2009 MINI Cooper Clubman Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
May 8, 2009

More space plus the MINI Cooper’s same extroverted personality make the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman desirable.

TheCarConnection.com's editors researched a wide range of road tests of the 2009 MINI Cooper to write this definitive review. TheCarConnection.com's resident experts also drove the MINI Cooper to help you decide which reviews to trust where opinions differ, to add more impressions and details, and to provide you with the best information.

The 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman made its debut for 2008 essentially as a new body style of the MINI Cooper, with dual swing-out rear doors, that coincided with a redesign of the MINI Cooper line. With the new design come new engines, a better ride, and a richer interior.

In the tradition of the MINI Traveller, the MINI Cooper Clubman is a roomier MINI that maintains the personality of the original, with more cargo space and easier access to the backseats. The added passenger-side mini-door (similar to those in the Mazda RX-8 and now discontinued Saturn Ion) is undoubtedly one of its most important features. So is expanded rear legroom; backseat passengers will enjoy vastly more space (an additional 3.2 inches), thanks to a wheelbase that picks up 9.5 inches. Twin cargo doors replace the hatch found in regular Coopers, and they open up to a larger cargo area: 32.6 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down, 9.1 with them still up.

The Clubman is the choice for those who plan to have backseat passengers; adults can ride willingly in back, though all is not perfect inside. The instrument panel is just plain wacky, glare off the central speedometer is distracting, controls can’t be used with gloves on, and the switchgear feels flimsy. Also, the half back door on the driver’s side of the Clubman isn’t all that useful; getting in still requires some contortion for tall folks.

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The engine and gearbox in the MINI—along with nearly all of the mechanicals—mirror those in the MINI Cooper line. The non-S powerplant gets 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.

The Clubman S can get to 60 mph in less than 7.6 seconds, for a top speed of 139 mph. While the S is quick, the standard Clubman is responsive, hitting 0-60 in just over nine seconds. In either version, power comes on smoothly, and the six-speed manual shifts very nicely with very positive engagement. The base engine has highway fuel economy of up to 28/37 mpg.

Overall, the Clubman has a ride that’s surprisingly good, with very little of the road noise that’s expected from smaller cars. The new electric power steering works well, but there’s an artificial feel that's contrary to everything else about the MINI.

Six airbags, anti-lock brakes, and traction control are standard on the MINI Cooper Clubman. Stability and traction control are standard, as is a hill-start feature that holds the vehicle in place when starting uphill. The MINI Cooper gets mostly four-star crash ratings from NHTSA and a five-star rating for rollover resistance.

10

2009 MINI Cooper Clubman

Styling

The standard Cooper has scaled up well in the form of the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman.

The regular MINI Cooper had loads of curb appeal and an undeniably fun air about it, but MINI quickly realized that the standard Cooper's limited space was driving away some customers. In order to address the needs of those who simply needed a little extra storage room for their weekend getaway gear, MINI introduced the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman, a lengthened version of the classic MINI Cooper.

One of the most significant challenges facing the MINI Cooper Clubman design team was how to preserve the MINI's cute and quirky styling elements while at the same time adding a few extra inches in both wheelbase and overall length. Many in the automotive industry worried that the standard Cooper's character would be lost in translation, but reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman has still got "it." Edmunds reviewers state that the "modern-day Clubman is a four-seat, two-door hatchback that's a bump up in size and price from the iconic MINI Cooper." Just how much bigger, you ask? The 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman, which is available in base, turbocharged Cooper S Clubman, and top-of-the-line turbocharged John Cooper Works Clubman, is approximately 10 inches longer than its baby brother. Overall, the exterior styling is quite similar, so much so that Jalopnik reports that "at a distance, it's nearly impossible to differentiate between the two variations." Once you step a little closer, though, the differences become apparent. This is most notable in the rear of the car, according to Cars.com, which says "the Clubman's rear-quarter pillars are painted in contrasting black or silver" that "matches the rear bumper and, if desired, the roof." The 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman also features "a rear access door on the passenger side and...split rear 'barn' doors at the back," notes MyRide.com. The third passenger door won't open independently of the regular passenger-side door, but it does make entry and exit from the rear seats significantly easier.

