2012 MINI Clubman

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First Drive Review: 2008 Mini Cooper Clubman

This 2008 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2014.
By Alisa Priddle of Car and Driver

When you start life as a Mini, nine and a half inches is huge. That's how much length has been added, give or take a 10th, to create the 2008 Mini Cooper and Cooper S Clubman, née Traveller, née Countryman.

The stretched version of the Mini Cooper had this assortment of monikers during development. In the end, Countryman was discarded for conjuring up rural images when Miniphiles expect street-legal go-karts. Traveller was tossed because it had more legal issues than the others, leaving Clubman.

The vehicle mirrors the hardtop Cooper to the B-pillars. Then it gets interesting—there's a rear-hinged third door, the Clubdoor, on the right side. The front-passenger-side door must be opened first to get at the Clubdoor's latch. On right-hand-drive British models, this Clubdoor, then, is on the driver's side, which is convenient for placing baggage in the rear seat. Our setup is better for rear-seat passengers. Doing away with the right B-pillar creates a great maw through which to reach the now-usable rear seat. And that door is quite the marvel. It has an airbag, a seatbelt for the front passenger, a fixed-glass window, and trim that completes a two-tone interior. The exterior is two-tone as well, with black or silver as the secondary color.

Equally signature are the split doors at the rear, recalling the 1960s Mini Traveller and Countryman. It forced engineers to design rear lights into the car's body, not the doors.

The Clubman is about 150 pounds heavier than the smaller Cooper and uses the same engines: direct-injection 1.6-liter inline-fours producing 118 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque in the Cooper and 172 horsepower and 192 pound-feet in the Cooper S. A 1.6-liter turbo-diesel won't be sold in the U.S.

European customers get automatic start/stop at idle, but this fuel-saving technology will not be available on U.S. models. The official reason: The North American office doesn't want it. The N.A. office's unofficial reason: EPA tests don't measure much benefit, and it's questionable whether Americans have accepted vehicles that turn themselves off and on.

Go-Kart Handling
The extra length and weight were perceptible on acceleration but quickly forgotten. The go-kart handling of a Cooper S Clubman manifested itself in curves and ducking in and out of downtown Madrid traffic. We were not enthralled with the fish-eye view from the side mirrors, and the turn-signal indicators don't disengage easily.

Shifting was smooth with the six-speed manual transmission—a six-speed automatic also is available—but we recommend a stronger spring for reverse, as it is too easy to slip into it when seeking first gear.

Road noise was more pronounced on a Clubman S with the sport suspension and optional 17-inch Dunlop Sport tires (Goodyear Excellence 16-inchers are standard).

The Clubman has an additional 3.1 inches of rear legroom over the regular Cooper. Although the European models seat five, there are seatbelts for only four in U.S.-spec versions. Notably, there are nine cubic feet of cargo room, expanding to 33 with the rear seats folded down. And the Clubman has two sunroofs.

Pricing has not been announced, but we expect the Clubman to start about 15 percent more than the Cooper, which would put it at about $21,500 for the base Clubman and $25,500 for the Cooper S Clubman. They are on sale now in Europe and will be here in February or March.

Performance Data

Performance (C/D EST):

Zero to 60 mph: 6.3-7.9 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 16.9-25.1 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 15.1-16.5 sec
Top speed (drag limited): 121-139 mph

Projected Fuel Economy (MFR'S EST):

EPA city driving: 22-26 mpg
EPA highway driving: 29-35 mpg

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BB02 - 8/20/2014 6:07:23 AM