Full 2008 MINI Cooper Clubman Review
What's New for 2008
The 2008 Mini Cooper Clubman is an all-new model based on the regular Cooper. The Clubman features a longer wheelbase for greater interior space, along with a passenger-side access door and a vertically split rear cargo door.
Sometimes a Mini is just too mini. Plenty of car buyers lust after a Mini Cooper but find the cramped backseat and minimal cargo capacity too much of a drawback. A potential solution for these frustrated fans is the 2008 Mini Cooper Clubman.
This lengthened Cooper increases rear legroom by 2.5 inches, which is hardly limolike, but every bit helps. The Clubman also adds a passenger-side rear-hinged door to allow rear passengers to make more graceful entries and exits. The cargo area has also grown, with 3.5 added cubic feet of space along with a pair of nifty rear doors that swing outward like those on a cargo van. The visual result of this added length is a Mini that's not quite proportional and even more quirky than its traditional brother. Plus, it's the first car since the old Camry wagon to feature two rear wipers.
Despite its stretched body style (10 inches in total), the Clubman is still all Mini, retaining most of that trademark go-kart handling. The same Cooper and Cooper S trim levels are available, along with their respective engine choices, which are both a significant improvement over the mills they replaced in last year's model redesign. Both are more refined, powerful and substantially more fuel efficient. The base engine is a particularly impressive improvement, and as such, many buyers might find the regular Cooper perfectly adequate for their daily driving needs. The excellent turbocharged engine in the Cooper S Clubman is practically overkill -- it is prone to torque steer -- but speed junkies will love the rush of power it provides.
Despite its larger size, the Clubman still competes with the same batch of compact hatchbacks as the regular Cooper. In fact, it actually competes better with cars like the Saturn Astra, VW GTI and Volvo C30 considering its greater amount of cargo and backseat space. Still, nothing can match the personality and character that drips from the surface of all Minis. Even if its quirks occasionally work to its detriment (interior ergonomics, for example), they help create a car that is like nothing else on the road. And with 10 extra inches, two extra doors and one extra wiper, the 2008 Cooper Clubman goes one step further by being like no other Mini.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Mini Cooper Clubman is a four-seat, two-door hatchback with a passenger-side reverse-opening rear door. In place of the regular Cooper's tailgate is a pair of outward-swinging doors. There are two trim levels available: the base Cooper and Cooper S.
The base Cooper comes standard with 15-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, air-conditioning, leatherette upholstery, multicolor mood lighting, a tilt-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, a trip computer and a six-speaker stereo with CD player and auxiliary audio jack. The Cooper S adds a more powerful engine, 16-inch wheels with run-flat tires, firmer suspension tuning and sport seats.
Mini is one of the few non-exotic brands that encourages its customers to customize and special order their cars. Subsequently, the options list is substantially larger than the car itself, with features available both à la carte and within packages. Major optional features (depending on the trim level) include different wheel designs, a sport-tuned suspension, a limited-slip front differential, a dual-pane sunroof, xenon headlights, cruise control and rear parking assist. On the inside the Clubman can be fitted with automatic climate control, leather upholstery, multiple interior color schemes and trim options, heated front seats, a multifunction steering wheel, Bluetooth, keyless ignition, a navigation system, HD radio, satellite radio, iPod connectivity and an upgraded 10-speaker sound system. There are also many dealer-installed features and styling items available.
Powertrains and Performance
The base Cooper Clubman is powered by a 1.6-liter inline-4 that produces 118 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. The Cooper S raises the bar considerably, packing a turbocharged version of the base Cooper's four-cylinder. It generates a robust 172 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque, and produces a 0-60-mph time of an estimated 6.7 seconds. Both engines come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, while a six-speed automatic with manual shift control is optional.
With the manual transmission, the base Clubman achieves 28 mpg city and 37 mpg highway, while the Cooper S gets 26/34 mpg. Opting for the automatic hurts mileage by about 2 mpg.
The 2008 Mini Cooper Clubman comes standard with antilock disc brakes, front side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, corner brake control and stability control.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Mini Clubman features rear seat legroom. If you've ever ridden in a regular Mini, you'll know that's quite an accomplishment, considering that legs are generally a hindrance for rear passengers. The Clubman's passenger-side access door also makes climbing in and out of the backseat a much easier proposition. For front occupants, the Cooper is surprisingly spacious for a wide variety of driver sizes. Even those taller than 6 feet will find a comfortable seating position, thanks to long seat-track travel and a telescoping steering column. Tucked behind the twin swing-out doors is a larger cargo area than the regular Cooper, although at only 9.2 cubic feet of capacity, it's still hardly a great deal of space. Still, with the rear seats down, that expands to a more usable 32.8 cubes.
Just like the regular Cooper hatchback that was redesigned last year, the Clubman features a snazzy, modernistic control set-up that is nevertheless a prime example of something that looks great in a photograph but works terribly in practice. The audio controls are bunched confusingly into the huge center speedometer, and both manual and automatic climate controls are also poorly designed. We highly suggest opting for the multifunction steering wheel, which makes controlling the stereo much easier (and adds cruise control). Finally, although numerous squeaks and rattles seem to be a Mini hallmark, materials and build quality seem to have improved with this second-generation new Mini line.
The 2008 Mini Cooper Clubman may be a longer Mini but that doesn't put much of a dent into the phenomenally fun driving experience associated with its smaller brethren. Responses to driver inputs are quick, and the Cooper sucks its driver into the experience, delivering lots of feedback through the steering wheel, driver seat and pedals. The electric power steering makes turning at slow speeds less of an arm workout, while the standard Sport mode tightens it up to match the last-generation Cooper's stiff, go-kart feel. This sporty nature comes at the expense of a somewhat stiff ride quality, particularly on Cooper S models equipped with the sport-tuned suspension.
Despite its modest power output, the base Cooper's four-cylinder engine is actually pretty strong. Drivers will have to row gears fairly frequently (or toggle paddle shifters with the automatic), but generally, the base engine provides more than enough power for most buyers. That being said, the turbocharged Cooper S is superb, providing a guttural thwack of low-end torque whenever the driver dips into the accelerator (which features two different response settings). With so much power routed to the front wheels, though, torque steer tends to yank the tires when you really gun it. However, no matter which Clubman you choose, prepare to have fun.