- Keen sense of style
- Perky attitude and power
- Extra rear-seat room
- Door #3-Design details
- Interior functionality
- Where’s door #4?
- Still pretty mini inside
- Worries about quality
The 2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman--extroverted styling in a slightly bigger package with more power makes for a fun car that is hard not to look at with a broad smile.
TheCarConnection.com’s editors studied road tests from around the Web to write this comprehensive review of the new 2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman.
The car experts from TheCarConnection.com also drove the MINI Cooper S Clubman, and have included opinions and details to offer you a definitive opinion on this unique MINI. This review also compares the 2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman with other vehicles in its class to give you the best advice, even when other reviews present conflicting opinions.
Let's get a couple things straight. First, the modern BMW-produced MINI Cooper made its debut in 2001, and more than 1 million units have been built and sold since. MINI's parent company BMW knew that the MINI brand couldn't survive with just one body style, so the wagon-style MINI Cooper S Clubman was shown in concept form throughout 2006 and 2007, and then arrived as a true production model in 2008.
MINI's newly stretched model harkens back to the extended Travellers, Countrymans, and Estates sold under the MINI nameplate from 1960 to 1982. Keeping our names straight, adding an "S" after the Cooper denote a performance version, so the 2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman you're reading about here is a MINI's latest hot-rod "estate" (what they call wagons in Merry Old England). For the sake of clarity, note that MINI refers to their car as a Cooper S Clubman, and not a Clubman S (as some Web sites identify the car).
This long-roofed, stretched 2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman is a roomier MINI that still maintains the personality of the original. You could consider it a maxi MINI. Undoubtedly, its most important features include the added passenger-side mini-door (similar to those on the Mazda RX-8 or the Saturn Ion) and the extra room in the backseat. Rear passengers will enjoy vastly more interior legroom: the Clubman sports a 9.5-inch addition to its wheelbase, allowing for a 3.2-inch increase in legroom.
On the 2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman, twin cargo doors replace the hatch found on regular Coopers, and these doors open up to a larger cargo area (32.6 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down; with the seats raised, the Clubman still carries 9.1 cubic feet of stuff).
While the extra interior room is appreciated, along with the fact that adults can ride willingly in the larger rear seat area, all is not perfect in the 2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman. While the interior's style is fun to look at, it's less fun to live with. Glare off the huge center speedometer is distracting, and the controls and switches are, well, mini. Many can't be operated with gloves on (several reviewers live in Michigan; the rest are merely fashionable). The switchgear also feels flimsy. Additionally, we wondered why MINI didn't add a second half-door to the driver's side of the Clubman--it would make both rear seats easier to get into. Currently, only the passenger side seat is conveniently accessible.
The 2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman's engine and gearbox range mirrors that of the MINI Cooper S, which TheCarConnection.com previously tested. The non-S powerplant is a normally aspirated, 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 120 horsepower and 118 pound-feet of torque. It's paired either to a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic gearbox. This "S" version gets the turbocharged version of the same engine, which, in U.S. trim, blows out 175 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. This power propels the longer Clubman to 60 mph in less than 7.6 seconds, and to a top speed of 139 mph, so the MINI Cooper S Clubman is quick, but it's not a rocket. Power comes on smoothly, and the six-speed manual shifts very nicely with very positive engagement.
All U.S. 2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman models get a raft of standard safety gear, including six airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, Cornering Brake Control (CBC), and Brake Assistant. Stability and traction control with hill-start assistance are also standard. Drivers who worry about driving a manual gearbox in hilly areas will appreciate the hill-start feature, which holds the vehicle in place to give drivers time to move their right foot from the brake pedal to the accelerator. How considerate.
As with other MINIs, a huge variety in color and trim choices are available on the 2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman.
2008 MINI Cooper Clubman
With the 2008 MINI Cooper Clubman, sex appeal hasn’t been ditched for practicality.
Reviewers from around the Web generally approved of the stretched 2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman, since it keeps most of the original MINI charm intact.
This long-roofed 2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman is roomier than the iconic Cooper hatchback, but maintains the personality of the original. Its distinguishing features include the added passenger-side, rear-hinged Clubdoor, and extra room in the backseat.
“The Clubman is almost all-Cooper,” Road & Track writes. “A-pillar forward is all the same, but the roof, sides, rear doors and stretched floorpan are unique.” And yet, Automobile feels with the Clubman Cooper, MINI designers "had a lot of fun with this project" and the new styling is more than a "last-minute stretch job."
