By on October 15, 2008

The entire argument for choosing the MINI Clubman over the regular MINI: the MINI’s too mini. Compared to the classic MINI, the Clubman is 10 inches and 140lbs. more car. It’s like a breakfast cereal advert: “Five percent more MINI!” Of course, that misses the entire point of the cute subcompact, doesn’t it? And if it doesn’t, is that a problem? Yes.

From the outside, you’d swear that MINI Clubman was owned by Volvo, not BMW (who owns MINI). Until now only the Swedes had mastered the art of creating an entire range of cars (and redesigns) that look exactly the same. The brand faithful will instantly recognize the Clubman for what it is: a stretched Cooper with cargo van doors. The rest may wonder… nothing. Once again, still, round headlights, wheel arches and mirrors and the [available] color contrasting roof will convince your neighbors that you are exploring the latest in car fashion, rather than penny-pinching, or saving the environment (Prius anyone?).

Despite the cute looks and length increase, the cargo area is still too small for serious grocery-getting. Warehouse store runs should only be attempted if you are bereft of passengers. This MINI is ready for a day at the trendy shops, but your Ferragamo shopping bags won’t feel as special as they do in the back of your Merc or BMW. Tie downs? Nope. Awesome load system? Nada. Nifty nets? Niet.

Half of the MINI’s maximization takes places in the back seats, making it physically possible (though not entirely comfortable) for four 6’3”people to travel within. If you plan on carrying a quartet of American-sized dudes, go for the auto; you’ll have to slide the driver’s seat forward and there won’t be room to operate the stick. While there’s enough space in the rear for one or two child seats, inserting said sprogs is an ordeal. On the positive side, the third door makes it easier to load and unload adults. Britons will notice that the MINI Clubman’s door is on the wrong side. Everyone else will notice they can’t see squat out the back.

Of course, MINI isn’t trying to pretend to be British these days. Instead, they’re getting as much mileage out as possible of “designed by BMW.” Which is OK because I like my British cars to look British and act German (if they could be dependable like cars from the land of the rising sun I’d be in heaven). Inside ze MINI Clubman you see BMW’s touch everywhere– from the quality parts to the aggravating controls on the navigation system. While the toys abound– nav system with live traffic, Bluetooth hands-free, iPod integration, etc.– the cost of admission is BMW high. Meanwhile, haptic horrors. Seriously, my 1990s Chrysler had better mouse fur in its trunk than the MINI has for its headliner. You won’t find less convincing “silver” plastic anywhere outside of a box marked Revell.

Under the hood rattles the same Peugeot four-banger as the regular MINI in 118, 172 or 208HP flavors. This isn’t the smoothest 1.6-liter mill, but I’ll forgive it because the Germans fitted a turbo to the S model (172HP) and trained the car in the art of blitzkrieg. While 6.7 seconds to 60 may not sound fast, I’d like to see you do that in your soapbox racer. As with all MINIs, the front wheel-drive (FWD) Clubman is a far more entertaining piece of kit mit the $500 limited slip differential. In any case, the maximum MINI adds a small improvement in high-speed stability.

If driving comfort is your thing, this is not your ride. The Clubman S suffers from torque steer, wheel hop, stiff crashing suspensions. Any sharp motion on the go pedal from a stop elicits wheel spin, possible smoke, turned heads and death threats from econo-box owners (they aren’t having as much fun as you). As much as I like thrashing about a FWD car, when it comes down to the promise of sports car driving, the MINI falls well short of the bar.

I really wanted to like the MINI Clubman S. It has enough room to tempt me away from my Euro cruiser, enough panache to satisfy my brand awareness and cute enough to make my mother happy. But at the end of the day, the Clubman is deeply conflicted and hugely expensive. Starting north of $24k and ending-up firmly in the $45s (if you let your options get away from you), this little car loses appeal in a big way. Combine that with the “fast around the curves if you don’t use the throttle” nature and most of the magic vanishes. Pass with care.

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57 Comments on “Review: 2009 MINI Clubman S...”


  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Great review. I didn’t realize Minis could be so expensive. For $17K, a Mini is a stylish runaround — a Yaris for the trendy. At $22K for 172hp, it’s a fun little thing, like a Civic S or MS3 for the light-hearted.

    But optioning a Clubman beyond $27K sounds ridiculous — there are SO many amazing cars in that price range.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    pretty expensive stuff

    and of course the BMW dealer doesn’t know the meaning of the word “deal”

    I’d suggest looking at equivalent priced 2 yr old lease returns on eBay. You might be surprised what a fine car you can pick up for 25k.

  • avatar

    I drove the standard model Clubman as part of my recent search for a good small car (also drove the standard Mini, Versa, Fit, Yaris, Mustang, Miata, Mazda3, Focus — it was a varied group). I still think that the standard Mini has one of the nicest exteriors of any car made. The interior is just not that special (style over function), and the visibility in the Clubman is horrible.

    I’m a musician (upright bass amongst other things) and the Clubman was still just not big enough. It’s also not as good looking as the regular Mini, and it’s really spendy — almost $10k more than a Fit Sport which has much more space and still drives nicely.

    So I bought a 09 Fit Sport instead. If I didn’t need the space, I might have bought a standard Mini, but even then the price difference was a lot to swallow.

  • avatar
    Casual Observer

    The first time I saw one of these on the road, I thought the owner customized the back cargo doors. I said to my wife, “That’s a silly thing to do. Why would you want to ruin your car like that?”

    They’ve turned this into a PT Cruiser or HHR.

  • avatar
    Johann

    I’m glad to see you at least know the difference between a MINI and a Mini and mini. Three very different things.

    An ugly little car this but strangely appealing. Like an English Bulldog. You can’t help but love it even as it slobbers over your brand new suede shoes…

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    Is this to say that the conventional VW GTI is the better car. AT under $30K equiped it seems to be a lower priced alternative to the mini. How do the two compare on a face off? Is the tall and square old design hatch still more practical than the long and low look of the mini? What do the bloggers think of these two similar competitors?

  • avatar
    AKM

    I still think that the standard Mini has one of the kitchiest interiors of any car made.

    Corrected.

    $45k with options? You can get a freakin’ 3-series wagon for that kind of price!! (less options, but still). Heck, an A3 will run you far less than that.

  • avatar

    AKM – No argument here. My wife thought the interior was just too over the top. My take was that the designers were trying to hard to be hip. The original Austin/Morris Mini was hip by accident, this one seems very self conscious of its attempt.

  • avatar

    Sometimes when I’ve driven the new MINI, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the car. Other times, I’ve found the steering too numb, the handling less agile than I expected, and the build quality not where it should be. The road makes a big difference, and so does the transmission: you want the manual in one of these.

    The final bump to $45,000 would be courtesy of the John Cooper Works engine package–which adds $6,900.

    Looks like pricing on 2009 MINIs has been released, so I’ll get it into the database this week.

    On the reliability front, TrueDelta has no data yet. With a few more MINI owners signed up, we could include the car in our survey.

    If you know someone who owns one, please send them here:

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    TwoTwenty

    While I haven’t driven the newest MINI, I really enjoyed the way the last generation model drove. I recently went to the MINI website and built a $32K base model with a manual transmission…

    If this MINI is conflicted, what about the upcoming SUV?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The car is not really bad, but if it weren’t styled the way it is, it’d be effectively a compromised, ergonomically-challenged second-place to the Honda Fit. If Honda were to drop a bigger engine in it’s smallest car, the Mini would be in real trouble.

    There’s nothing wrong with a small car, or a stylish one, but BMW really does need to tone down the compromises you have to make to own either this or the standard Mini:

    * It is really quite expensive for what you get, especially at the very low and very high ends of the market. The Works is incredibly overpriced, and the base Cooper really doesn’t compare all that well to other cars of similar trim and content.

    * The interior ergonomics are terrible. The centre-mount IP isn’t really a bad thing, but it’s too low (the Yaris does this right, putting it high up and away from the driver). The switchgear is stupid and the climate control is perverse. It was bad with the first-gen new Mini and BMW actually made it worse when the new model debuted.

    * The packaging isn’t great. It’s not terrible, but the Fit really redefines the segment. BMW could learn a lot from Honda’s decision to move the fuel tank below the front seats.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    Anyone have any real world experiences with the Mini gas mileage? I imagine going from 118hp -> 172hp kind of kills it. The main reason I’d buy this is gas mileage…..Could I be happy with 118 + standard trans?

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    Cool review, but I can’t be the only person here that has never felt the urge to touch the headliner in any car I’m driving. I know the headliner is mentioned in about 2/3rds of automotive reviews, and I guess it makes sense for an auto journalist to feel every surface of a car while giving a review, but I really doubt that a ‘mouse fur’ headliner is going to matter to anybody else.

    My car doesn’t even have a headliner (it has a removable glass ‘targa’ roof panel, although I do have a solid roof panel with a headliner stored in a closet) and I have never longed for one. I’m struggling to understand what would prompt someone to touch the headliner in everyday driving.

  • avatar
    Rix

    I struggle to understand who the market for this car is. At $37k, a sporty driver could get a 3-series wagon, a luxe driver a IS-250 well optioned, or your speed demon a WRX STI which beats it to heck in performance and matches it in handling.

  • avatar
    blau

    I thought you car guys were all about personal choice, and whine and sob every time a government or big corporation denies you the God-given right to buy whatever stupid stuff you can afford.

    The reason MINIs can go up to $45K is because they have so many available options. Only an idiot, in my opinion, would option their MINI much beyond $30K, and a sensible person wouldn’t go past $28K (admission: I drive a 2006 Cooper that, with all the options I thought I needed, stickered at a few steaks under 20). I also just configured a base Cayman online for $110K. Does that mean that Porsche expects you to pay the same for a Cayman as it does for a GT3?

    Point is, why would you complain that a MINI is seriously overpriced because it’s POSSIBLE to make it seriously overpriced? Think of the Clubman S as costing $28K, with according reductions for the less costly models, and argue about its value with those numbers.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    I love the Mini Cooper S and it really shines in value when it is leased due to its astronomical residual value. The Clubman, however, is ugly, appears to be bereft of the great features (handling) of the Mini, and still doesn’t have much interior space. What is the point?

  • avatar
    unregular

    Until now only the Swedes had mastered the art of creating an entire range of cars (and redesigns) that look exactly the same.

    Porsche?

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    That’s a bit of dough for this car. I’d rather have a little more room, sacrifice the kitsche styling and go with a loaded Mazda3 wagon or even an Audi A3 (and I don’t like VAG products very much). Or buy a used compact hatch/wagon and a used roadster.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Point is, why would you complain that a MINI is seriously overpriced because it’s POSSIBLE to make it seriously overpriced? Think of the Clubman S as costing $28K, with according reductions for the less costly models, and argue about its value with those numbers.

    Because it’s overpriced for what it is. Yes, it’s dynamically excellent car, but the Works and base Coopers are much, much too expensive relative to their respective competition.

    There’s expensive-but-worth-it, which covers cars like the Honda Fit on the low end and the Chevrolet Corvette on the high. Other than exterior style, the Mini beats an equivalent Fit on nothing: not style, space, dynamics, economy or finish, and has severely compromised dynamics to boot. You pay a lot for that exterior, and it’s a dangerous game on BMW’s part because exterior styling doesn’t always have staying power, especially in a compromise car.

    Think about Porsche as another example: just because you can option the cars up to double their MSRP in options doesn’t mean that a) the options aren’t overpriced and b) that next to the Corvette and GT-R, even the base car’s price tag is gouging.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love the look of these cars, but until I’m independently wealthy, I can’t justify the style premium.

  • avatar
    netrun

    @thetopdog

    The nice headliners give your date something comforting to look at or comfortable to press against. Gives you a better shot at date #2.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    @netrun

    NICE!

  • avatar

    Blau: Point is, why would you complain that a MINI is seriously overpriced because it’s POSSIBLE to make it seriously overpriced? Think of the Clubman S as costing $28K, with according reductions for the less costly models, and argue about its value with those numbers.

    Value is always a personal decision — and I don’t think anyone here was suggesting that you shouldn’t be able to buy a Clubman, just that they don’t see the value.

    The Fit Sport cost $17k. A non-S Clubman with similar equipment was closer to $23k-ish (plus the 8 week wait to build the car). For me, it wasn’t worth the $6k difference at all for a car I saw as not as good. A personal choice and value equation for sure, but there you have it.

  • avatar

    I’m curious, did you try the LSD option? Did it do anything? Seems quite reasonable at 500$, and certainly useful on the turbo’ed models.

    Prices are outrageous up North. A friend of mine drove a JCW yesterday – with the options and JCW pack it was on the floor for over 50K. Ow. Compare that to my usual bangforbuckbenchmark, the G35, and I could buy a sedan and have 10 large leftover for feeding the VQ.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    psarhjinian : “and has severely compromised dynamics to boot.”

    For a small FWD runabout, I feel that the MINI has unmatched dynamics. My GTI is much faster in a straight line, but I remember how badly it handles compared to our 05 MCS* every time my wife lets me drive it. Speaking of the Fit, it is an amazing car for the money… but it doesn’t handle and feel like a MINI**. I nearly bought a Fit over my GTI, in fact, based on the fact it was such a good value. In the end, emotion won out.

    *Our MCS has the optional LSD
    **I haven’t driven a Clubman, so I cannot say one way or the other about its handling.

  • avatar
    Zarba

    $37K for a freakin’ MINI? Before taxes?

    Ummm, no thanks. G37, here I come.

  • avatar

    Quentin: Speaking of the Fit, it is an amazing car for the money… but it doesn’t handle and feel like a MINI […] I haven’t driven a Clubman

    I drove both the Clubman and the standard MINI (both non-S) and didn’t notice a difference between them. That said, I didn’t notice much difference with the Fit either. I’m not saying there isn’t one (and it could be significant), just that I didn’t notice it with the driving I was doing. Both of the MINIs and the Fit were entertaining to drive around town.

    I’ve had the Fit on my favorite motorcycle roads, and it’s fun to drive. I don’t doubt that the MINI would be quicker, but *for me* not any more fun.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    Yes, the LSD is well worth the 500 clams.

    There’s nothing wrong with this review, aside from its irrelevance. The Mini is easy to dislike from a left-brain buyer’s perspective, but analytics aren’t driving sales. Minis — all of the variants — are a right-brained and emotional buying decision. Unlike other fashion cars introduced over the last ten years, Mini has retained its street cred as a personal statement car, undiminished even in fad-happy places like Los Angeles where coolness is sometimes measured in hours.

    Mini’s buyers don’t care about any objections raised here. It’s all nitpicking to them. The paltry dealer network; BMW pricing for service; the cramped interior; the growly engines — none of it matters. For buyers, the car looks the part. Its interior is a break from the numbing sameness of mainstream cars. It looks and feels like a tough little bugger. Mini has way more cachet and go-kart feel than a utilitarian Honda Fit. It’s just more fun. And who cares about what won’t fit *in* a Mini? It sits low enough you factor in what fits *on* it. The Clubman just offers a longer roof for cargo.

    I don’t fit in Minis, so I’m not a likely customer — ever. But reviews like this one miss the point of the car. Rational buyers can stay away in droves. It won’t matter; Mini will still sell. For the person who likes to “wear” a car, no 3 Series will suffice as substitute. For the driver that likes the perceived surefootedness of FWD, no 3 Series feels as secure. A Fit’s proportions are too ungainly and goofy. Fit really is a goofy-looking car, regardless of its engineering and manufacturing excellence. A lot of people just aren’t caving in that far to a minor inconvenience in gas prices.

    Moreover, Minis are small — even Clubman — and to most people that translates to thrifty and “responsible.” Else, why do 15 mpg SUVs earn ire but 15 mpg small sports cars don’t? (Yes, my eye is on you RX-8.) No one knows the mileage — fuel efficiency is *assumed*. Mini is “proof” that environmental responsibility and style don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Only pocket-protector types actually believe a Prius looks attractive. Designers want Minis.

    Legions of people embraced the 1st gen BMW Mini’s raspy, wheezy Brazilian four pot mill. Do you think any of them even notice roughness in the current 1.6L? It’s butter by comparison. They probably like it. Mini is, after all, a car of sensations. Among neutered, numbed, novocained blandmobiles flooding most of the market, Minis are visceral, tactile, tingling and full of butt-comprehending information.

    Notwithstanding the usual BMW obfuscating UI and the geeky design flourishes in and out — and not really fitting inside — I nevertheless like these cars. They are tougher than they look. On the Clubman, the Dutch doors out back make perfect sense in bumper-to-bumper urban parking. The darty handling implies responsiveness to most owners and the Clubman’s longer wheelbase makes it a little more forgiving on long trips, even for the solo pilot. These days, $24K – $30K is not expensive for a new car and those who fall under that reach will buy used or select something else on more utilitarian grounds. For completely different reasons, other than perhaps Hummer, Lincoln Town Car and Cadillac DTS, there’s probably no other car for which the TTAC review perspective matters less.

    Phil

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    I think the only logical way to equip a Cooper is a stock S (the JCW package is WAY overpriced) with the LSD, summer tires, and sport suspension. The rest is just girl-car crap. Really, a reverse parking sensor? You need that in a Mini? You don’t get to drive. Rain-sensing wipers? I have that, it’s called eyes. When it’s raining, my eyes sense it and I turn on the wipers.

    that’s why I got turned off to buying a Cooper. To imagine – someone driving a Jetta calling a Cooper a girl’s car. Ironic, I know.

  • avatar

    Phil Ressler: Minis — all of the variants — are a right-brained and emotional buying decision […]

    I couldn’t agree more. This is exactly the reason I tested them, as well as the Mustang and the Miata. I was prepared to deal with their functional shortcomings and higher price if I was blown away — but I wasn’t.

    A Fit’s proportions are too ungainly and goofy

    I actually really like the look of the Fit (and think it’s as fun as a Mini), but that’s just me — I don’t expect anyone else to share that view. :-)

  • avatar
    beken

    I have a 2005 MINI Cooper S. It was expensive (especially in Canada). But I feel I got full value for money. Optioned equivalently, a Mazda3 GT at the time would have cost about the same, and some of the features on the MINI just were not available on the Mazda. I bought the MINI as a commuter car that was fun to drive and fuel efficient.

    After test driving the Clubman, I can’t help but feel that if the Clubman was available in 2005, I probably would have bought a Clubman. In fact, my wife and I hummed and hawwed about trading in. The additional rear seat space and the barn doors were features we would have found desirable. Those that think the barn doors obscure rear vision probably have not driven the previous generation convertible, a minivan, SUV, CUV or anything else that resembles a station wagon. You get used to the small amount of rear view obstruction. It doesn’t really take that much effort. With the rear seats folded down, the storage area in the back is bigger than the trunk of a 5-series. At least it seems that way. When I’m in need of hauling a lot of stuff, I really don’t take 3 other people with me so I take it as more efficient use of space when buying a small car that can configure to hold a lot of stuff.

    The interior design is a mess. I’ll have to agree with that, but at least you can get used to it and manage the controls and switches quite efficiently. Over the longer term, it’s much less annoying than iDrive. Trust me. I know.

    Bottom line, I really like the Clubman. It’s not for everybody, but it probably is the perfect car for some. MINI will sell enough of them…and no, it is nowhere close to being like a Volvo.

    I still enjoyed the read though.

  • avatar
    NickR

    The FlavorFlav speedo has to go.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    psarhjinian : “and has severely compromised dynamics to boot.”
    Quentin :For a small FWD runabout, I feel that the MINI has unmatched dynamics.

    My bad. I had meant ergonomics, not dynamics. Brain, fingers, not in sync.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    Perfect car for Boston’s narrow roads and especially parking.

    If we complain about this car being sold in America.

    Do you think the Ford 150 is a hot seller in England?

  • avatar
    CaliCarGuy

    its not even the fact that its over priced because u can option it overpriced. i built a clubman online and most of the options that brought the price to $44,235 was options that i actually wanted. if i was in the market for one of these things. 2 damn overpriced for me. so ill pass and get a g37

  • avatar

    again, you don’t like it – yet it gets a 3. 3 stars should be reserved for cars that are adequate, not cars that you find tarnish the brand image and are not fun or functional.

  • avatar
    saintmike

    I drove by the Mini dealership here in Las Vegas at least twice in the last 2 weeks–about 10 days ago, there was nary a Mini on the lot, so I guess someone is buying them, regardless of price.
    The BMW dealership next door had plenty of BMW’s, used and new and I know they don’t offer much in the way of deals.
    But $45K is a lot of money.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    “The Clubman S suffers from torque steer, wheel hop, stiff crashing suspensions.”

    That observation just killed it for me, even speaking hypothetically. Too bad, it could have been a fun car with useable space for those who don’t need back seats. (The back seats in our Subaru Legacy wagon are usually down to make room for camping gear, my wife’s bicycle and our telescope.)

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    blau:
    I also just configured a base Cayman online for $110K. Does that mean that Porsche expects you to pay the same for a Cayman as it does for a GT3?

    Porsche options are beyond gonzo. Good job, though. I tried for a half hour and barely broke $100K. I suppose I should get a life…

  • avatar
    jrlombard

    I’ll weigh in as a current MINI Cooper S owner. Torque steer is indeed present with the stock run-flat wheels and tires. With some lighter weight aftermarket wheels and tires, it practically disappears.

    I haven’t had any problems with wheel hop, but then I usually don’t go around town smoking the tires either (I do have an LSD). I occasionally get a chirp leaving a stoplight.

    Stiff suspension. No argument there. The stock dampers are stiff, and the anti-roll bars preloaded. If one has the desire, Koni FSD’s do wonders for the ride, as do the aforementioned non-runflat tires.

    The car rewards smooth driving through curvy roads, and can hold more corner speed than just about any other car I’ve driven (which is quite a few).

    Lots of aftermarket support improves the ownership experience for those so inclined. For those that aren’t, well, they’ll probably never know what they’re missing.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    psarhjinian : My bad. I had meant ergonomics, not dynamics. Brain, fingers, not in sync.

    All’s forgiven. I’ve been working 12 hr days all week, so I understand the ‘out of sync’ feeling!

  • avatar
    James2

    jrlombard: If you’ve got to do a lot of the engineering work that BMW was supposed to do in the first place, then obviously a star has to be knocked off the car’s rating.

    I pass by a Clubman every day in the parking lot (maybe the owner doesn’t like its ride either, so it never leaves its stall). I like the exterior design, I hate the interior. Way too overdone. Leaving aside right/left brain issues I will never buy a car whose speedo is located NOT where God intended it.

  • avatar
    Johnster

    Aside from the speedo being located NOT where intended it, the speedo itself reminds me of “Grandfather Clock” from the old Captain Kangaroo TV show.

    I think they should just add another 10 inches of wheelbase length and make the Clubman a full 4-door station wagon.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    I wish there were more cars in this segment. We seem to want all cars to conform to our sense of space adn such. I read reviews in foriegn press of this car and its competitors, few are available here.

    The honda fit, for all its goodness, looks like a economy car. The korean and american entries ditto. These are not where the MINI wants to be. The MINI is a cool little statment car that happens to get great milage.

    Wait – arent ALL cars statement cars? Certainly the non-contractor ford f150 buyer is making a statement, as are most people in cars. SO what of it? Is it expensive? yes, if optioned up. My friend bought a new ragtop off the lot for 23 large. Could he have gotten another car? Why would you buy Johnson and Murhpy when Kmart sells perfectly good shoes for a third the price?

  • avatar
    joberg

    I am sure many buyers bought MCs and Clubmans for style or its “cuteness” factors. Any many of you are right to take shots at the styling. But as an owner of a 04 JCW, I am hear to spread the good word of its handling and phenomenal power-to-weight ratio (208 hp powering 2,500 lbs). I don’t want to read comparisons with the Fit or other cars in that class. If you are making that comparison, you clearly have never rocketed down a twisty road in a MINI. I challenge any of you to find a car that can be had for under $30K that handles as well as a MINI.

    And if the initial sticker price is your biggest sticking point, you are clearly not an informed car buyer. Sticker is only one part of total car ownership. MINIs have the best resale value of any car on the road today. What is your 3-series going to be worth in five years?

    Quentin: **I haven’t driven a Clubman, so I cannot say one way or the other about its handling”
    Take a MCS to an autocross, then run the Clubman. You will be a lot more aware of where your backend is in the Clubman. With the MCS, the backend never enters into my consciousness.

  • avatar

    joberg : I don’t want to read comparisons with the Fit or other cars in that class. If you are making that comparison, you clearly have never rocketed down a twisty road in a MINI.

    For my driving they were similar enough to be the same. I’ve done enough high speed twisty road work on a variety of motorcycles to appreciate the business at hand, but also to appreciate (again, for me) that I needed to slow down before I either lost my license or my life.

    So yes, they were comparable based on my criteria. That you find them different is not surprising to me at all, as your criteria are different and your own — as they should be. I don’t doubt at all that a good driver can do more with the MINI, and go quicker down the same stretch of road. At brisk versus rocket speed, however, things were closer.

    So we wind up talking about different aspects of the same thing. It sounds like we each choose the right car.

    For the record, I still really like the MINI (just not the Clubman), though I’ll probably aim for a 60s Mini instead some day.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I challenge any of you to find a car that can be had for under $30K that handles as well as a MINI.

    That would be, yes, the aforementioned Honda Fit. It’s lighter and, with non-grocery-getter tires and suspension, just as sporty a car. Heck, with grocery-getter tires it’s still a lot of fun. You have to respect a car that can out-slalom a Corvette (per C&D) on with a fifth of the horsepower and on stock tires.

    And yes, I’ve driven both, and I don’t think you’re giving the Fit credit. Where the Honda falls down is in it’s driving position: it’s pretty minivan-high,** but compared to the Cooper Classic (I don’t know if the US gets this model; it’s the base in Canada) the Fit is equivalently trimmed, has a much better shifterm a hundred kilos less mass, goes faster and runs on equally pedestrian rubber.

    But the Mini costs much more! Much more. Three grand would pretty much address the Honda’s tire deficiency.

    Again, the Mini is not a bad car at all, but it’s not a good value. Were Honda to make available a Fit Type-R, it would be a tough sell in any way but styling. The mid-market Cooper S is salable, but the Classic, Standard and Works models are only well-priced compared to the Volvo C30.

    I like the Clubman, I really do. If I had discretionary money available, I’d probably buy one. But I don’t, so Fit it was.

    ** Disclosure: I do like the small-nose look of the Fit, Yaris or even Aveo. I like kei cars in general. I even like the B-Class. What can I say? I have bad taste in aesthetics.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    Wow, Toyota gets a FAIL here. Lots of talk about all sorts of small hatchbacks to compete with the Clubman, including the Yaris, but nobody mentioned the Scion xD once.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love the look of these cars, but until I’m independently wealthy, I can’t justify the style premium.

    Yeah, but if you loved the look, and kept the option list down, why wouldn’t you get one? Life is too short.

    Rational buyers can stay away in droves. It won’t matter; Mini will still sell.

    Excellent point and argument.

    Rain-sensing wipers? I have that, it’s called eyes. When it’s raining, my eyes sense it and I turn on the wipers.

    OMG I’m still laughing.

    I love the MINI. I love the iconic, who-the-hell-cares style of the MINI. I wish it better fit me (6’3″), and that the back of my daughter’s head wasn’t 6″ from the plane of the rear bumper (just waiting for the cell-phone yacking Suburban driving mom to not notice I’m stopped in front of her).

    Otherwise I’d have one.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    The MINI’s positive attributes are limited to a third door, some quality parts, and a turbo. Otherwise it is substandard and expensive. Nonetheless 3/5 Stars!

    I used to wonder what it would take to achieve 4/5 or 5/5 TTAC stars; they were really rare. Now I wonder if the wheels falling off would rate a 1/5 or 2/5?

  • avatar
    joberg

    The MINI’s positive attributes are limited to a third door, some quality parts, and a turbo. Otherwise it is substandard and expensive

    Gardiner, how did you reach these conclusions? Are you an owner? Have you spent a good deal of time behind the wheel of a MINI? I see no basis for your assessment.

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    Rain sensing wipers are really sweet. Yeah I can turn on the wipers myself but when the wipers automatically adjust for the varying levels of drizzle then life is good. It’s like the difference between my ’81 Mustang Ford which had low and high speed wipers and no delay – and my 1972 Super Beetle which offered a fixed delay but a delay which was more useful. A step up in convenience. Especially for areas that get alot of drizzle that lasts for days and also host alot of slow speed traffic (think Naples, Italy).

    Backup sensors? I can’t imagine they would be useful in such a small car but then again some people like having as many gadgets in their car as they can get. Call ‘em the iPod crowd who pays $200 for a music player when the same things are available for less than $50 without the bragging rights (think River or Sansa).

    I hope they sell alot of the cars and that the American market is flooded with the little cars. More importantly I hope they sell alot of them and the other car makers start building stuff that is as interesting as the Mini-series.

    WAY too many same-same cars out there. This company sells a 4-door, that car sells a four door. This one is nice and that one is nice. They are different – only slightly – and built not to offend anyone. Call it the beige effect.

    I want to see the roads full of interesting vehicles that tickle the imagination and the driver. Cars that relate to the owner’s taste just so.

    That’s one reason I’ve enjoyed the retro cars so much. They may not be what everyone wants but they offer something different, something with style. Apparently though they offend the beige crowd with their distinctiveness.

    I WANT a Mini next time. Prob won’t buy new though b/c some of the Minis belong to another tax bracket than my budget.

  • avatar
    tib

    I want to like it, but ……it’s just not the Mini that was my first car back in 1976.

  • avatar
    vfc

    Swedes had mastered the art of creating an entire range of cars (and redesigns) that look exactly the same

    I’m pretty sure Aston Martin has that down pat.

  • avatar
    Burrgrinder

    Seriously…the Fit? While it conforms nicely to this year’s models looks and the last couple of year’s trends, it will look seriously dated by the time it’s paid for (if you’re financing). It’s designed to be as unoffensive as possible to have the most buyers as possible. The Mini has looked basically the same for a long time, and so long as you like that look, you won’t be regretting it’s styling in 5 years.

    Basically, the Fit has no style worthy of mention…it’s generic, as you would expect from Honda. For some, style is worth the price.

    This review’s price range is crazy too. I’ve been to a Mini dealership, and they didn’t have one in stock over 30k. Sure, you can order stupidly expensive combinations, but you’d really have to have your heart set on that configuration and a pocketbook that matched. The Clubmans I saw averaged about 24k for base models and around 28k for the S…and almost all of them had extras already, cruise control, iPod dock, Bluetooth, wheels, etc.

    If Clubmans end up with the same resale value and used market demand as their smaller siblings, you’ll probably have no complaints.

  • avatar
    m4xatsgv

    I drove the Fit, Focus, Civic, Soul, GTI and 4 other small cars that have at least a combined 28mpg. The Fit is ok by me but it has no class. It feels like a car built by Ikea. No personality. Same as the other cars I tried.
    The Mini Cooper and Mini Clubman were entirely different, they had personalities of their own,. They carry an identity no other small cars have. Not even the GTI impressed me. I picked the Clubman for the extra inches with a little compromise on the styling but I needed a small car with good mpg to complement our stable of horsepowers. We have a S80, 535i and E350.

    I tried the Cooper for 2 days and the Clubman for a day. It was an easy decision because the 2nd row of Clubman can fit 2 220lb 6ft guys. Driving experience is awesome for a car this size and this cost. Not to mention the the amount of “mini waves” you get everyday. :)

  • avatar
    krome

    I bought my Clubman S a couple months ago – very heavily optioned, at $27k. It is turning in about 27-28 around town and 33 on the highway – and I do not drive in economical fashion (it does as well as the Corolla I bought for my daughter when I drove the Corolla).

    I’ve had a few ‘fun’ little cars through the years, this is easily as good or better than all of the others (X1/9, the original Accord, Del Sol, etc.). It is fun to drive, and it is very stylish/cool with as much distinct personality as any other car on the road. It also has a very high quality/competence feel compared to the others.


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