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The Clubman

December 14, 2007

I’ve had something of a rocky relationship with the Mini Cooper Clubman. When I first heard rumblings of its development, my interest was certainly piqued. There were those who thought it betrayed the “mininess” of the Mini. Not me. I loved (and still love) the idea of a slightly larger, slightly more practical Mini. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Minis aren’t practical. I’ve been routinely amazed at just how much stuff mine can swallow when it needs to. But swallowing all that stuff necessitates dropping the back seats. In other words, the Mini can carry stuff, or it can carry people, but it can’t carry both simultaneously. A Mini that could would probably bring a lot of new buyers to the brand (just look at the success Jeep has had with that 4-door Wrangler).

Then they released it. Longtime readers may recall that I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the Clubman when the first official shots were released. The proportions seemed off. Something seemed wrong.

But something has happened over the past few months. The Clubman has grown on me, and when Mini USA put the 2008 Clubman up on its site last week…I found myself looking at the barn-doored critter with new eyes. Why? A few reasons.

First – The impending arrival of Baby Nolan and the necessity of carrying around Assorted Baby Gear. I think my Mini will suffice (fingers crossed), but it will take some careful arranging (and pretty much any stroller is going to necessitate dropping at least one of the seats). The Clubman has a lot more space behind the rear seats. Who knows, maybe even enough to fit a stroller.

Second – My Mini has lived up to its EPA fuel economy ratings about as well as Bush lived up to his claim in 2000 to be against nation-building. It was supposed to get 26/32. The average is closer to 19. I suppose I can thank the Brazilian-sourced, Chrysler-designed engine for that. Apparently, the new engine in the new Mini does a much better job of hitting its claimed numbers, which, with a base (non-S) Clubman, come it at 26/34. Assuming it could hit those, and considering it accepts regular 87-octane gasoline, the savings at the pump could be substantial.

Third – The color schemes. The Clubman is one of those vehicles that can be completely transformed by the right color choice. Such as yellow with a black roof, black stripes, and black c-pillars. Or the exclusive “Hot Chocolate” (finally, a brown car!) with the silver roof, stripes, and c-pillars. Even the blue and silver looks better with stripes properly applied.

Fourth – The base model is supposed to come with – gasp – a spare tire!

Now. I’m not planning on rushing out and ditching one Mini for another. But, down the road, I think Mini might have found a way to get itself back onto my “next car” list.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Kay permalink
    December 17, 2007 3:57 pm

    Once again, you are getting no comments on a car post. Just wait until Max is a little older. Actually, the Clubman looks interesting.

  2. Matt permalink
    December 17, 2007 4:03 pm

    Weird that my passion for writing drives the bulk of my views and comments, and that my passion for cars does, well, the exact opposite.

  3. December 17, 2007 8:19 pm

    It’s just that most of us are car dummies

  4. Matt permalink
    December 18, 2007 6:21 am

    Just because you’re a dummy about something doesn’t mean you can’t comment. I mean, look at politics.

    It’s not like I’m discussing skidpad numbers or the relative merits of a Nissan GT-R and Porsche 911 Turbo here.

    What do you think of the car? Is it ugly? Or not? Has it grown on you, too? What about that brown paint job?

  5. Kay permalink
    December 18, 2007 8:16 am

    I’m not sure about the brown. Maybe it grows on you. It’s not a bad brown, as far as brown goes. But it reminds me of a golf team uniform we had a few years ago. We were told we looked like UPS delivery men, Tootsie Rolls, or…well, you get the idea. No one ever mentioned hot chocolate.

  6. December 18, 2007 9:27 pm

    I just can’t totally buy into the Mini. After riding in Kay’s, I found that they were roomier inside than I had originally thought. Over all, however, they are still just so dang small and boxy. If you go with brown and drive next to a UPS truck (or apparently Kay’s Golf Team Van), you had better get ready for the Mini-Me jokes.

  7. Matt permalink
    December 19, 2007 9:31 am

    JB – The Mini’s not for everybody. I guess it comes down to what you’re looking for in a vehicle. In that, I’m admittedly different from most drivers in the U.S. (if I wasn’t, no way would the Camry be the best-selling car). For me, handling and steering feel are priorities. I also prefer a smaller package, if possible. When I was out at the BMW Performance Center last year, I loved the M3, but found the larger M5 as unwieldy as a battleship. It was just too friggin’ big.

    The Mini delivers fantastic handling and a firm steering feel in a small package (but not so small you feel cramped driving it, like in, say, a Lotus Elise). It’s the perfect size for one or two people, and far better appointed than just about any other vehicle in its class. It’s weakness comes when you try to add more people and more stuff at the same time. With the back seats dropped, a (hardtop) Mini can swallow a surprising amount of stuff. We crammed four antique dining chairs in the back of mine not so long ago. With the backseats up, however, you’re pretty much limited to a backpack and a grocery bag or two. Thus the Clubman.

  8. Matt permalink
    December 19, 2007 9:41 am

    One more thing…

    Like it or not, get ready to see a whole lot more small, boxy cars in the future. The president’s set to sign the new fuel economy regulations into law today, and they’ll be mandating 35 miles per gallon by 2020. As of today, two vehicles meet that standard – the Prius and the Civic Hybrid.

    Look for cars to get smaller, lighter, and more space efficient.

  9. December 19, 2007 5:08 pm

    Good Point…….I say that all now and forget that I have a small 4 (really 2 seater) Audi A4 Quatro Coupe. By the way – thatnks for the awesome information on the car and TV – I could not be happier with both!!!!!

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