Exterior differences among the different trims of the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman aren't very significant, according to reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. MyRide.com observes that the "base model has a three-bar chrome grille, while the S's is black mesh." The MINI Cooper S Clubman also features a front hood scoop and larger lower air intake, two characteristics it shares with the John Cooper Works Clubman. Buyers opting for the top-end MINI Cooper John Cooper Works Clubman won't find much to distinguish their vehicle from a standard Cooper S Clubman; Autoblog reviewers say "a pair of small John Cooper Works badges grace the lower right corners of the front grille and tail-gate," and that is the extent of the extra badging.

Inside the cabin of the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman lineup is a retro-themed interior that clearly emphasizes form over function. Jalopnik observes that the MINI Cooper Clubman's interior is "mostly identical to its smaller brother from the cockpit-view forward," including the "rail-protected flight switches [that] control much of the electrics." In case you've never seen the unique instrument layout of the MINI Cooper before, MyRide.com states that "only the tachometer is located in front of the driver and a larger round speedometer is featured at the top of the center stack, to the driver's right." Edmunds reviewers say that the MINI Cooper Clubman features "stylishly arranged climate and audio controls," although they note the layout is "ergonomically unfortunate, however, as these controls will befuddle those used to a more traditional dash layout." ConsumerGuide agrees, warning that "many audio functions are tough to negotiate due to cryptic markings and the need to drill through multiple menus in order to get to a desired setting."

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9

2009 MINI Cooper Clubman

Performance

The 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman lineup is slightly more livable and slightly less tossable.

The most frequent association used to describe the MINI Cooper is "go-kart-like," a trait that can be attributed in large part to the small frame and wheels-at-the-corners design of the base Cooper hardtop. Unfortunately, the quick responses of the pint-sized Cooper come at the expense of ride quality, which is among the harshest of any vehicle in the class. The 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman offers a nice compromise, as the extended wheelbase smoothes out the ride but takes some of the bite out of the Cooper's handling prowess.

Each of the three trim levels of the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman features its own engine, all of which are some variant of a 1.6-liter four-cylinder. MyRide.com reports that the "base engine makes 118 horsepower and can move the Clubman from 0 to 60 mph in 10.2 seconds," which is far from enviable, but the pair of turbocharged engines on the upper-level models provide significantly more thrills. The 2009 MINI Cooper S Clubman features a "172-hp, turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-four-cylinder with 177 pounds-feet of torque," according to Cars.com, while the "John Cooper Works Clubman [is]...powered by a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder that, according to MINI, can briefly raise boost pressure to achieve 207-pounds-feet when accelerating." The MINI John Cooper Works Clubman also puts out 208 hp, which Motor Trend says is enough to power it from "0-to-60 in 5.7 seconds." Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com rave about the performance of the John Cooper Works edition, with Autoblog calling the JCW engine "one sweet little powerplant" that "never wants for thrust." Car and Driver agrees, but they point out, compared to the base MINI Cooper variants, there is "no extra power from either engine to offset [the] added heft" of the MINI Cooper Clubman.

In addition to high praise for its upgraded JCW engine, the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman earns high marks for its transmission options. MINI Cooper Clubman drivers get to choose between either a six-speed manual, which comes standard, or the optional six-speed automatic that features paddle shifters for manual control. The 2009 MINI Cooper John Cooper Works Clubman comes exclusively with the manual. Jalopnik reviewers are particularly impressed with the automatic, declaring that "an intelligent autobox is where the MINI Clubman really earned its stars," offering "quick and properly timed shifts." MyRide.com agrees that "both engines work well with the automatic transmission," but they recommend "the manual for the low-powered base model," as it "makes the driving experience more fun." Speaking of the manual, Car and Driver simply calls it "a delight to use," and many of the reviews read by TheCarConnection.com make similar claims.

