Full 2011 MINI Cooper Clubman Review
What's New for 2011
For 2011, the range of Mini Cooper Clubman models receives a slight increase in power output, modified steering for reduced torque steer under hard acceleration, minor cosmetic changes inside and out, optional adaptive headlights, reworked radio controls, standard HD and satellite radio and added sound insulation.
With all of the kitschy personality and peppy performance that the Mini Cooper is known for, it does have a few drawbacks, lack of interior space foremost among them. The 2011 Mini Cooper Clubman addresses this issue by virtue of its larger dimensions -- about 10 inches longer overall, translating to about 2.5 inches of much-needed rear-seat legroom and about 50 percent more cargo capacity. These aren't huge gains, but they do help bring some welcome practicality to the Cooper formula.
The Clubman comes with the same powertrain choices and standard and optional feature lists that the smaller Mini enjoys. From the sensible base model to the more entertaining S and John Cooper Works, there should be a Clubman to fit most budgets and tastes. It also drives very similar to its shorter-wheelbase brethren, with comparable acceleration, handling abilities and fuel economy. About the only Clubman-specific downside is its slightly ungainly profile, which makes it look like a Ford Flex left too long in the dryer.
It's worth noting that the Clubman also inherits some of the standard Mini's less desirable traits. Even with the increase in rear legroom, adults will still feel cramped. A trade-off for the car's spry handling is a slightly harsh ride quality (stick with smaller wheels unless you're a performance-minded buyer). There's also a tendency for the reasonable price to skyrocket as options are piled on.
Admittedly, the Clubman is a niche offering, and that's particularly true this year. There's a wide range of fun-to-drive cars that offer more practicality and typically cheaper prices, including the 2011 Ford Fiesta, 2011 Mazda 3, 2011 Volkswagen Golf/GTI and 2011 Volvo C30. There's also the Mini Countryman this year, which is Mini's new small crossover SUV; it gives you the Mini experience but with a much more useful four-door layout. But for a car with a heap of personality and decent daily usability, the 2011 Mini Cooper Clubman is hard to beat.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 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 rear 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, keyless entry, multicolor mood lighting, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a trip computer and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player, HD and satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack.
The Cooper S adds a more powerful engine, 16-inch wheels, run-flat tires, foglights, dual exhausts, firmer suspension tuning, sport seats and alloy pedals. Step up to the John Cooper Works edition and you'll get even more power, 17-inch wheels, Brembo brakes and cloth upholstery. A limited-slip differential and a firmer suspension can be fitted to both the S and the John Cooper Works.
Options are plentiful and arranged in several packages with most features available à la carte. Major optional features include adaptive xenon headlamps, a dual-pane sunroof, automatic climate control, heated front seats, keyless ignition/entry, a 10-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system, Bluetooth and an iPod interface. Other options include different wheels, rear parking sensors, cloth or leather upholstery, a navigation system and a multitude of different interior trims and materials. As has been the case since the Cooper's debut, a multitude of dealer-installed features are also available.
Powertrains and Performance
The base Cooper Clubman is powered by a 1.6-liter inline-4 that produces 121 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 181 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. The John Cooper Works packs 208 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque (207 lb-ft at full throttle, thanks to an "overboost" turbocharger function). 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.
Mini estimates the base Clubman with a manual transmission will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 8.9 seconds (10.2 seconds for the automatic). The Clubman S is considerably quicker, reaching 60 mph in 6.8 seconds (7.1 for the automatic), while the JCW is expected to need only 6.5 seconds. With the manual transmission, the base Clubman achieves impressive EPA-estimated fuel economy of 27 mpg city/35 mpg highway and 31 mpg combined. Opting for the automatic results in 27/36/30 mpg. The S is rated at 27/36/30 mpg for the manual and 26/34/29 for the automatic, while the John Cooper Works version lists at 25/33/28.
The 2011 Mini Cooper Clubman comes standard with antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and stability control. In recent 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 in 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. However, it's still pretty cozy back there, 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. One of our main gripes about previous Minis was the oddly placed stereo control knobs. Fortunately, that has been rectified for 2011 with a slightly more conventional layout.
Despite being longer than the regular Mini, the 2011 Mini Cooper 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-assist power steering makes maneuvering at slow speeds effortless, while hitting the Sport button (standard on every Clubman) firms up the steering and sharpens throttle response. 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 perfectly acceptable 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. Regardless of which Clubman you choose, prepare to have fun.
Read our Mini Countryman Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test