The Mini Cooper is hip, quick, and efficient—a great option for those in search of high mpg and style. Unfortunately, the Cooper’s lack of cargo space and legroom simply makes it impractical for most drivers. Mini hopes to address these shortcomings with the Mini Cooper Clubman, which offers the same iconic look of a Mini Cooper, but with an extended body (9.5 inches longer) and wheelbase (3 inches longer). The Clubman also adds 2.5 inches of knee room in back and 50 percent more cargo space behind the rear seat.
If you’re thinking about buying a Mini Cooper Clubman, you might also consider a a Mini Cooper or a Mazda5. Compare these vehicles.
This game of inches, a little bit here and little there, adds a modicum of practicality and access while retaining the cool factor. In fact, the vehicle’s unique five-door design—featuring a single pint-size club door on the passenger side and a pair of stylish swing-out doors in the rear—may just add to its hipness. Car and Driver says the Clubman is “all the fun and cuteness of the smaller Mini with a (slightly) more hospitable rear seat.”
This slight uptick in “hospitality” comes at about a 10 percent premium and may not offer enough extra cargo space or legroom to justify the expense for many drivers. The Clubman still falls behind nearly every other compact wagon on the market in these categories and ranks among the most expensive cars in its class. Mini seems to be courting drivers whose needs fall somewhere in between its sporty but diminutive standard model and your run-of-the-mill compact wagon, but most would probably be better off picking one or the other.
“Certainly, the Clubman is the cutest little urban wagon you’ll ever see. But it’s also one of the dumbest,” says The Washington Post. “Try getting into a back seat of the Clubman using that slit of rear door in a crowded parking lot. The front passenger door of the Clubman opens one way. The skinny rear door opens another… It’s a circus!”
The 2010 Clubman has changed very little from earlier models, with the standout improvement being that cruise control is now standard. Available in standard and S (for Sport) versions, the Clubman offers the same powerplants found in the smaller Cooper models. There’s a 118 horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, and 172 horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. There’s also a special John Cooper Works edition, which offers a turbocharged 208 horsepower engine but costs $10,000 more than the standard and loses about 3 mpg in fuel efficiency.
Power for the Clubman is managed by either a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission, both resulting in high fuel economy—on par with the smaller Cooper and Cooper S. The standard Clubman gives 28 city / 37 highway, while the sportier Clubman S rates 26 miles to the gallon in the city and 34 on the highway. Although the Clubman is bigger than its Cooper siblings, it’s nearly identical in quickness, speed and fuel efficiency.
Love It or Hate It
Like most things “Mini,” the interior of the Clubman is a love it or hate proposition. “It takes design risks,” says The New York Times. “Aircraft-style toggle switches, door pulls that seem borrowed from a funhouse ride, the clock-sized center speedometer… Audio controls are so enamored with their own looks that they can’t be bothered to work effectively.” This car was built to make a statement, inside and out—if you want comfort and familiarity from your center console, buy a Toyota.
Riding on the same suspension as the Cooper, the Clubman displays a high degree of agility and handling. It is very responsive to driver inputs and has superb cornering skills. And because of its longer wheelbase, the Clubman grants a softer, more comfortable ride. That makes the Mini Cooper Clubman better suited to road trips and long commutes.
Antilock brakes with cornering control and electronic brake-force distribution come standard, as does Dynamic Stability Control in case you get a little too carried away on curvy country roads. This feature also helps in gripping the pavement under challenging road conditions.
The Clubman’s build quality is world-class. Mini is owned by BMW, and the two companies share the same high standards for engineering.
For most people, this car is simply too impractical and too expensive to even consider—but Mini didn’t set out to build cars for everyone. If you’re in love with Mini styling, have use for something small, sporty and fuel efficient, and are willing to spend a couple of thousand extra dollars for a little added cargo room or passenger comfort, the Clubman may be just the right fit.
“While the back seat remains far smaller than that of a Honda Civic or other compact, it is now more usable for a toddler or limber teenager. Taller passengers will still demand a more socialist distribution of resources, with front occupants sliding forward.
“The seats are terrific and the materials are first-rate. The Mini also delivers the safety features and optional amenities of, well, a BMW. But the clock-sized center speedometer is so tackily oversize that Flavor Flav might be offended. The [opening from the] swingin’ saloon doors at the rear isn’t large enough to provide a valid reason to open just one of the two doors; a liftgate would work just fine.”
New York Times
“Besides being a blast to drive, reasonably economical, and a cheeky fashion statement, the Clubman’s most significant accomplishment is that its increased passenger comfort and extra cargo room make the Mini a real car for more people. For many buyers, this functionality will more than offset the few extra dollars and the few extra pounds the Clubman packs over the standard models.”
“The Clubman doesn’t feel that different from a normal Mini. The extra length and wheelbase manifest themselves in slightly better high-speed stability, and ride comfort has been improved a bit over the standard car, but little else stands out. The rear seat is roomier but still slightly claustrophobic, the chassis is ever-so-slightly less willing to rotate in tight switchbacks, and rear visibility—owing to the thick C-pillars and the central post created by the twin rear doors—stinks.”
“Part of the point of making the bigger car is, obviously, to accommodate more stuff…The problem is, when we drove the 1.6-liter, 118-horsepower Clubman, we found it struggling to give us the power we needed…The Clubman S, however, was a different story. The car had plenty of pep, and while we didn’t take it up any steep hills, it was able to reach highway speed and pass other cars with relative ease. But the extra performance drops the gas mileage down to 34 miles per gallon on the highway and 26 miles per gallon in the city with the manual gearbox (32/23 for the automatic).”