The 2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman depends on details like contrasting roof color to link it to the smaller car. The new details emphasize its add-ons, such as the matching U-shaped border around the rear clamshell cargo doors. Those doors are different than the cargo door on the standard Cooper MINI, which is simply an upward-swinging, one-piece affair. Reviewers also approved of the unique rear door design, and Popular Mechanics writes that "the MINI has to be non-conformist whenever it can."
The other major addition to the Clubman is the presence of a third side door, this one on the passenger side of the car. The rear-swinging Clubdoor allows for easy access into the Clubman's more spacious rear seating area. When shut, the door blends nearly seamlessly into the passenger side. The one complaint that appears frequently with the new door is its positioning; while most cars have third doors on the driver's side, ConsumerGuide points out that "the Clubman's is on the passenger side of the car, which seems somewhat illogical," though this doesn't detract from the Clubman's "unquestionable cuteness."
Inside the new Cooper S Clubman, the driver and front passenger will not notice anything differentiating the panel and dashboard in front of them from that of the standard Cooper. MINI left the back fairly intact, making few styling changes. Perhaps the biggest change is the new trim. “My favorite bit of detailing has to be the trim that wraps all the way around the cabin, flowing into the rear bench seat just as on the Rolls Royce Phantom,” Automobile raves. It "adds a sense of occasion which is desperately lacking in the back of most small cars."
TheCarConnection.com’s team of car experts likes the iconoclastic Clubman. There are more cutlines on the body, which means the stretch Cooper MINI looks better in darker colors—but it’s instantly recognizable from the side. From the front and from the driver seat, you may as well be driving a MINI Cooper of the standard size—the charm is carried over intact.
2008 MINI Cooper Clubman
Excellent handling and capable acceleration make the 2008 MINI Cooper Clubman a rewarding drive.
The basic rules of car performance state that as a car gets bigger and heavier, its performance should suffer. Apparently the basic rules don't apply to the fugitives from physics who engineered the 2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman, because its performance is only minimally different from that of the smaller and lighter Cooper.
MINI offers two engines in the Clubman, and they mirror those from the MINI Cooper. The Cooper S Clubman’s standard powerplant is a normally aspirated, 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 120 hp and 118 pound-feet of torque. It's paired either to a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic gearbox. The "S" version gets the turbocharged version of the same engine, which in U.S. trim blows out 175 hp and 177 pound-feet of torque. This power propels the longer Clubman to 60 mph in less than 7.6 seconds, and to a top speed of 139 mph.
In road tests with the new MINI Cooper S Clubman, reviewers were pleased by the car's responsive handling and agility. Despite the increase in size, Motor Trend finds that "whipping around with the additional length and 177 extra pounds is not a problem." MINI's trademark go-kart-like handling is still present in the Clubman, but the car's extra weight does show in the magazine’s acceleration numbers.
Available on the 2008 Cooper S Clubman is MINI's semi-automatic six-speed transmission with paddle shifters, a welcome feature for those whose commutes involve lots of time in traffic. The new transmission received mixed reviews, as ConsumerGuide laments the way that "shifts made with the paddles are only temporary; if the transmission detects that the lower gear is no longer necessary, it will automatically upshift." Motor Trend likes the automatic transmission as well, calling it "good, but not without flaw." A manual six-speed is available on the 2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman, and it comes with an indicator that unobtrusively recommends the most fuel-efficient gear for the current driving conditions, a welcome feature when gas approaches $4 per gallon. Car and Driver drove the manual car: “Shifting was smooth with the six-speed manual transmission…but we recommend a stronger spring for reverse, as it is too easy to slip into it when seeking first gear.”
More than anything else, MINIs have been fun to drive, and that tradition continues in the MINI Cooper S Clubman. When compared to a Cooper MINI, Road & Track notes that the Clubman's "ride is still firm, but there is a slight delay in steering response and increased understeer." They also find that the 2008 Cooper S Clubman does gain "more in practicality than it loses in performance." However, these differences are minimal and would likely only be noticed in back-to-back test drives of the two. Popular Mechanics loves the car's handling on the open road and claims that "if the extra body apertures in the Clubman have hurt the MINI’s structural rigidity, it [isn't] immediately evident on the road."
