2008 Mini Cooper Clubman new car reviews

Better than: Dodge Caliber
But not as good as: Honda Fit
GRM Bang For The Buck Index: 66.29

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.

Other staff views

Per Schroeder Per Schroeder
PowerDork

I love our normal MINI and you'd think I'd like this car...but honestly, the extra 10 inches don't really make it that much more practical. I'd be down for one if it had four REAL doors and you didn't have to open that hokey third door.

Tim Suddard Tim Suddard
Publisher

I think I stand corrected, the extra space does make a usable difference in the car. The rear divided doors didn't bother me.

The one I had was heavily optioned, and it was dangerously slow when pulling out into traffic with the a/c on. A lightly optioned car without the air on is okay for around town. This one was nearly dangerous.

The fit, the finish, the handling is all gorgeous. Just an enjoyable car to spend a week with.

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

You know, I really thought that the Clubman was going to be the one for me. I even dig the looks. The blind spot caused by the rear doors kind of irks me. I know it's a minor thing, but it's probably enough to push me toward the regular Cooper. Just a more comfortable driving experience in my opinion.

On the plus side, I'll say that this is a nice highway car. We put a few miles on it this weekend, and it cruises down the interstate like a normal car. The last Cooper I drove seemed a little uncomfortable on the interstate, but that might have been partly due to the 17-inch run-flats and sport suspension.

Tom Heath Tom Heath
UberDork

There's nothing to hate about the Cooper Clubman, but it didn't make me want one. I'd much rather have a pair of conventional doors for backseat passengers to use. While we're at it, I'd like a bit more interior room, too.
I can forgive the loose trim around the sunroof as it seems to be an isolated incident.

Scott Lear Scott Lear

I suppose it's a good thing that MINI is branching out to promote brand diversity and draw in more customers, but the Clubman doesn't really go far enough away from the regular MINI. It was creakier inside, a bit strange looking and the extra space isn't going to make a real difference for most large objects that a dorm denizen might need to shove in the back. MINI needs to make a Volvo 740-sized wagon. Who care if it's not mini-sized; it would be pretty cool, and you could actually carry big stuff. A MINI convertible would be a better option for transporting something really big, I suspect.

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