Full 2010 MINI Cooper Clubman Review
What's New for 2010
The 2010 Mini Cooper Clubman now gets cruise control and a multifunction steering wheel as standard equipment, while the optional upgraded sound system receives Harman Kardon branding.
The Mini Cooper, in all of its zippy, kitschy and nostalgic joy, is not without its faults. The most significant is its inability to conquer that final frontier -- space. That's where the 2010 Mini Cooper Clubman comes in. Compared to its more diminutive sibling, the Clubman is about 10 inches longer, and that translates to about 2.5 inches of much-needed rear seat legroom and significantly more cargo capacity (by about 50 percent). The drawback, though, is a slightly ungainly profile that resembles a Ford Flex that has been left in the clothes dryer too long.
Fortunately, looks aren't everything, and from the doors forward, the Clubman is nearly identical to the regular Mini. The Mini's fun-to-drive nature is also as prevalent in the Clubman and Clubman S, thanks to their peppy (yet efficient) engines and taut suspensions. Considering the big Mini's added convenience of space, dual barnlike rear doors and relatively attainable pricing, it can easily be thought of as the practical Mini.
In the two years since its introduction, the Mini Cooper Clubman has seen a few upgrades. Last year saw the debut of the hot-rodded John Cooper Works model on top of the already sporty Cooper S Clubman. This year, only minor changes take place, with the addition of cruise control and a multifunction steering wheel as standard equipment, as well as Harman Kardon branding on the upgraded sound system (which is a must-buy since the base stereo is terrible).
Those minor tweaks for 2010 do not, however, address some of the Clubman's shortcomings, namely, confusing interior controls, cramped rear seating for adults, a slightly harsh ride and a tendency for the reasonable price to shoot upward when options are piled on. Still, the Clubman transcends its ills with oodles of personality and driver engagement. We count the Ford Fiesta, Mazda 3, VW Golf/GTI and Volvo C30 as comparable alternatives, but when it comes to personality, the 2010 Mini Cooper Clubman stands alone.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 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 liftgate is a pair of outward-swinging doors. There are three trim levels available: base Cooper, sportier Cooper S and highest-performing John Cooper Works.
The base Cooper comes standard with 15-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cruise control, leatherette upholstery, multicolor mood lighting, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a trip computer and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The Cooper S adds a more powerful engine, 16-inch wheels, run-flat tires, foglights, firmer suspension tuning and sport seats. Step up to the John Cooper Works edition and you'll get even more power, dual exhausts, 17-inch wheels, Brembo brakes, cloth upholstery and piano-black interior trim.
Mini is one of the few non-exotic brands that offers extensive customization options. Depending on the trim level, these choices include different wheel designs, body styling tweaks, a sport-tuned suspension, a limited-slip differential, a dual-pane sunroof, xenon headlights and rear parking assist. Interior options include automatic climate control, leather upholstery, multiple color schemes and trim options, heated front seats, Bluetooth, keyless ignition, a navigation system, HD Radio, satellite radio, iPod connectivity and an upgraded Harman Kardon 10-speaker sound system. And as has been the case since the Mini's debut, a multitude of dealer-installed features are additionally 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 that generates a robust 172 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque (192 lb-ft at full throttle, thanks to an "overboost" function). In performance testing, the Clubman S went from zero to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds with the manual and automatic. The John Cooper Works packs 208 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque (207 lb-ft with overboost).
The regular Cooper and the Cooper S come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, while a six-speed automatic with manual shift control is optional. The JCW can only be had with the six-speed manual. With the manual transmission, the base Clubman achieves an EPA estimated 28 mpg city/36 mpg highway and 31 mpg combined. The S is rated at 26/34/29 mpg, while the John Cooper Works version lists at 25/33/28. Opting for the automatic hurts the base and S versions' mileage by 3 combined mpg.
The 2010 Mini Cooper Clubman comes standard with antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and stability control. In brake testing, the Clubman S came to a stop from 60 mph in a short 112 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Mini Clubman's biggest advantage over the standard Cooper is rear-seat legroom -- as in, it actually has some. If you've ever taken a ride in the backseat of a regular Mini, you know what we mean. The Clubman's passenger-side access door also makes climbing in and out of the backseat a much easier proposition. It's still pretty cozy back there, however, particularly for larger-than-average adults. Swing open the twin rear doors and you'll find a cargo area more than 50 percent larger than the regular Cooper's, although with only 9.2 cubic feet of capacity behind the rear seatback, it's not exactly cavernous. Flip the rear seats down, however, and the cargo bay expands to a useful 32.8 cubes.
Just like the regular Cooper, the Clubman features a snazzy, retro-inspired control setup that unfortunately works poorly in practice. The audio controls are bunched confusingly below the huge center speedometer, and both manual and automatic climate controls are poorly designed.
Despite being longer than the regular Mini, the 2010 Clubman still provides a comparable level of driving entertainment. Driver inputs are met with immediate results and plenty of feedback through the seats, steering wheel and pedals. The electric power steering keeps slow-speed maneuvering effortless, while hitting the Sport button -- standard on all Clubmans -- weights up the steering to match the last-generation Cooper's stiff, go-kart feel. For some, though, the stiff suspension may be a bit jarring, particularly on the John Cooper Works model and the Cooper S with the optional sport-tuned suspension.
In addition to the Clubman's athletic handling, engine power is surprisingly zippy, even for the base 1.6-liter four-cylinder. The close gear ratios will have manual-transmission drivers changing gears quite often, but power is ample for the majority of owners. The Cooper S and John Cooper Works models will likely bring a smile to more enthusiastic drivers, with the turbo providing a generous helping of oomph with barely a hint of lag. But beware that all of this power turning the front wheels generates quite a bit of torque steer when your foot is really in it. Regardless of which Clubman you choose, prepare to have fun.