I drove for the joy of driving. It was that simple, pleasurable. The little car was responsive and peppy, the poetry of driving in motion. I was happy behind its wheel.
It was the 2017 Mini Clubman John Cooper Works All4 wagon, redesigned in 2016 and presented in a way that made me favorably rethink Mini automobiles.
My wife, Mary Anne, and I owned a 2001 Mini Coupe — one of the first Mini cars resurrected by BMW, the current designer and manufacturer of all things Mini.
We loved that little coupe — drove it everywhere in all kinds of weather. That affection lasted for five years — until repair bills mounted from one thing after another: two flat rear tires and an engine failure, followed by transmission problems. It was expensive. I swore we’d never buy or consider buying another Mini.
I was wrong. I’d buy the Mini Clubman John Cooper Works All4. But I’d do a better job of taking care of it, which is what I should have done with that 2001 coupe.
I love this new Mini Clubman — to the extent that you can “love” any material thing. I’ve learned over the years that it pays to look at where a vehicle is assembled, to get some idea of the history of the plant’s workers, their sense of pride and duty. The 2017 Mini Clubman was made in Oxford, England. That is John Cooper country — John Newton Cooper, the legendary car racer who, with his father, Charles, co-founded the Cooper Car Co.
Time and events change things. But spirit has a way of remaining. The spirit remains at the Oxford assembly plant. You can tell by closely examining the finished product.
Everything fits. Everything is finished, including the John Cooper Works Sport seats, which have additional lateral support. The engine comes from BMW in Germany: a 2.0-liter, twin-turbocharged, gasoline four-cylinder (228 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque).
It is a beautiful little engine! But it has BMW’s appetite for required premium fuel, delivering 23 miles per gallon in the city and barely 30 miles per gallon on the highway.
To support fuel efficiency and travel convenience, the Mini Clubman John Cooper Works wagon is equipped with 18-inch “run-flat” tires. They are a good idea for keeping you going in an emergency. They can run 50 miles at about 50 miles per hour after taking a nail or spike on the road. But they are structurally hard little things that allow you to feel the imperfections of an imperfect road.
I can live with that. There is so much else to like in this car. Equipped with the “technology package,” it is a safe companion on the road, especially on long drives. It comes with blind-side monitoring and real-time traffic information.
There also is a wireless charging system for your phone. But mostly, it is a fun ride, accompanied with enough utility in the Clubman John Cooper Works to make a weekend trip or overnight drive pleasurable.
I like this one.
Bottom line: Mini cars can be “mini” — as in the truly tiny Hardtop, Coupe or Convertible. If you want more space, consider the Clubman or Countryman wagons.
Ride, acceleration and handling: You have pure joy on well-maintained paved roads. But poorly maintained roadways can be a pain in the bottom. Acceleration and handling are excellent.
Head-turning quotient: It has a cute exterior with a well-tufted, ergonomically sensible interior. The Mini Connected system with a 6.5-inch screen is an option worth considering.
Engine/transmission: It comes with a 2.0-liter, 16-valve, twin-turbocharged gasoline engine with variable valve timing (228 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque). A six-speed manual transmission is standard. An automatic transmission that also can be operated manually is optional. The John Cooper Works All4, as its name implies, is all-wheel-drive.
Capacities: The 2017 Mini Clubman John Cooper Works seats five people. Cargo capacity with all seats in place is 17.5 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 13.2 gallons of gasoline. Premium grade is required.
Real-world mileage: I averaged 28 miles per gallon in highway driving.
Safety: Standard equipment includes ventilated front disc and solid rear disc brakes; four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; brake drying; emergency braking preparation; pre-collision safety system; traction and stability control; post-collision safety system; and side and head air bags.
Note: Many of the advanced electronic safety items are contained in option packages, such as the “technology package.” It’s expensive but worth it.
Pricing: The 2017 Mini Clubman John Cooper Works All4 starts at $33,100. As driven for this column, it is $45,000, including $8,500 in options (advanced electronic safety measures and other items) and an $850 factory-to-dealer shipment charge. This is a glorious little bauble, which means many dealers are reluctant to bargain. But, we’re at the end of the year on the 2017 models. You might catch a break on pricing.