It's telling that the 2011 MINI Cooper Clubman ends up with a Total Car Score well below the standard MINI Cooper.
The score is actually below the segment average, too, which says something about buyers not fully buying into the Clubman's promised practicality. Yet the longer, slightly more spacious Clubman is hardly a slouch in the driving department, as it has the same engine range, an optional sports suspension and is based on one of the best-handling front-drive cars around.
The Cooper Clubman's cabin design has a distinct personality, with a large speedo dial in the center of the dash and a line of old-school aircraft switches below. There's also a third passenger door to access the rear quarters that are more generous than the straight Cooper -- providing about 2.5 inches extra rear legroom.
Clubman cargo space is also increased by 50 percent, which might sound like a lot, but "50 percent of not very much in the first place" is more apt. Two vertically-hinged doors on the back open to reveal a cargo area of 9.2 cubic feet with the back seats up, 32.8 with them down.
That adds to this Mini's practicality, but the below-premium quality of interior materials in this premium small car has not escaped the notice of some critics. Other complaints include a less-than-ideal control layout and a price that escalates quickly with minimal options. The Clubman's ride quality may also be too harsh for some buyers, particularly in S form.
The 2011 model year expands horsepower while bringing revised steering tuning to combat torque steer, plus adaptive headlights, extra sound insulation, HD and satellite radio and some minor cosmetic work.
The 2011 MINI Cooper Clubman range includes the base and "S" trim levels (the John Cooper Works Cooper Clubman JCW version is covered separately).
All Clubmans come with ABS, stability control and six airbags. The Base has 15-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, a steering wheel that adjusts for height and reach, plus power windows and mirrors. The S moves to 16-inch alloys and adds fog lights, a firmer suspension and sports seats.
A long list of extra features may be chosen individually or in packages. These include an upgraded stereo, Bluetooth, iPod integration, navigation, parking sensors and a kaleidoscope of appearance options (e.g. white roof and side mirrors). MINI Connected is an available Apple iPhone-based infotainment system that can stream internet radio and allow the user to make Facebook updates.
The base Clubman model uses an energetic and efficient 1.6-liter four that develops 121 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque while the S version is turbocharged for 181 hp and 177 lb-ft.
The EPA rates the 2011 Mini Cooper Clubman in base trim at 28 mpg in the city, 35 on the highway and a mixed average of 31 with the six-speed manual transmission (with hill-start assistance); automatic Clubmans get 27/36/30. The Clubman S with a manual transmission is rated at 27/35/30 and 26/34/29 with the automatic.
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