MINI Cooper Clubman - Major MINI

Written By nyit on Thursday, April 14, 2011 | 3:52 AM

I have a five-year-old son. I happen to think he’s pretty cute, a comedic genius, and an excellent athlete. But I am never more proud of him than when he spouts off his automotive knowledge. What can I say? He’s a chip off the old (er, young) block. So on our first outing in the Clubman, the cute, funny, athletic, five-year-old car expert observed, “This looks like a BMW on the inside.” See what I mean? Genius. I am, of course, banking on the fact that there are still several people out there who don’t realize that BMW owns MINI.

The Cooper Clubman is almost nine and a half inches longer than the Cooper. I kept explaining to people that it was the “longer-wheel-base version.” Turns out, the wheelbase is only 3.15 inches longer. This essentially translates into a little more rear legroom and some extra cargo room. On the passenger side, it’s got a small clamshell door (we used to call them suicide doors) for easier ingress/egress to/from the back seat. The rear features two barn-like doors with gas-charged struts for easy opening. Everything else is exactly the same, distinguishing a MINI as a MINI. My test car was black and silver, and with the rear barn doors and slightly longer body, I often felt like I was driving a miniature hearse (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

On the inside, the Clubman is a thoroughly modern MINI. Everything is either round or elliptical, which I think gives it a fun atmosphere. One more observation came from the aforementioned five-year-old when he said, “that speeding thing is bigger than my head!” By “that speeding thing” he of course meant the incredibly large, center-mounted speedometer. Seriously, I’ve got wall clocks that are smaller; but like I said, this is a MINI and MINI’s are all about having fun. Adding to the fun are a panoramic moon roof and an iPod jack. My test car came with a perforated sunshade for the moon roof, which meant the black leather interior stayed pretty toasty. I’d prefer a solid sunshade as a small gesture towards keeping things cool on hot summer days.

Powering the Clubman is a 1.6-liter, 118 horsepower engine mated to an optional Steptronic automatic transmission (a 6-speed manual is standard). I found a little lag time when launching, especially when trying to get on the freeway. I know… I like to drive fast, but it seems to me that the 118 horses should pull the MINI at a little quicker trot. The tranny features steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, the same as in the beemers. The steering and suspension are good; they offer good road feedback to the driver without the jostling and vibration of other small cars. The Clubman has a combined fuel economy rating of 29 mpg. I did a lot of freeway driving, and the trip computer told me I was averaging 38.8 mpg.

Overall, I enjoyed the Clubman version of the MINI Cooper. If I had a different color, I could even get over the tiny hearse thing. It’s a fun to drive four-seater that comes with good fuel economy and a reasonable price tag. With options, my test car topped out at $24,450. 

By Cindy Stagg

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