Few cars can blend sportiness with fuel economy like the MINI Cooper, and the MINI Cooper Clubman matches the standard Cooper almost stride for stride. According to the official EPA estimates, the base 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman should return 28 mpg city and 27 mpg highway with the manual and 25/34 mpg with the automatic. The MINI Cooper S Clubman pays a small price for its performance gains, returning 26/34 mpg with the manual and 23/32 with the auto. The MINI Cooper John Cooper Works Clubman with its six-speed manual and 208 hp also manages to get 26 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway, an incredible set of numbers considering its performance potential.

The 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman can't quite hang with the standard Cooper on twisting roads, but drivers and passengers alike will definitely appreciate the improved ride quality. Jalopnik reviewers appreciate that the "added wheelbase and extra heft provided a very smooth and controlled ride for such a tiny car," while MyRide.com notices that "the added length helps the Clubman iron out bumps better." The increased livability leads ConsumerGuide to call the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman the "near-ideal blend of everyday practicality and sporting driving fun." However, the MINI Cooper Clubman isn't without its performance flaws. Autoblog contends that "the ride quality of the JCW is noticeably harsher than lesser models," and Motor Trend reports that, when it comes to torque steer, "the JCW Clubman has it to the max." Compared to the base MINI Cooper models, the MINI Cooper Clubman is "slower, chubbier and more flexible," which hurts its handling dynamics and causes it to "lose a bit of its composure at the limit," according to Jalopnik. Fortunately, the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman still features that "hallmark trait of the MINI brand," which Jalopnik says is "retro-thruster-like braking prowess" that "brings you to a halt pronto."

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7

2009 MINI Cooper Clubman

Comfort & Quality

A few extra inches in length make the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman more practical for hauling both groceries and an extra pair of passengers.

If the only thing keeping you out of a MINI Cooper is its lack of interior space, your excuses have now dried up thanks to the lengthened MINI Cooper Clubman model.

Research conducted by TheCarConnection.com indicates that the extra space inside the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman isn't just for show, but in fact makes the "second seating row...a viable space to put two adults," according to MyRide.com. The total seating capacity inside the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman is still four, although the added dimensions mean that "the Clubman has 2.5 inches more rear legroom and 3.5 more cubic feet of cargo space" than the standard Cooper, according to Edmunds. Up front, Kelley Blue Book reports "plenty of room—even for large folk." MyRide.com adds that the MINI Cooper Clubman's "high roofline leaves plenty of head room in the driver's seat," while the pair of front buckets "move back far enough to allow tall guys to fit." In the back, Edmunds notes that the bench seat "isn't huge, but there's adequate room for two full-size adults."

Toward the rear of the car, the twin rear barn doors of the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman swing open to reveal a significantly larger cargo space than that found on the regular MINI. MyRide.com states that the MINI Cooper Clubman's "cargo volume is 32.8 cubic feet versus 24.0 cubic feet for the regular MINI," and ConsumerGuide is impressed enough to call the MINI Cooper Clubman "a surprisingly versatile hauler." Cargo space is boosted inside the passenger cabin as well, as Jalopnik notes that the MINI Cooper Clubman's "dual glove boxes and plenty of cup holders [offer] enough storage space for anything you might need to carry."

While the storage space inside the passenger cabin is commendable, reviewers are split over the materials quality inside the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman. Jalopnik reviewers feel that the interior of the MINI Cooper Clubman suffers from "Toys R' Us-grade plastic" and opine that "in this price range, a buyer deserves a little better." MyRide.com disagrees, however, remarking that "though there are many plastics, they have a quality look and feel." One thing that reviewers do agree upon is that the build quality is impeccable, which is to be expected on this BMW-owned brand. ConsumerGuide praises the "solid workmanship," while Jalopnik coo that "every compartment, toggle and switch functions with the usual high level of BMW confidence."

