- Acceleration (S and John Cooper Works)
- Fuel economy
- Acceleration (Base w/automatic transmission)
Base models with manual transmission are lively enough around town, but hills and highway passing demand a downshift--and some patience.On S models, the turbocharged engine suffers some lag at low speeds, but impressive power arrives quickly. S models with automatic transmission suffer mildly jerky shifts and occasional harshness.
In Consumer Guide testing, our extended-use Base Clubman with manual transmission is averaging 32.3 mpg over its first 14,817 miles. Test automatic-transmission Clubman S averaged 32.5 mpg in mostly highway driving. Premium-grade gas is required for all models.
All suffer from a firm, choppy ride over anything but glass-smooth pavement, due in large part to their run-flat tires. With non-run-flat snow tires on our extended-use Clubman, the ride quality was slightly more compliant. S models equipped with 17-inch tires are occasionally harsh over bumps.
Minis turn on a dime with outstanding steering response. Even base models corner with little body lean; S versions take handling to an even higher level, and with the optional 17-inch wheels, rank with the best sports cars. On the other hand, our extended-use Clubman exhibited poor traction in heavy Chicago snow. As a result, we had Bridgestone Blizzak snow tires installed, and the car then performed well. The tires were provided courtesy of Bridgestone-Firestone.Minis, even these extended-wheelbase Clubmans, are among the smallest cars in the U.S. but are stable even in crosswinds. They offer excellent maneuverability, thanks in part to their electrically assisted steering that offers light feel at low speeds and firms up as speed increases. Stopping control is first-rate, with fine pedal feel.
No Clubman is what you would call "quiet," but the engines are smooth and sing under full throttle. Wind and road noise are intrusive at highway speeds.
Many dashboard gauges and controls sacrifice functionality for "retro" style. The large, center-mounted speedometer forces drivers to divert their eyes from the road, though some versions offer a small, redundant digital speedometer in the tachometer face. The tachometer sits atop the steering column, partially blocked from view by the steering wheel. Retro-style toggle switches controlling power windows, locks, and fog lamps are mounted inconveniently low on the dashboard. Climate controls are within easier reach but poorly marked; temperature and fan settings are more difficult to adjust than they need to be. Same goes for the audio controls, which are governed by a confusing layout that can require drilling through cryptic labels and multiple menus in order to make what should otherwise be simple adjustments.
Interior decor is a distinctive, complex blend of colors, shapes, and textures, all with solid workmanship. One test Clubman suffered an isolated squeak from somewhere in the cargo area.
Room/Comfort/Driver Seating (Front)
Generous seat travel and a high ceiling accommodate even large occupants. Seats are firm and supportive but mounted too low for easy entry and exit. Both seats have height adjustment. Visibility is great in all directions, though the Clubman's twin cargo doors leave a vertical spine through the middle of the back window; thankfully, dual wipers clear both halves.
Knee clearance is much better in the Clubman than in its Cooper hatchback counterpart. An average-size adult can easily sit behind another average-size adult. The rear-hinged third door on the passenger's side opens a larger portal to the rear seat, though it can't be opened without opening the front door first, and, naturally, doesn't help loading from the driver's side.
Clubmans have a very useful cargo hold. They also have handy underfloor storage compartments that other Minis don't. The rear seatback folds 50/50, but the sections don't lie flat. Aside from large map pockets in the doors and a two-tier glovebox, interior storage is meager, and the console cupholders are too small to hold large cups.
Value Within Class
Mini Clubman may look like an economy car, but this Best Buy is actually a sporty driving machine that brims with character. The Base models have no surplus of power, but S and John Cooper Works versions are jackrabbit quick. All handle with the agility of sports cars that cost thousands more. Ride is a sore point, and rear-seat room, though improved over the standard Cooper hatchback, is still not great. The Base and S versions are our picks here, as the John Cooper Works trim is extremely pricey.
The 2010 Mini Clubman is largely unchanged. This wagon is an extended-wheelbase version of the Mini Cooper hatchback (see separate report). The Clubman has a rear-hinged half-door aft of the passenger-side front door and two rear "barn doors" instead of a lift-up hatch. Base and S models are offered, each with a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine. Base models have 118 horsepower. S versions are turbocharged and have 172 horsepower. All offer a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. The John Cooper Works version uses a 208-horsepower version of the turbocharged engine. It has a mandatory 6-speed manual transmission, high-performance brakes, a performance suspension, specific exhaust tuning, and 17-inch wheels. Available safety features include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, front-side airbags, and curtain-side airbags. A wireless cell-phone link, navigation system, heated front seats, and assorted personalization options are available on all models. BMW owns Mini, and Clubmans are sold at most major-market BMW dealers.
Consumer Guide Automotive places each vehicle into one of 18 classes based on size, price, and market position. The Sporty/Performance-Car class consists of 2-seat roadsters, 4-cylinder hatchbacks, and V8 muscle cars. Regardless of configuration, all have an emphasis on affordable performance.
Our Best Buys include the Ford Mustang, Mazda MX-5 Miata, and Mini Cooper. Our Recommended picks are the Hyundai Genesis Coupe and Scion tC. New or significantly redesigned models for 2010 include the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Nissan 370Z (Convertible), and Volkswagen GTI.