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Final Spin In The Mini Cooper Clubman JCW

Image Source: Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock

Mini has shut the doors on the Clubman with the rear barn doors and a whole lot of Cooper cute. A last spin in the 2024 Mini John Cooper Works Clubman reminded me how much this performance-minded small wagon will be missed.

Like so many other brands, Mini is in the midst of a reboot, expanding its electric vehicle lineup with a 2025 Mini Cooper E and SE, as well as a new Aceman model that appears to replace the Clubman. The next-gen EVs ride on a dedicated EV platform instead of sharing a platform with gas engines, the better to improve range and EV performance as well as to optimize the packaging in the space-constrained Mini profile.

At the same time, a new generation of gas Minis arrive alongside the electric push, with a larger 2025 Mini Cooper Countryman—the largest Countryman yet, and thus the largest Cooper ever—arriving this year with distinct gas and electric versions. The circular touchscreen display, cute as a big-eyed Pixar character, finally gets optimized to fill the entire display area instead of just a rectangular band across the center of the circle.

The evolution of the brand sacrifices the Clubman, but it should not be forgotten. Relaunched in 2007, the Clubman grew into small crossover proportions but never really stepped out of the Countryman’s slightly larger shadow. The John Cooper Works edition prompted me to make excuses to drive it as long as the spring sun would last and as loud as the radio would go.

Mini and parent company BMW squeeze the most out of the 2.0-liter turbo-4 ubiquitous in mid-level sports cars. This John Cooper Works fella tunes it to 301 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque, good for a 0-60 mph time of 4.6 seconds that Mini says is the quickest Mini, for now. There’s a lag from a stop, but once at speed and flicking through the stubby paddle shifters to hit the right gear at the right time with the 8-speed automatic, it’s a hoot. A Sport mode turns the displays red and tightens the throttle response and adds more exhaust note for that full-size karting feel.

With MacPherson front struts and a double wishbone rear with a stiffer sport tune on the top Iconic trim, as well as 19-inch wheels, it rides on the firm side, but it’s never jarring enough to preclude it from being a daily commuter. It’s part of the charm, cranking the bass, dropping the windows, and soaking in the thumpy Clubman vibe. The longer wheelbase and all-wheel drive keeps it more stable and less jittery in its footwork than smaller John Coopers.

C’mon, look at this thing. Even without Union Jack taillights, the ovoid shapes from the headlights to the rear headrests evoke a Pixar character kind of cuteness. The two-tone roof adds even more distinction.

The one place where the cuteness sacrifices functionality is on the round center display that houses the rectangular touchscreen. New Minis expand the navigation to fill the whole rounded display, but the current layout cramps too many small icons into too small of a space, even if it’s bedazzled in ambient light.

The Clubman originally launched in 1969 as a larger Mini, then it was retired in 1981 before being resurrected after a 25-year break in 2007. One trait that traveled with it through time were its rear barn doors hinged on the sides instead of a traditional hatch hinged at the roof. The conceit was the cargo area could be accessed in low garages or secret tunnels or other spots with low clearance. You could also just open the right side door if you needed quick access, ideal in parallel parking in narrow urban streets.

The Clubman has a low cargo floor, so the higher sill helps protect things from rolling out, which is much more likely to happen in the rollicking John Cooper Works. Each door is lighter than a full tailgate, but at this point and this price, most tailgates have power open and close options, while the barn doors on my test didn’t. Like most things retro, they’re more fun than functional; the dual rear wipers and split glass make for poor rearward vision, even with the rear headrests folded down. This likely marks the end of Mini’s barn-style doors.

Like urban apartments, space comes at a premium in any Mini Cooper. The JCW Clubman might be the penthouse in this analogy, but still, from the center console to the door pockets to the rear seats, space is tight. To meet modern needs, Mini fixes a wireless smartphone charger in the armrest console instead of beneath the center stack or wedged into a pocket in the console. It’s adjustable so it firmly keeps the phone in place to charge, and it keeps the phone hidden from view and less likely to trigger distractions. That makes it easy to forget, too. And the largest phones might not fit. Those negatives notwithstanding, it’s a clever way to modernize the Mini while maintaining its traits. We’ll see if that carries over in the new generation of Mini cars.

The tester in top Iconic trim ($6,500) cost $50,395, including one of the few destination fees under $1,000. We appreciate you, BMW. Still, $50,000 can buy a lot more car, including the Genesis G70 with its 365-hp 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6; a 315-hp Honda Civic Type R for $45,000; an underrated but awesome Toyota GR Corolla for the same price as the Type R but with AWD; a Nissan Z with a 400-hp V-6; a Ford Mustang GT and the list goes on. That’s the cost of quirk with the Clubman.

The Clubman promises more roominess than other hot hatches, has six doors instead of five, and has a wagon-like vibe, but it’s a big ask in a performance pool that includes hatchbacks, muscle cars, and classic sport coupes. On the flip side, it’s so tootin’ cute and it oozes fun, begging to be played with like a puppy. There’s really no other car on the road like the JCW Clubman, and after this year there won’t be any new ones on dealer lots.

Image Source: Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock

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