Ride comfort has been improved over the standard MINI Cooper S, thanks in large part to the increased weight of the car. During road tests, Popular Mechanics found that "the cars rode quietly and solidly throughout." Automobile also notes that the extra length of the Clubman helps to "smooth the ride out a bit and the car does feel fractionally more stable at high speed."
2008 MINI Cooper Clubman
Comfort & Quality
The 2008 MINI Cooper Clubman’s extra cargo and people space is a welcome improvement over the standard Cooper MINI.
The 2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman exists to provide MINI styling and the added practicality of respectable trunk space. In that regard, it’s mission accomplished, according to the reviews cited by TheCarConnection.com.
Rear passengers will enjoy vastly more interior legroom: the Clubman sports a 9.5-inch addition to its wheelbase, allowing for a 3.2-inch increase in legroom. In the rear, twin cargo doors replace the hatch found on the regular MINI; Cooper S Clubman doors open up to a larger cargo area (32.6 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down; with the seats raised, the Clubman still carries 9.1 cubic feet of stuff).
The rear of the car is now so spacious that Car and Driver says, "with the seats folded, 33 cubic feet of storage are available, nearly as many as in a Chevy Tahoe." Granted, the Clubman won't accommodate the same number of passengers (not legally, at least), but this is still an impressive statistic.
Quality on the MINI is what you would expect from a car in this price range. Materials are solid throughout, and TheCarConnection.com finds that the two-tone leather interior of the Clubman draws praise from reviewers. The only gripes that reviewers record are summed up by Popular Mechanics' complaint about "the quirky placement and labeling of some secondary controls" and rear seats that Automobile describes as "slightly claustrophobic."
TheCarConnection.com has had extensive experience in the MINI Cooper and Clubman, and while the extra interior room is appreciated in the Clubman, all is not perfect. The interior's fun to look at, but it's less fun to use every day. Glare off the huge center speedometer is distracting, and the controls and switches are, well, mini. Many can't be operated with gloves on, TheCarConnection.com’s Detroit reporter notes. The switchgear also feels flimsy. MINI probably couldn’t add a second half-door to the driver's side of the Clubman--that would make both rear seats easier to get into, but would likely cut into its body strength too much—but it would be more convenient, if also more like the Honda Element.
2008 MINI Cooper Clubman
The 2008 MINI Cooper Clubman has standout safety features but hasn’t been tested yet.
All U.S. 2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman models get a raft of standard safety gear, including six airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, Cornering Brake Control (CBC), and Brake Assistant. Stability and traction control with hill-start assistance are also standard. Drivers who worry about driving a manual gearbox in hilly areas will appreciate the hill-start feature, which holds the vehicle in place to give drivers time to move their right foot from the brake pedal to the accelerator.
Reviewers at TheCarConnection.com expect the 2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman, although a small car, to perform well in crash tests once the IIHS and NHTSA have their way with it. The smaller Cooper--MINI derives the Clubman from it--is highly rated in crash tests, and the Clubman shares enough of the car's architecture to expect that it will also earn good safety scores.
That controversial third door on the passenger side shows its utility in the safety department, where Car and Driver praises the door as "quite the marvel. It has an airbag, a seatbelt for the front passenger" and also aids in interior styling.
The front seatbelts on the Clubman also feature pre-tensioners that increase survivability in case of an accident. Kelley Blue Book mentions the car's standard "tire-pressure monitoring system," which both serves as a safety feature and helps maintain peak fuel economy by alerting the driver when the tires are underinflated.
2008 MINI Cooper Clubman
For the feature-happy among us, the 2008 MINI Cooper Clubman provides one of the richest shopping experiences around.
MINIs have always been an expression of the owner's unique personality, and the 2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman 2008 is no exception.
ConsumerGuide reports that the incredible number of color options, combined "with all the options and dealer-installed accessories, results in what MINI claims is 150 trillion possible combinations." Whether that claim is true or not, the fact remains that MINIs are designed to be customized to the owner's liking, and MINI has obliged by providing customers with countless features and options.
Aside from the features that customers can add on as they please, just like the Cooper, MINI’s Clubman comes loaded with many luxurious standard features. Every Clubman comes with sport seats, as well as what Automobile describes as a "nightclub-grade premium sound system" and "colorful ambient interior lighting." Features like satellite radio and a navigation system are offered, along with packages that include special gauges.
TheCarConnection.com noticed that reviewers love the car's virtually infinite customizability, but they all note one caveat. In the Clubman Cooper, MINI offers so many options that the price can skyrocket in a hurry.