Full 2012 MINI Cooper Clubman Review
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Mini Cooper Clubman carries over unchanged.
With retro design, impressive fuel economy and general good-time spirit, the Mini Cooper splashes color on an often bland automotive landscape. Only problem is, well, it's just not that big. The Cooper's diminutive size is still bigger than the mid-1960s designs that inspired it, but still limits its daily practicality, particularly if you're driving friends around. But with more overall length, more rear-seat legroom and about 50 percent more cargo capacity, the 2012 Mini Cooper Clubman aims to infuse a little more practicality in the Mini formula.
The Clubman offers the same powertrain and standard and optional feature lists as the smaller Mini, ranging from the sensible 121-horsepower base model to the wickedly devious John Cooper Works model with its bright-red Brembo brake calipers and turbocharged, 208-hp engine. More important, the longer Clubman feels just like its shorter-wheelbase template, with comparable acceleration, handling and fuel economy.
Then again, the Clubman also inherits some of the standard Mini's less desirable qualities: harsher ride (a trade-off for the quick handling), highway noise, rear quarters that can still feel cramped despite the additional legroom, and a price that rapidly escalates once the options fever takes hold.
If you're just after a fun car with good zip and witty cornering manners, the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Veloster and Mazda 3 are all good choices that will usually let you leave the dealer lot with more money in your pocket. And if it's just a bigger Mini you're looking for, Mini's own Countryman offers a similar layout with four doors. But for style, daily livability and countless ways to personalize and let your freak flag fly (which Mini might even be able to put on your Mini's roof, since there's a selection of optional decals from which to choose), the Clubman is hard to beat.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Mini Cooper Clubman is a four-passenger, two-door hatchback with a reverse-opening rear "club" door on the passenger side. In back, a pair of barn-style doors swing outward, replacing the liftgate of the standard Mini hatchback. The Clubman is available in three trim levels: Cooper, sportier Cooper S and high-performance 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 ambient 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 turbocharged engine, 16-inch wheels, run-flat tires, foglights, dual exhausts, firmer suspension tuning, sport seats and alloy pedals. Stepping up to the John Cooper Works gets you 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 John Cooper Works.
Clubman options are plentiful and arranged in several packages, and most are available à la carte. Highlight 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 about a dozen different wheel choices, rear parking sensors, cloth or leather upholstery, a navigation system, and multiple combinations of interior trim and materials. A multitude of dealer-installed features are also available.
Powertrains and Performance
The base Cooper Clubman is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that produces 121 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. The Cooper S raises the ante with a turbocharged version of the base Cooper engine that generates 181 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque (192 lb-ft at full throttle thanks to an overboost function). The John Cooper Works pulls 208 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque (207 lb-ft with overboost) from a revised version of the same engine. The regular Cooper and the Cooper S come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, but a six-speed automatic with manual shift control is optional. The JCW offers only the six-speed manual.
Mini estimates the base Clubman with a manual transmission can pass zero to 60 mph in 8.9 seconds (10.2 seconds for the automatic). The Clubman S needs just 6.8 seconds (7.1 for the automatic) for the same trip, and the JCW shaves that time further to just 6.5 seconds. Surprisingly, the impressive acceleration doesn't horribly impact fuel economy. With either transmission, the base Clubman achieves EPA-estimated fuel economy of 27 mpg city/35 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined. The S is rated at 27/35/30 mpg for the manual and 26/34/29 for the automatic, while the John Cooper Works version returns 25/33/28.
The 2012 Mini Cooper Clubman comes standard with antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and stability control. In Edmunds 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; that is, the Clubman actually has some, an additional 2.5 inches in fact. But for full-size (and larger) adults, it's still pretty cramped back there. Fortunately, the Clubman's passenger-side access door eases the effort of climbing in and out of the backseat.
The Clubman's cargo area is more than twice as large as the regular Cooper's, although with just 9.2 cubic feet of capacity, it's not exactly cavernous. Flip the rear seats down, however, and the cargo bay expands to a useful 32.8 cubes.
As in the regular Cooper, the Clubman features the retro-inspired control setup, punctuated with toggle switches and anchored by an oversized speedometer in the center stack. Some will love the unique style of form trumping function, but others may find it annoying and pretentious.
Although longer than the regular Mini, the 2012 Mini Cooper Clubman still entertains with its road manners. Driver inputs generate immediate results and there's plenty of feedback through the seats, steering wheel and pedals, while the electric-assist power steering makes maneuvering at slow speeds effortless. Hitting the Sport button -- standard on every Clubman -- firms up the steering effort and quickens throttle response. For some, though, the stiff suspension on the John Cooper Works model, or the optional sport suspension on the Cooper S, might be too aggressive for comfort.
In addition to the Clubman's quick handling, engine power is surprisingly zippy, even for the base 1.6-liter four-cylinder. The power is just right, and the engine feels responsive whether you choose the six-speed manual transmission or the six-speed automatic. The Cooper S and John Cooper Works models will please drivers seeking speedier thrills, with the turbo providing a generous helping of acceleration with barely a hint of lag. Regardless of which Clubman you choose, all offer an invigorating drive.