2023 Mini Cooper S Clubman ALL4 Review - Wagons, Ho?

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

Fast Facts

2023 Mini Cooper S Clubman ALL4

Powertrain
2.0-liter turbocharged four (189hp @ 5,000rpm, 206 lb-ft @ 1,350rpm)
Transmission
Eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive
Fuel Economy, MPG
23 city / 32 highway / 27 combined (EPA Rating)
Base Price
$37,350 US
As Tested
$44,400 US
Prices include $850 destination charge in the United States. Clubman model no longer available in Canada.

Those who have suffered through reading my works here and elsewhere over the past seven years likely have suspected - I’m merely using this second career as an automotive reviewer and journalist as an extended test-drive opportunity while I sort out what the next car that I purchase for my own use might be. It’s a happy accident, of course, but a financially-prudent one considering the drastic turns we’ve seen in real-world transaction prices and in interest rates. Not having had a car payment for myself (only for my wife’s car) has been helpful as we squirrel away cash for the pair of teens careening in the general direction of college.


There will come a day when I need to make a decision and sign a note, of course. I laughably hedged a bit last summer when I bought a project car on a whim at a garage sale, hoping to make it a reliable daily driver. It hasn’t moved. So the purchase date creeps nearer, and I ponder the landscape for my next ride. 


Weirdly, the cars of Mini never seem to spring to mind immediately when I picture my next garage. There’s something oddly familiar about the overly-retro styling across the board which keeps the brand from making a lasting impression on my attention-deficit mind. And while they’ve rightfully been accused of leaning hard into the same sausage/different lengths when considering the lineup, this 2023 Mini Cooper S Clubman ALL4 very well might Goldilocks itself into a place in my recurring drafts tab in my bank account. It’s an interesting model that really has few competitors to speak of, and that’s why it intrigues me so.

While I could indeed be proven wrong, I’ve done a bit of web scouring and I don’t think I’ve found any instances where anyone serious is calling the Mini Clubman a crossover. This is a wagon - or a long hatchback if you like - and that’s a bodystyle in seriously short supply these days. For that alone, I must applaud. The wagon is simply a better-driving crossover - all of the capability and cargo space with none of the tippy high-riding feel. The ride quality can be a bit harsh at times in keeping with something a bit sporty - but that’s something that all Minis save for the Countryman SUV share. 

This one even has the optional ALL4 all-wheel drive, though the weather was not conducive to testing the limits of traction. If I’m picking a Mini for track days this isn’t the one, but should one’s commute (like mine) allow one to choose between Tom Cochrane and Supertramp, the Mini Clubman will reward a driver for picking "The Long Way Home" over "Life Is A Highway".

My test vehicle wears one of Mini’s numerous special edition trim packages. This trim is confoundingly called the Mini Untold Special Edition - perhaps because the number of special editions that Mini has released is untold? Unless you’re a member of a Mini message board, you’ll completely forget the name of this package - it’s simply an unusual combo of paintwork, trim color, wheel, and tape stripes. It’s handsome in Sage Green, with a frankly stunning bronze trim front and rear as well as on the wheels. I can’t decide if I love it or hate it, but it’s striking. 

Interestingly, I’m finding that our friends to the North must only look on with jealousy at this Clubman model as it’s been discontinued in Canada. While I’m sure there are legitimate reasons, my instincts lead me to believe that the distinctive barn-door rear hatch was especially unpopular up there as it wasn’t particularly conducive to the loading and unloading of the most important of all Canadian cargo: The hockey stick bag issued to each and every Canuck as they hatch fully formed from the side of a glacier.

That’s perhaps my only real complaint about the Clubman in everyday use - there’s a second handle to pull to access the entire rear cargo area. In a very short garage, for example, it could make unloading a grocery run a challenge if the doors impede one’s access. That the Mini is, well, mini should obviate some of that hassle - just pull forward - but there are compromises caused by the barn doors that bear consideration.

Otherwise, I could very easily live with this each and every day. Interior comfort is excellent front and rear - the adjustable-length lower seat bolster is especially welcomed here, something for which I’d imagine we have BMW to thank as it always seems to be only Ze Germans who consider the bodyshapes of us Teutonic-sized folks. The infotainment controls work pretty intuitively, though the small console-mounted knob seems to turn backward from what I’d expect when scrolling through satellite radio stations, for example. It always takes me a few days to reorient myself when I step into another Mini product, but the annoyance typically goes away a day or two before they take the car away. 

I remain eternally charmed by the various flavors of Mini. I have - wait, I was about to call it a “classic” Mini - an early 2000s Mini Cooper S that’s been in my extended family since new, and I hope it remains somewhere near us forever. While each generation has indeed grown a bit straying from Sir Alec’s initial brief, the spirit of a joyous city car that can be properly thrashed lives even within this Mini Cooper S Clubman ALL4. 

[Images: © 2023 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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Comments
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2 of 23 comments
  • Zipper69 Zipper69 on Feb 07, 2023

    The JCW may be all that's claimed but for drivers under the age of fifty the insurance premiums would be scary.

  • Gearhead77 Gearhead77 on Feb 15, 2023

    I just drove a used, low mile (12,000) 2019 Clubman S that was very well cared for. I wanted to love it but I just couldn't. I guess I'm getting old, but the ride was too busy for me and the car was too loud in terms of road noise. IIRC, much of the complaint is likely due to the run-flat tires and always has been. Power was fine, handling enjoyable, but I just couldn't love it.


    The view out the back/rearview mirror is hampered by the barn doors too. I drove a used Mazda 3 and it felt more refined, but also not nearly as enjoyable too. I'd like to experience an AWD turbo Mazda 3.

  • MaintenanceCosts I hope they make it. The R1 series are a genuinely innovative, appealing product, and the smaller ones look that way too from the early information.
  • MaintenanceCosts Me commenting on this topic would be exactly as well-informed as many of our overcaffeinated BEV comments, so I'll just sit here and watch.
  • SCE to AUX This year is indeed key for them, but it's worth mentioning that Rivian is actually meeting its sales and production forecasts.
  • Kjhkjlhkjhkljh kljhjkhjklhkjh a consideration should be tread gap and depth. had wildpeaks on 17 inch rims .. but they only had 14 mm depth and tread gap measured on truck was not enough to put my pinky into. they would gum up unless you spun the libing F$$k out of them. My new Miky's have 19mm depth and i can put my entire index finger in the tread gap and the cut outs are stupid huge. so far the Miky baja boss ATs are handing sand and mud snow here in oregon on trails way better than the WPs and dont require me to redline it to keep moving forward and have never gummed up yet
  • Kjhkjlhkjhkljh kljhjkhjklhkjh Market saturation .. nothing more
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