One of the other areas that MINI thankfully decides to address on the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman is the road noise that intrudes into the cabin when driving the base MINI Cooper. While the smaller Cooper is prone to significant wind noise, ConsumerGuide reports that "wind noise was fairly low" during their time with the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman.

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8

2009 MINI Cooper Clubman

Safety

With standard electronic stability control and a wealth of airbags, the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman is a safe and appealing small-car choice.

The 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman hasn’t yet been tested by the federal government or the insurance-affiliated IIHS, but if the base MINI Cooper's safety ratings are any indication, drivers should have nothing to worry about. The regular MINI Cooper is one of the highest-rated compact cars tested by NHTSA and the IIHS, and while the MINI Cooper Clubman features somewhat different architecture, the chances are good that its ratings will live up to the precedent established by the baby Cooper.

While there aren't any crash-test ratings out for the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman, TheCarConnection.com does have the latest information on the Cooper Clubman's safety equipment, and the list of standard features is impressive. MyRide.com reviewers point out that standard safety features on the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman "include dual front airbags, seated-mounted front side airbags, curtain side airbags that cover both seating rows, [and] a tire-pressure monitor." Kelley Blue Book adds that all 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman models feature "anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist," while "traction control, and electronic stability control and brake cornering control" also come standard. Autoblog reviewers appreciate the capabilities of the stability control, proclaiming that the "MINI's slip control system worked great" during their test drive and "managed the speed of the individual wheels quietly without jerking the steering wheel around or even the car." Kelley Blue Book also reports that "Hill Start Assist is standard with manual transmission" versions of the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman lineup.

The 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman has very few glaring safety problems, but many drivers will likely find that the rear doors impede visibility. MyRide.com reports that "the line where the rear doors comes together is a bit of a distraction in the rearview mirror," while Car and Driver says that the "silly split rear doors block [the] rearview."

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9

2009 MINI Cooper Clubman

Features

If you can't find a 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman that suits your tastes, you can simply order one directly from the factory, tailored to your exact specifications.

The standard and optional features list on the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman lineup will be familiar to anyone who's tricked out a vehicle on the MINI Web site. Much like the base Cooper lineup, the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman puts a very strong emphasis on customization and offers a near-limitless variety of personalization options.

The three trims of the MINI Cooper Clubman feature largely the same set of standard amenities. MyRide.com reports that "standard equipment on the base Clubman includes leatherette upholstery, air conditioning, interior air filter...trip computer [and] AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary input jack." Cars.com adds that "power windows and locks," as well as "keyless entry with push-button start" are all standard, along with the "faux leather upholstery." The MINI Cooper S Clubman and Cooper John Cooper Works Clubman models don't add much other than their specific performance enhancements and unique standard wheels.

The options list for the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman is lengthy, but beware the quick price escalations that TheCarConnection.com noticed once you check more than a few of the options boxes. Edmunds reports that the MINI Cooper Clubman "offers a broad range of packages and options" and notes that "even the various color schemes can be mixed and matched" for a truly personalized flavor for your MINI Clubman. Cars.com lists some of the optional features, such as "heated front seats, a panoramic moonroof, a navigation system and a litany of cosmetic accessories." On the tech front, Kelley Blue Book highlights the availability of such niceties as "HD Radio, a Bluetooth cell phone link...xenon headlights [and] SIRIUS Satellite Radio." The Bluetooth option includes a USB port for hooking up with mobile devices like the iPhone or other cell phones and media players, making the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman one of the more technologically advanced compact cars available.

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2009 MINI Cooper Clubman 2-Door Coupe S

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great car. Very reliable, great handling, beautiful design. i also love the sunroof (and BMW loved it so much they put it on the 328 touring as well) and even the retro central gauges (who needs to see the... + More »
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