the interior of the Clubman − or, indeed, any ‘new’ Mini − can seem gimmicky.

Aside from other variants within its own JCW model range, the Clubman has few direct competitors. Audi’s 170kW/370Nm S1 hot hatch is probably the most likely contender, but an all-new version of the car it’s based on, the A1 light hatch, is due for launch mid-year.

At first glance, the interior of the Clubman − or, indeed, any ‘new’ Mini − can seem gimmicky. It has the circular central display housing the 8.8-inch touchscreen that harks back to the massive circular speedos from Minis of old, and the old-school switches are reminiscent of an aeroplane cockpit.

The Clubman has a surprising amount of interior space, with loads of head and leg room up front and more than you’d expect in the rear. We could sit comfortably in the rear seat behind a driving position selected to suit a six-foot frame.

It’s technically a five-seater − but for comfort’s sake, it’s probably better suited to four adult occupants. Rear passengers also benefit from second-row air-conditioning vents. The seats up front are firm but still comfortable and supportive, which is essential in a car that loves cornering as much as this one does.

The head-up display is projected onto a plastic screen rising out of the instrument binnacle, which is a bit old-school. They are now mostly projected directly onto the windscreen.

back of navy mini clubman
mini clubman interior
front view of a mini clubman


The infotainment system works well and is relatively simple to navigate, but due to issues with your correspondent’s phone, we didn’t get to test the wireless Apple CarPlay. The panoramic sunroof has a sheer shade designed to counter the sun, but it can’t keep all of the summer heat out. A solid sunroof shade would solve this problem.

Boot space is a decent 360 litres, and Mini has included clever touches in the cargo area such as under-floor storage, bag hooks and other assorted nooks.

Click the button on the key fob and the right-side barn door opens automatically, then click it again and the left side opens. The barn-door tailgate is unique and convenient, but the split door creates a rear-vision blind spot.

The 2.0-litre turbo four under the bonnet is hugely capable, delivering sprightly acceleration from a standing start after the slightest hint of turbo lag. It picks up the pace quickly higher up the rev range and the engine note is a delight, particularly when the brilliant eight-speed auto shifts up or down a gear.

The All4 all-wheel-drive system ensures the Clubman JCW holds the road beautifully when punted into corners while remaining stable on looser road surfaces. The ride is firm around town and on rougher roads – due in part to the use of run-flat tyres – but it is not jarring, and you could easily live with the JCW every day.

Steering is sharp and direct, but the helm gains weight when you select Sport mode. Interestingly, we did not notice a huge difference in off-the-line performance in Sport compared with Normal mode.

Our initial impressions of a gimmicky niche premium car were blown out of the water after a couple of weeks living with this charming little Brit. It offers smile-inducing performance and a decent amount of standard safety and comfort gear all in a package unlike anything else on the market. 

Mini Clubman JCW 2019

PRICE

Price as tested: $56,900 plus $5848 estimated on-road costs.

Model range: $37,900 to $56,900.

DRIVETRAIN

2.0-litre, eight-speed auto, all-wheel drive.

Maximum power: 170kW@5000 to 6000rpm.

Maximum torque: 350Nm@1450 to 4500rpm.

Wheels: 225/35 19-inch run-flat tyres, run-flat spare.

FUEL

95 RON petrol, 48-litre tank. 9.9L/100km (RACV test), 7.2L/100km (government test).

STANDARD SAFETY

Not yet tested by ANCAP, six airbags, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, front and rear parking sensors, forward collision warning, reversing camera, adaptive cruise control.

STANDARD FEATURES

Mini 8.8-inch navigation system, head-up display, 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, wireless Apple CarPlay, DAB+ digital radio, heated exterior mirrors, LED headlights, automatic tailgate opening.

WARRANTY/SERVICES

Three years/unlimited kilometres.

Condition-based servicing.