First Drive: 2011 Mini Cooper Clubman

Suicide Entry Rear Door
Size is, of course, what Minis are all about. While going smaller and lighter rewards performance and agility, there were the inevitable whiners who were less than thrilled with back-seat access and the pain suffered by adults who actually settled there. So the wheelbase was stretched 3.2-inches (to 110.3-inches), and a third rear-hinged door was chopped into the right side. That's a boon to legroom-4.4-inches more than in the hardtop-but it's still not all sweetness inside the Clubman. For no good reason, there's a cupholder impeding entry in a rear door opening that's just barely serviceable. Since these are interlocking doors, the proper sequence must be followed-open the front first, close the rear first-to avoid dings in the sheetmetal.

The vertically split rear access doors are equally problematic. The bummer is a rear view partially obscured by door frames. The blockage is substantial enough for full-sized enforcement cruisers to hide in. These doors must also be latched in sequence so care is necessary to avoid injuring the Clubman's sheetmetal. What's the good news? Cargo capacity goes from 5.7 to 9.2 cubic feet with the rear seats in use and from 24.0 to 32.8 cubic feet with the plus-two perches folded.

Dynamically Challenged
The Clubman is definitely a pay cut down from the joys of operating a regular Mini Cooper. The extra 200 pounds and 3.2-inches between the axles take a noticeable bite out of poise and agility. Turn-in is slower, the ability to jink through an S-bend more sluggish. The extra oomph available from the turbo motor is genuinely neccessary to lift momentum to a fruitful plane.

Edward A. Sanchez
I'd go straight for the S. The normally-aspirated model has to be an absolute dog.

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