2008 Mini Cooper Clubman
2008 Mini Cooper Clubman. Click image to enlarge
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Mini Canada

Review and photos by Grant Yoxon

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2008 Mini Cooper Clubman

Monterey, California – We could talk about how car companies name cars and why a little car needs more than 20 letters to describe what it is, but that would be a digression from the real question we want an answer to, and that is: Is the Mini Cooper Clubman and Mini Cooper S Clubman significantly different from the other Minis, the Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper S?

And the answer is… yes and no.
It couldn’t be that simple, could it?

The folks at Mini have responded to feedback from buyers and others who told them the diminutive Mini “is one fun car to drive, but shee-oot, it sure is small.”

2008 Mini Cooper Clubman
2008 Mini Cooper Clubman. Click image to enlarge

The Clubman (I’ll keep the naming short from here on in) comes with an extra 24 cm (9.4 in.) of length and a wheelbase extended by 8 cm (3.2 in.). This provides a welcome 8 cm of additional leg room for rear seat passengers (about 8 cm more than found in a regular Mini with the driver’s seat fully extended) and 37 per cent more luggage space in the back (260 litres/9.2 cu. ft. vs. 161 litres/5.7 cu. ft.). With the rear seats folded, rear cargo space grows from 679 litres (24 cu. ft.) to 930 litres (32.8 cu. ft.).

Power for Cooper versions of the Clubman comes from the same 1,598-cc four-cylinder that powers the new Mini Cooper, introduced last year, while Cooper S versions receive the 172-horsepower turbo-charged 1,598-cc four-cylinder found in the Mini Cooper S.

2008 Mini Cooper Clubman
2008 Mini Cooper Clubman. Click image to enlarge

Of course the additional length adds some weight: about 80 kg (177 lbs) to the package, give or take a kilogram or two depending on engine selection and whether the car is equipped with a manual or automatic transmission.

You might notice the difference between the big Mini and the little Mini if you were able to compare the two side by side as we did. But the Clubman handles every bit as good as the smaller Mini and is still a hoot to drive (but a way bigger hoot if the four-cylinder has a forced air induction appliance attached to it and an ‘S’ badge on the back). Fuel consumption for both the long and short Minis is exactly the same, ranging between 7.3 L/100 km to (38.7 mpg) and 8.7 L/100 km (32.5 mpg) for combined city and highway driving, depending on engine and transmission.

2008 Mini Cooper Clubman
2008 Mini Cooper Clubman
2008 Mini Cooper Clubman. Click image to enlarge

With a highway rating of just 5.3 L/100 km, the Mini Cooper Clubman with six-speed manual transmission qualifies for the federal government’s ecoAuto $1,000 rebate, as long as you buy one before the program ends, March 31st, 2009.

So yes, 80 kg does make a small difference, but one that comes with a big improvement in practicality. With the Clubman, the rear seat is not just for display purposes or child car seats. Real people can sit back there while you drive. And with the extra cargo space you won’t need to rent Home Depot’s hourly rental van to bring home a microwave oven.

From the front, the Clubman is just like any other, albeit shorter, Mini. But it has what some have observed to be the longest roof found on any compact. You could lay a mattress up there and sleep under the stars. There is also an extra half-door, termed ‘the Clubdoor’, on the passenger side that widens the opening, facilitating access to the rear seats. The Clubdoor is handle-free and can only be opened when the front passenger door is open. And way out back, there are two rear-opening doors, mounted with external hinges and struts that open wide, gracefully and without effort. The rear C-pillars are painted in either black or silver, in contrast with the body colour, to maintain the look of the door frame.

2008 Mini Cooper Clubman
2008 Mini Cooper Clubman
2008 Mini Cooper Clubman. Click image to enlarge

Buyers will be faced with a candy counter of choices to personalize their own Clubman. There are 12 body colours and 44 combinations of exterior paintwork depending on roof colour and rear door frame.

Thoroughly revised with last year’s introduction of the second generation Mini, the interior of the Clubman combines traditional Mini elements, like the large central speedometer, clear round dials and toggle switches, with a wide range of interior colours, trims, upholsteries and accessories to further personalize the car.

The Clubman went on sale in Canadian showrooms on February 13th with a base price of $26,400 for the Mini Cooper Clubman and $31,500 for the Mini Cooper S Clubman.

Rumour has it that Mini has not finished expanding its lineup and will soon introduce a compact SUV Mini. Will Mini also expand the number of letters used to name its cars? How about Mini Cooper S Clubman 4X4?

Say that five times fast.

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