I learned something while looking over the spec sheet on the John Cooper Words Clubman - that it's actually possible to spec out a Mini that has a list price of more than $40,000. That the example we tested costs "only" $33,000 doesn't really make it seem like a bargain, because one of the things that is appealing about the Mini brand is that you can get BMW-like performance and small-car economy at a fairly reasonable price. Once you breach the $30,000 barrier, you're running up against the BMW 1-series.
Having said all that, I still enjoyed driving the Mini Clubman, although I have some of the same complaints I had with our Four Seasons Cooper S, such as its absurdly large speedometer and oddly placed window controls. The Clubman's 207-hp turbocharged engine is very willing to perform but results in lots of torque steer under hard acceleration, and the ultra-stiff suspension means that you feel every bump and slight surface variation in the road. On the positive side of the ledger, the JCW Clubman exhibits an enticing combination of small-car agility and racing-bred technology. Plus, the Clubman gives you some added practicality with the extra room over the Mini Cooper.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor