Tom Heath
Tom Heath UberDork
12/10/13 12:00 a.m.

There's a lot riding on the new Cooper Clubman. If there's a future for MINI as a brand, it's time to move on from simple nostalgia and build products for a wider audience, namely people who need more space than the Cooper Hardtop can offer.

It's hard to imagine a MINI without a lot of charm, and this model maintains the tradition. While the wheelbase and overall length of the Clubman have stretched quite a bit when compared to its modern predecessor, the height is about the same. It still manages highway fuel economy in the high 30s, which can only be good news with gas at $4.00 a gallon and climbing.

Dynamically, the Clubman shows a strong family resemblance to its kid brother, but the extra heft is still noticeable in performance. That's a shame, since there really isn't a ton of extra space—four adults can fit pretty well, but they can't pack much more than a small bag each.

We can't say many nice things for the fit and finish. There were some pretty gnarly panel gaps around the sunroof trim, and the headliner felt awfully flimsy. The third door was similar in configuration to those found on the Mazda RX-8 and Saturn Ion, although our example was more stubborn than useful and frequently required a bit of fiddling to operate. If we had a hand in the design, we'd have gone for a more conventional four-door arrangement.

At the end of the day, the MINI Cooper Clubman is as handsome as an economy car could dare to be, but we wish it offered a bit more function to go with the flash. Some more attention to the interior trim bits would make us feel better about the car as a long-term candidate.

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