2011 MINI Cooper Clubman Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
January 27, 2011

A big-bodied extrovert, the 2011 MINI Cooper Clubman's the most desirable MINI for anyone beyond their single stage of life.

The 2011 MINI Cooper Clubman is built on the same core tenets of sporty design as the MINI Cooper hatchback and convertible, but with the added utility of a longer wheelbase, more doors, and extra cargo space. Starting from a base price of $21,800 for the Clubman and $25,500 for the Clubman S, it's priced to compete with the 2011 Volkswagen GTI, 2011 Audi A3, and 2011 Mazda3 and Mazdaspeed3.

At first glance there's not much to separate the Clubman from the Cooper hatchback aside from the added size, but closer inspection reveals a slightly different front end, side details, and a more vertical rear. New design elements for 2011 include redesigned tail lights an a new rear bumper, plus a revised interior that takes away some of the chrome in favor of more matte black.

Performance has never been a problem for the Cooper range, and the larger Clubman is no exception. For 2011, the Clubman shares in the engine updates, with the base Clubman getting an additional three horsepower for 121 hp total, while the turbocharged Clubman S gains nine horsepower, climbing to 181 hp through enhanced an Valvetronic system. Fuel economy is good for all models, with the standard Clubman registering 27/36 mpg with the automatic and 27/35 mpg with the manual. The sportier Clubman S hits an identical 27/36 mpg with the auto and 26/34 mpg with the manual. Ride and handling are excellent on smooth roads, with less noise in the cabin from both wind and road than you'll find in many small cars. Bumps, potholes, and broken pavement can reverse the equation, however, thanks to the sporty suspension and low-profile tires.

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Like the original Mini Countryman and Traveller, the 2011 MINI Cooper Clubman adds essential rear-seat room and cargo space to the Cooper hatch's platform, making it easier to access and use. The passenger-side rear-hinged door on Clubman models improves backseat access, but doesn't quite elevate it to what most people would call easy. Despite the minimal road noise, all the MINIs we've tested have had their share of creaks, squeaks, and rattles from the interior plastic trim pieces--an indication that the style and panache of the interior's design comes at the cost of material and build quality, and something you don't expect given the MINI's steep price tag.

Safety equipment abounds in the 2011 MINI Cooper Clubman, with new features for 2011 including anti-torque steer programming, adaptive headlights on Xenon-equipped models, plus standard equipment including six airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability control, and hill-start assistance. Though the 2011 MINI Cooper Clubman hasn't yet been rated under the NHTSA's (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) new testing regime, or by the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety), 2010 NHTSA safety ratings score the similar Cooper hatch at mostly four-star results, and the IIHS rates the 2011 Cooper hatch as "good" for front offset impacts and "acceptable" in side impacts.

Building a MINI Clubman to suit your personal taste is easy, as the brand has made customization one of its strong suits. There are so many paint, accessory, trim, and vinyl decal options available MINI touts over 10 million possible combinations. Standard equipment on all Clubmans includes vinyl upholstery, air conditioning, a trip computer, ambient lighting, and an AM/FM/CD stereo with an auxiliary jack. Stack on the options and the invoice can quickly rise from MINI to maxi.

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