A bigger Mini may sound like an oxymoron, but the Mini Cooper Clubman succeeds in offering slightly more passenger and cargo room while remaining compact and nimble.
This elongated Cooper is a spiritual revival of the Morris Mini Traveller, a station wagon version of the original Mini produced during the 1960s with double swing-out rear doors. Although the concept version that first appeared at the 2005 Frankfurt Auto Show initially bore its predecessor's namesake, the car was later renamed the Clubman after another Mini model that was made throughout the late '60s and 70s.
The modern-day Clubman is a four-seat, two-door hatchback that's a bump up in size and price from the iconic Mini Cooper. Its body is 10 inches longer and features a third, passenger-side rear-hinged door to allow easier access to the backseat. On the inside, the Clubman has 2.5 inches more rear legroom and 3.5 more cubic feet of cargo space than its more diminutive sibling. While these additions don't exactly make the Clubman roomy, the car might just be the answer for those who crave the classic styling and handling of a Mini along with a little extra breathing room.
Current Mini Cooper Clubman
It comes in base, S and John Cooper Works versions. The base model uses a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 121 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. The S employs a turbocharged version of the same engine -- power shoots up to 181 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque, yielding a 0-60-mph time of about 7 seconds. The JCW gets 208-hp version of the turbocharged S engine, along with additional performance and handling enhancements. All engines come standard with a six-speed manual transmission; a six-speed automatic with manual shift control is optional on the Cooper and Cooper S.
The base model makes an adequate day-to-day commuting vehicle and is actually surprisingly peppy, while the S model's added power makes it the choice for those interested in spirited driving. Despite some changes made to the steering for 2011, it's still prone to torque steer, which is exasperated with the more powerful JCW. As such, this wild child model is best suited for driving enthusiasts who are willing to put up with it.
The Clubman comes standard with a decent collection of standard convenience features, including antilock disc brakes and stability control. Customization is a cornerstone of the Mini philosophy, and consequently the Clubman offers a broad range of packages and options. Even the various color schemes can be mixed and matched.
The Clubman's interior takes many of its cues from the regular Cooper hatchback. It features the same large center-set speedometer and stylishly arranged climate and audio controls -- this latter trait is ergonomically unfortunate, however, as these controls can be befuddling to figure out and then can become irritating once you do. "Form over function" is the optimum descriptor.
Front seating is roomy and comfortable, with enough room even for people taller than 6 feet. The backseat isn't huge, but there's adequate room for two full-size adults -- something that definitely can't be said for the regular Mini. The Clubman's roomiest configuration is with the rear seats down, which opens up 32.8 cubic feet of cargo capacity versus 24.0 in its smaller sibling. That cargo room is accessed by cargo-van-style rear doors. It's certainly quirky and fitting for the brand, but they compromise rear visibility somewhat.
In our reviews, we've found the Mini Cooper Clubman generally retains the "go-kart" handling of the regular Cooper. The car's steering delivers plenty of feedback, and the handling response is nimble and athletic. The Clubman gives up very little to the regular model in terms of driving enjoyment, though it does suffer from similar dynamic quirks. Some people will find the car's ride quality overly stiff, especially with 17-inch wheels. We'd stick with the 16s.
Overall, the Mini Cooper Clubman's slightly increased size and interior space don't affect the car's signature look and feel. This is a car that delicately balances fun and practicality -- with the emphasis on fun.
Used Mini Cooper Clubman Models
The Mini Cooper Clubman was introduced for 2008 and is related to the second-generation Mini. The JCW edition wasn't available that first year.
Until 2010, the base engine produced 118 hp while the Cooper S produced 172 hp. There are other differences between Clubmans produced prior to 2011. The steering was more prone to torque steer, the styling was ever-so-slightly different and the Clubman's audio controls were even more perplexing (the volume knob was placed a good 6 inches south of its audio comrades). All the center stack buttons and knobs were also painted silver, which gave them a less substantial, toylike look. Prior to 2010, cruise control and a multifunction steering wheel were optional.