There are things to not like about a Mini Cooper. There reasons to like them as well. But one of the reasons people don’t like Minis is that the Mini is, well, too mini. And that’s where the Mini Cooper Clubman steps in.
There’s a certain tautology to a Mini being small. Well, of course it is. It says so right on the label. You expected what? On the other hand, from Mini’s standpoint, if a larger Mini Cooper could attract more buyers to the brand, why not maximize the Mini. And so that’s what Mini did by creating the Mini Cooper Clubman.
The Mini Cooper Clubman is a bigger Mini Cooper, bigger in that its wheelbase. The distance between the front and rear axle line is 9.5 inches longer, which greatly improves rear seat room. Greatly, of course, means that by adding about three inches of legroom, adult occupation of the back seat goes from improbable to uncommon.
Seriously, the back seat of the Mini Cooper Clubman is habitable by the average adult and we even managed to insert a six-foot-plus passenger for a forty-five minute ride…and he even got back in for the ride home. (Well, it was that or walk…). There’s a limit, however, to how far the boy can stay there before the Geneva Convention rules start to kick in.
The other benefit of the bigger Mini is an increase in cargo capacity by about half. The space behind the Mini Cooper Clubman’s rear seatback still isn’t huge–only 9.2 cubic feet–though with the rear seat folded, cargo space increases to 32.8 cubic feet. And because the cargo space is box-like, the Mini Cooper Clubman can accommodate large boxes, a square peg in a square hole. The particularly clever can even make large flat items fit by putting them in on the diagonal.
Making the cargo area even more useable is that with rear seatbacks folded forward the cargo floor is flat. In part that’s because the main cargo area’s floor is raised to match the folded seatbacks, which would seem to reduce capacity. However, an underfloor cargo bin adds secure stowage so the raised floor detracts little from total cargo volume, just repositions it.
Not surprisingly, the added length makes the Mini Cooper Clubman look longer than the standard Mini because, well, it is. But from the front seats forward, the Clubman is the same as the standard Mini and the rear overhang hasn’t changed much, so the Mini Clubman doesn’t appear so much stretched as longwaisted.
The double side-hinged doors that replace the hatch of the standard Mini stand out more, however. The doors create a visual center pillar (think split-window ’63 Corvette or the original split-window VW Beetle). It doesn’t block rear vision as much as it would seem, however, thanks mostly to the large size of the rear windows. It means, however, that the Mini Cooper Clubman needs two rear wipers. (But they’re little, so if the guys at the auto parts store snicker at how short your wipers are–wink, wink, nudge, nudge–try to ignore it. Size doesn’t matter).
The roof of the Mini Cooper Clubman also differs from the standard Mini’s roof, with two ridges along the outer edges. We expect that’s for extra strengthening needed for the extra length. The Mini Cooper Clubman also has a “ring” around the rear doors that Mini paints black or silver.
One more external difference is what makes the Mini Cooper Clubman’s back seat useable, a second door on the right side, rear-hinged like on some extended-length pickup trucks, or more exotically, the Mazda RX-8. With no B-pillar on that side and the right from seatback slid forward, the back seat area is actually accessible, the first step, so to speak, towards the rear seat being useful.
Otherwise the Mini Cooper Clubman is a Mini Cooper, which will either amuse or annoy, depending on one’s outlook. The Mini Cooper Clubman has the Mini Cooper’s huge speedometer in the middle of the dash, with the tachometer standing solo atop the steering column. And that’s just the beginning. We suspect that the ergonomics were purposely discombobulated, with the audio controls in speedometer, the CD slot all by itself under that, and with the volume knob further down the centerstack, all by itself.