Full 2013 MINI Cooper Clubman Review
What's New for 2013
The 2013 Mini Cooper Clubman carries over with only minor changes. Bluetooth is now standard, while satellite radio is now an option. The JCW trim level is now available with the six-speed automatic transmission.
Take a regular Mini Cooper but give it more interior space. That's the basic premise of the 2013 Mini Cooper Clubman. Measuring about 9 inches longer than the standard Mini Cooper, the Clubman benefits from about 50 percent more cargo capacity and a bit more rear-seat legroom. Fortunately, the added dimensions have little effect on the overall driving enjoyment we've come to expect from Minis.
That fun-to-drive character does, however, come with its own shortcomings. The Clubman's ride quality is stiffer than that of most of its rivals, and this can be tiresome on long trips. Also carrying over from the regular Mini is a noticeable amount of road and wind noise that intrudes into the cabin. These trade-offs will likely not be deal breakers for most drivers, though, especially for those who value sporty driving dynamics.
Still, there are a few competing hatchbacks one should consider alongside the Clubman. A more radical interpretation of the traditional hatchback can be found in the 2013 Hyundai Veloster, which has a regular-style third door on its passenger side that allows it to be a more viable choice than the Clubman if you're often bringing along rear seat passengers. The 2013 Ford Focus (from the base model to the sporty ST) is also worth considering, on the strength of its sharp handling and welcoming interior. For character and personalization, though, the 2013 Mini Clubman remains in a class of its own.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 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, Bluetooth, a trip computer and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player, HD 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 separately. 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, satellite radio and an iPod interface. Other options include about a dozen different wheel choices, rear parking sensors, cloth or leather upholstery, a navigation system, smartphone app integration 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. All Clubmans come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, and a six-speed automatic with manual shift control is optional.
Mini estimates the base Clubman with a manual transmission can go from 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 with the manual 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 manual John Cooper Works version returns 26/35/29 and 26/34/29 for the automatic.
The 2013 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.
Mini's optional Mini Connected infotainment feature offers smartphone integration using a 6.5-inch display located in the center of the car's speedometer. Downloading a free app onto your smartphone allows easy access to Facebook, Twitter and a slew of Internet radio stations, including Pandora. Additionally, Mini Connected includes Google search and send-to-car functionality.
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 2013 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.