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July 27, 2010 > Auto Review: The Mini Clubman

Auto Review: The Mini Clubman

By Dick Ryan

As I am sure you know, the Mini set of cars are now manufactured in England by BMW, not an English car company. Today's Mini Cooper is a modern recreation of the original that came out in England in 1959, quite a bit larger than the original cars built for 40 years.

BMW produces the Mini line with three basic body styles: the Mini Cooper Hardtop, the Mini Cooper Convertible, and the Mini Cooper Clubman. The Clubman is the "station wagon" version with two double doors in the rear to allow access to the larger luggage area.

My wife and I have driven Minis in the past and liked them all. The braking system is very good and responds well under all conditions. They provide a good sports car ride, are spirited to drive and look way cute. Minis handle like a big go kart and deliver miles and miles of smiles. You can always pick out a Mini from a group of cars on the road.

Our test car was a Cooper S version. Its 1.6-liter turbocharged, 4-cylinder motor develops 172 HP and 177 foot pounds of torque. The normally aspirated engine in the base Mini Cooper develops 118 HP and 114 foot pounds of torque. The Mini Cooper's EPA numbers are 28 mpg city and 36 on the highway. Numbers for the S version are 26/34.

If you want to go full-bore, a John Cooper Works Special version of the Clubman is also available. For this Clubman, Mini tweeks the engine to boost the power to 208 HP and 192 foot-pounds of torque. The EPA ratings don't suffer much at 28 and 33 mpg. This one is a barn burner and will tear up roads everywhere.

A 6-speed manual transmission is the base unit for the entire Mini series; a 6-speed automatic is available. Minis also have a "hill holder" incorporated in the braking system to keep the Mini from rolling backwards down a hill at a stop light or stop sign. Brake pressure is automatically applied for two seconds after releasing the brake pedal (while you engage the clutch) and start to move up the hill.

One of the main differences between the Mini Cooper Hardtop (and convertible) and the Mini Cooper Clubman is that the Clubman has been stretched 9.4 inches. Its wheelbase is also 3.2 inches longer; almost the entire extra wheelbase has been added to the back seat to provide more leg room for the rear seat passengers.

The biggest visual differences are the "Split Rear Barn Doors" that give access to the rear of the Clubman. They make getting stuff in and out very easy. The other visual difference is the door that provides passenger access to the rear seat. First, there is only one of them (on the passenger side) and secondly, it is a "suicide type" door hinged at the rear. The different interior allows the Clubman to hold 61 percent more stuff than the Hardtop.

Minis are fun to drive and at a base price of $24,050 the Mini Cooper S Clubman makes a very economical first new car.

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