Design and Engineering

Design and Engineering

Good Arriving Down Under in March 2008 (in standard and turbo charged S grades, as the red hot JCW grade followed in September '08) the Clubman faithfully retains the cute, distinctive styling of the Cooper hatch yet adds additional practicality.

The wheelbase is stretched 80mm and the overall length grows a substantial 240mm over the MINI Cooper = a now far easier place to fit a mountain bike (or other lifestyle equipment) inside. The design has a number of neat touches - the lack of a B-pillar on the driver’s side and the split rear loading doors (whisper, van like) which open 90 degrees on either side look almost art like when open and the latter is a faithful link to the MINI wagons of old.
Not so good The ‘Clubdoor’ (the rear opening side door) is designed for easier access to the rear seats, but unfortunately is on the right hand side – perfect for left hand drive European countries, not so in Australia as when parallel parked it opens onto traffic rather than kerb side. Also this door can’t be opened without first opening the front door (just like in a Mazda RX-8). One may also argue the split van like rear doors are guilty of style over substance as a forklift driver has zero chance of loading a pallet of boutique beer in the back.
Interior and Styling

Interior and Styling

Good Upfront the interior is 100% Cooper = funky large dials; cartoon like design touches everywhere and excellent fit AND finish; second row legroom is increased by 77mm over the Supermini sized Cooper hatch so two average sized adults can happily fit in the rear.
Not so good Whilst the rear bench has three seatbelts and whilst it is more spacious than a Cooper (legroom wise), we wouldn't volunteer to be the centre passenger as the rear bench is tight on shoulder room (so best kept for 2 in the rear).

Cargo capacity is still small at 260 litres (the smaller Cooper hatch makes do with a tiny 160L), however with the rear bench folded down a more substantial 930 litres (compared to 680 litres for the Cooper) is on offer. Whilst the split rear doors open smoothly on damped gas struts, one must remember to close the left door before the right (it won't close otherwise).
Performance

Performance

Good All three engines are 1.6L petrol 4 cylinders; the entry level naturally-aspirated engine is smooth throughout its rev range (actually, not one engine on offer isn’t); all gearboxes (manual and automatic) are quality six-speed units that contribute to the fun. The Clubman S is significantly quicker over the base grade thanks to a turbo that’s increases power from 88kW to 128kW and the range topping JCW with 155kW takes it one step further again! Our favourite grade is the S, this engine is peppy and refined and more than fast enough for day to day driving.
Not so good The added weight of the Clubman over a Cooper (roughly 85kg) takes out a little pep, however it’s hardly noticeable in the real world (and compared to competing small hatches the Clubman is still impressively light). Pick the base level petrol engine with the auto gearbox and you’ll say goodbye to perky performance.
Ride and Handling

Ride and Handling

Good The lack of a B-pillar on the driver’s side might be a concern for vehicle rigidity, yet this is NOT the case, as the chassis feels as impressively stiff as the Cooper – congratulations to the MINI’s engineers on achieving this feat. As a result the handling is almost as excellent as the smaller Cooper (so it’s very, very good) and the ride feels more compliant thanks to the stretched wheelbase.
Not so good When attacking corners, driver’s familiar with the shorter Cooper may notice the extra weight in the rear, however we’re only talking tiny degrees here. Yes, the ride is better than the Cooper but it’s still not perfect (thanks to the stiff side wall run flat tyres).
Buying and Owning

Buying and Owning

Good Ticks the safety box with Anti-lock brakes, Electronic Stability Control and six airbags as standard (as are Rear parking sensors). Fuel economy is excellent across all grades and resale rating is impressively high.
Not so good Expensive against a number of competitors (i.e. Volkswagen Golf); tick too many of the tasty options and the price heads north fast; the John Cooper Works grade is far more expensive than the S grade, so we’d pass on the upgraded suspension and tuned engine on offer here and settle for the already peppy Clubman S.