The 2020 MINI Cooper S Clubman offers graceful travel

Arguably the most successful of the retro-style models that began proliferating in the 1990s, the MINI Cooper nevertheless has been a victim of America’s love affair with sport-utility vehicles and crossovers. The little British import, built by a division of the German automaker BMW, has seen U.S. sales decline from a peak of 66,502 in 2013 to 36,092 last year. Yet the MINI Cooper retains the qualities that made it an automotive sensation when it arrived in 2001.

What’s to like about the MINI? The list is pretty long. It’s about as locked-down on sharp turns as anything we’ve ever driven. It’s adorably retro. Thanks to its BMW DNA, it’s a strong performer. The MINI also has evolved from an inexpensive people-mover to a sporty, near-luxury minicar, with high-quality interior accommodations. The Clubman and Countryman are much bigger than the MINI 2-door hatchback, and more functional as well.

We had our usual complement of fun behind the wheel of a 2020 MINI Cooper S Clubman, and although we never had to try to persuade anyone to ride in the back seat, we probably could have pulled it off — the rear accommodations, while probably too narrow for the rated five full-sized adults, had sufficient head room and knee room for two. Behind the rear seat is a compartment with 17.5 cubic feet of luggage capacity. Lowering the split rear seat opens the compartment to 47.9 cubic feet.

The Clubman, with its longer wheelbase, doesn’t feel quite as locked-down as the 2-door hardtop, but it nevertheless is more agile and refined than the usual run of Japanese and Korean minicars.

2020 MINI Cooper S Clubman

Price: $40,600

Engine: 2.0-liter inline turbocharged Four, 189 horsepower, 207 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic

Drive: front-wheel

Weight: 3,333 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 18-in. multiray spoke 2-tone

Tires: P225/40R18 performance summer

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 17.5 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 47.9 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons

Fuel economy: 26 mpg city, 34 mpg highway

Fuel type: Regular unleaded gasoline

It also has a higher order of interior materials quality and options. Our test car was equipped with an $8,000 option called Iconic Trim; it included dynamic damper control (sport, comfort and economy settings), a John Cooper Works leather steering wheel, panoramic moonroof, auto-dimming mirrors, power front seats, heated front seats, automatic climate control, satellite radio, Harman/Kardon premium audio system touchscreen navigation system and Apple CarPlay compatibility. Another $850 brought in park distance control, active cruise control, parking assistant and head-up display. The base price for a Clubman is $30,900; the test car came in at $40,600.

Some of the Western Connecticut roads we traverse daily are in pretty rough shape, but the MINI handled them gracefully. It neither wandered off course after striking potholes and frost heaves, nor shook noticeably.

While our MINI had front-wheel drive, an all-wheel-drive system is available. In this mildest of mild winters we’ve enjoyed in southern New England this year, front-wheel drive was more than adequate.

Cars with swinging tailgates (as opposed to up-and-down hatches) can make for awkward loading and unloading, but MINI solved that problem by providing a barn-door setup. The doors therefore swing out half as far as they would if the car had a single swinging door.

MINIs have fared well in crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, achieving the top “Good” rating in every category.

Steven Macoy ( is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel.