New Car Review
2014 MINI Cooper Clubman: New Car Review
The 2014 MINI Cooper Clubman is basically a Cooper hardtop with an extra 3.2 inches of length between the front and rear wheels and another six inches behind the rear wheels. This gives the MINI adult-size legroom in the back seat and much more cargo space. It also employs a nifty rear-hinged third door on the passenger's side and barn-door-style cargo doors. In other words, the Clubman is a MINI Cooper for small families, not just single slingers.
The good news is that, aside from being a little heavier, the Clubman is every bit a MINI Cooper from behind the wheel, with the same energetic character and sports-car-like agility. On the other hand, the base engine that serves other MINIs is somewhat overwhelmed here. Also, the Clubman's looks aren't for everyone, and it tends to be a love-it-or-hate-it design proposition.
What's New for 2014?
The MINI Cooper Clubman is unchanged for the 2014 model year.
What We Like
Excellent engines; good fuel economy; sharp handling; very versatile for its size
What We Don't
Somewhat awkward proportions; ergonomically challenging; stiff ride with sport package; base engine feels a bit taxed
Clubman models offer three engines. The base Clubman uses a 121-horsepower 1.6-liter 4-cylinder rated at 27 miles per gallon city/35 mpg hwy with either manual or automatic transmissions. Step up to the Cooper S Clubman and you get a turbocharged version of that engine with 181 hp. It returns 27 mpg city/35 mpg hwy with a manual or 26 mpg city/34 mpg hwy with an automatic. Topping the range is the sporty John Cooper Works trim, which offers 208 hp. It returns 25 mpg city/33 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
Like all MINI models, the Clubman comes in three trim levels. Base models are simply called the Clubman (or, technically, the Cooper Clubman). If you want more performance, you can step up to the Cooper S Clubman. At the top of the range is the John Cooper Works trim.
The base-level MINI Cooper Clubman ($22,400) offers 15-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, air conditioning, keyless entry, vinyl upholstery, HD radio, Bluetooth, vinyl upholstery and an AM/FM stereo with a CD player, a USB port and an auxiliary jack. It also comes with the car's 121-hp 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine.
Step up to the Cooper S Clubman ($26,100) and you get a turbocharged version of the base model's engine that's good for 181 hp. You also get fog lights, sport suspension, sport seats, alloy pedals and dual exhausts.
At the top of the MINI Cooper Clubman lineup is the sporty John Cooper Works ($33,300), which boosts power to 208 hp. It also includes larger brakes, 17-in wheels and grippy cloth upholstery.
The Cooper Clubman lineup is full of optional extras, as MINI is famous for letting drivers customize their cars any way they want. Options include adaptive headlights, heated seats, automatic climate control, a navigation system, a keyless starting system, satellite radio and a 10-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system. Drivers can also choose from dozens of wheel combinations, paint colors and interior schemes.
The 2014 MINI Cooper Clubman comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and six airbags (front, front side, full length, side curtain). Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash-tested the MINI Cooper Clubman.
Behind the Wheel
The MINI Cooper Clubman is certainly bigger than the regular MINI. But make no mistake, it's not that much longer. Thus, other than being a little slower off the line than comparable MINI Cooper hardtop models, the Clubman behaves almost identically to its smaller siblings. In other words, it is all sorts of fun and delivers the same quick steering and throttle responses when you hit the Sport button, which we recommend doing every time you start the car. For better or worse, it also features the same firm, noisy ride. If you specify the even stiffer sport suspension and/or the 17-in wheels, don't say we didn't warn you.
The base Clubman's standard front seats are rather flat. (We recommend going for the optional contoured sport seats, which are standard on the Cooper S Clubman.) The chairlike driving position, however, gives the driver a remarkably grand view of the surroundings. As in the regular Cooper, the pedals are perfectly placed, and the tilting and telescoping steering wheel falls right to hand.
The audio and climate controls are not arranged as ideally, and certain controls employ stylish yet frustrating toggle switches rather than proper knobs or buttons. Material quality is also spotty. We enjoy the enormous center-mounted speedometer.
Compared with the regular Cooper's back seat, the Clubman's is limousinelike. The back seat still only seats two, but those passengers can be a pair of 6-footers, no sweat. The front passengers probably won't even have to slide their seats forward to free up more legroom. The bottom cushions are low, so those 6-footers may find their knees pointing skyward, but at least they'll fit. They should be comfortable for more than just a few miles, too. Access through the reverse-opening club door isn't as simple as a regular door, but reasonably limber passengers shouldn't have a problem.
Other Cars to Consider
Audi A3 -- If your Clubman's projected price is creeping into the high $20,000s or above, consider the base Audi A3, which provides satisfying turbo power in a premium but more traditional package.
Volkswagen GTI-- Featuring basically the same engine as the A3, the GTI is another enticing option among premium hatchbacks. It has less adrenaline in its veins than the Clubman, but the overall driving experience is more refined.
Kia Sportage -- Technically a compact crossover SUV, the Sportage has crisp styling along with an available 260-hp turbocharged inline 4-cylinder that'll knock the Clubman's socks off.
As with the regular model, our choice would be the Cooper S version with the standard suspension, 16-in wheels and a manual transmission. That turbocharged engine really puts the Clubman in its element, but we could do without most of the optional goodies.