2009 Mini Cooper Clubman Review


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MORE: Compare Mini Specs and Prices.

THE AUTO PAGE
By JOHN HEILIG

SPECIFICATIONS
Model:2009 Mini Cooper Clubman
Engine: 1.6-liter turbocharged I4
Horsepower/Torque: 172 hp @ 5500 rpm/177 lb.-ft. @ 1600 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 100.3 in.
Length/Width/Height: 155.8 x 66.3 x 56.4 in.
Tires: 195/55R16
Cargo volume: 9.2/32.8 cubic feet (rear seat up/down)
Fuel economy: 28 mpg city/37 mpg highway/25.8 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gal.
Sticker: $26,550 (includes $650 destination charge and $5,700 in options)

The Bottom Line: It’s hard not to like driving the Mini Cooper Clubman. At its base is the Mini, which offers go-kart handling with comfort and amazing interior room. Exterior styling is cute, but the instruments, are so poorly designed and laid out that it makes driving the Mini a challenge.

In my driving career, I have hit three deer. The first was in my full-size van and the deer totally disabled the van by puncturing the radiator and breaking the battery. The second was in a Saab, and the deer only succeeded in breaking the grille away from its supports.

The third was in the Mini Cooper Clubman. I gave the deer a pretty good whack, but the only damage was a small dent under the right headlamp and a small crack in the front fascia.

That sort of puts to rest the question of safety in a small car. Admittedly, in none of these cases did I encounter a semi trailer, but a deer encounter is significant.

I was interested in the Clubman because I wondered how they could make a station wagon out of the Mini. I realized that there had been “wagon” versions of the original Mini in England in the 1960s, but would the new iteration of the breed be as interesting.

One click of the key fob remote gave the answer. The tiny rear door on the right opened with the click, revealing a decent cargo compartment (9.2 cubic feet) behind the rear seats. Lower the seat backs (a fairly simple procedure) and the cargo volume increases to 32.8 cubic feet, enough for a couple of sets of golf clubs or luggage for a couple for a long weekend.

We used the added volume to carry “treasures” from a local garage sale.

Getting to the garage sale posed another question. How do we fit three people in this tiny car? We opened the small access door located on the right of the Mini, folded the right front seat forward, and voila, there was a seat back there. My wife sat there and had enough leg and knee room to be comfortable. She also mentioned that the seat was comfortable. There’s some sense of being closed in back there, but the Clubman has a dual sunroof that at least lets in sunlight.

The real fun in the Mini (any variant) is the driving. The Clubman has food power with the Cooper package, that turbocharges the base 1.6-liter inline four to give 172 horsepower. That, coupled with a 6-speed manual transmission driving the front wheels, makes a fun package. Mini brags about the go-kart handling of the car. I disagree, in that go-karts are rough riding. The Mini handles extremely well, whether you’re on an Interstate or tooling around local curvy roads.

The ride quality is on the rough side, although it’s not uncomfortable.

I felt the gearbox needed a stronger detent for reverse gear, which is located to the left of first gear. Several times I accidentally shifted into reverse instead of first at traffic lights which scared the bejeezus out of the drivers behind me.

We drove the Mini in very cold to spring-like warm weather and the HVAC system handled all the extremes.

I had a minor problem with the pushbutton start. You must insert the round key fob before pushing the stop/start button, and occasionally I didn’t do it right.

 And I absolutely hate the speedometer location, in the center of the dash. First, it’s ugly. Second, because of its location, you must take your eyes off the road to see how fast you’re going. Maybe you can convert the RPM reading on the tachometer in front of you, but I couldn’t. I feel Mini should replace the speedometer with a nav system, or even nothing. Then move it where it belongs, in front of the driver, and shift the tach to the left.

A couple of times I was exceeding 80 mph in a 55 zone and didn’t realize it because the speedometer wasn’t in a convenient location.

A word about fuel economy. We drove the Mini on a couple of long Interstate runs and, according to the car’s computer, averaged more than 39 mpg. However, when we refueled and calculated the economy, we only got 25.8 mpg. Believe what you want.

Yes, the Mini Cooper Clubman is fun to drive and semi-practical; but is in dire need of an interior redesign, though, even though the exterior is timeless.

2009 The Auto Page Syndicate

MORE: Compare Mini Specs and Prices.

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