2010 Mini John Cooper Works Clubman

Phil, I'm not a huge fan of the poor rearward visibility caused by the Clubman's split rear doors, but the reason Mini designed it that way is as a tribute to the Mini Clubman Estate models of the 1970s, which had split rear "barn doors" and were never sold here in the States. I have no problem with their function and look, though.

The design element that does drive me crazy is the pie-plate, centrally mounted speedometer, which is about eight inches in diameter, slightly concave, and catches all kinds of reflections when you drive the car in daylight. These reflections were documented in our Four Seasons Wrap of a 2007 Cooper S and mean that I simply wouldn't consider buying a Mini Cooper, as much as I like the cars in general. Another way in which this JCW Clubman is like our departed Four Seasons test car --- or perhaps worse --- is in its torque steer. I was surprised to learn that the JCW has only 208 hp, since many other front-wheel-drive cars can manage that much or more power in a more civilized manner.

Not that any Mini, and the JCW Clubman is no exception, encourages me to drive in a civilized manner --- turn-in is so immediate, steering so direct, and handling so tightly tethered to the road that I found myself cornering faster and faster. High cornering velocities and torque steer can combine to make for some darty driving in rough corners, though.

The Clubman does offer significant extra space as compared with a regular-wheelbase Mini Cooper. Still, I think you might be better off with a Mazda RX-8 if you wanted a car in this price range that can fare well during the random weekend trackday and also haul real people in the back seats from time to time.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy 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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