2010 Mini John Cooper Works Clubman

As some have already mentioned, the rear doors greatly hinder rear visibility. That might be tolerable if they served another purpose (besides being a tribute to a past Mini vehicle, as Rusty pointed out) or fulfilled a function that a traditional hatch couldn't, but in my short time with the Mini Clubman, I couldn't see a benefit or a functional improvement over a rear hatch-style door. In fact, I found them to be far less user friendly because unlike a standard hatch which requires only one hand to open and close, the double doors require either two hands or two separate steps to fully open or close them. I must admit though, that they do look really cool and are a way to visually distinguish the Clubman from the shorter, standard Mini.

The exterior design touches that the John Cooper Works package adds also look really cool, but again I'm not sure I enjoy some of the hardware upgrades. I understand the desire for the additional horsepower and the other performance tweaks that the John Cooper Works package includes, but to me the accompanying increases in NVH negate many of the positives. Even at idle, the vibrations coming through each pedal were substantial enough to leave my right leg vibrating even after I was no longer behind the wheel. And although the exhaust note was fun to play with at first, it became tiresome at low speeds where even the slightest flex of my right foot made a big noise. I got glares from parents in my neighborhood who, based on the level of noise I was making coming down my street, assumed I was driving way too fast as I passed their children playing near the street. I must say though, that the extra power from the JCW package is slightly addictive and makes for quick and easy passing. It probably wouldn't win too many long, full-out races but it excels at mid-range short sprints where the torque steer is less noticeable.

I've never been too crazy about the Mini's interior layout or ergonomics but I've accepted its design quirks and odd proportions because it was worth the exceptional driving experience. It's still great to drive but after so many years on the market with no improvements, it's getting harder and harder to overlook these shortcomings. To me, the central dash is the Mini's biggest interior design flaw. Not only is the speedo essentially useless, its exaggerated size is a waste of valuable real estate on an already seriously space-limited dash. The radio display could also use an update. I appreciate the large number of radio presets (3 groups with 12 presets in each) but the digitally displayed preset numbers are too small and the bright orange type tends to vibrate visually on the dark screen. Plus, because the plastic that protects the radio and speedometer is offset by a half-inch or so it's difficult to visually align each preset number with its corresponding button underneath. If the speedometer was moved behind the steering wheel where it's typically positioned, the radio display could be enlarged and the low-mounted controls-windows switches, heated seat controls, etc.- that are blocked when the cupholders are in use could be moved up. Now that the Mini has nearly eclipsed $20,000 even for a base model, a comprehensive redesign that addresses some of its interior flaws should be a priority for its BMW parent.

Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor

The dashboard is the one thing that has always kept me away from regular Minis, as much as I love their exterior styling and the way they drive. If only they came with a more traditional dash...

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