2009 MINI Cooper Clubman JCW

The least-mini MINI gets a performance makeover

2009 MINI Cooper Clubman JCW

MINI is probably the only car maker that’s name is so literal. A MINI is, well, mini. A Smart? Not always so smart if you have three people to fit. Those that stand more than five feet tall have little chance of finding comfort in the regular Cooper’s rear seat, and the standard cargo capacity is tidily at best.

FAST FACTS

1. The Clubman JCW is powered by a turbocharged 1.6L 4-cylinder that makes 208hp and 192 ft-lbs of torque.

2. Because it weights 180 lbs more than the Cooper JCW it’s slightly slower to 60 mph at 6.5 seconds, vs. 6.2.

3. The Clubman is 10-inches longer than a standard MINI, which allows for an increase in cargo room from 5.7 to 9.2 cu.-ft., or 24 to 32.8 cu.-ft. with the seats down.

4. The Clubman JCW is priced from $31,450.

Because of the illogical desires of some not-so-mini customers to fit properly into a MINI, the Clubman was born.

ADDED CARGO ROOM AND SOME WACKY REAR DOORS

BMW took the Cooper back to the drawing board, pulled and stretched it as much as they could, and returned it nearly 10 inches longer. The wheelbase sees a three-inch increase as well, which is enough to take rear space up from cramped to cozy.

Cargo room also benefits, with the Clubman offering nearly double the space of a Cooper (9.2 vs. 5.7 cu-ft) with the seats up, and a huge increase with the seats folded (32.8 vs. 24 cu-ft). Also, the Clubman gets a flat load floor where the Cooper doesn’t.

The most shocking part of the Clubman’s transformation is the addition of some extra doors. The passenger side now features a second, suicide-style portal (a la Mazda RX-8), which immensely aides access to the enlarged rear bench. The tailgate is different too, ditching the traditional, one-piece top-opening hatch in favor of a pair of cargo-van-style swing-out doors. How MINI made that decision is still lost on us.

Aesthetically, the changes aren’t terribly attractive; especially the rear pillars and bumper trim that is either bright-brushed aluminum or color matched to the roof. Not a graceful look by any stretch. And the extra length throws the traditional MINI silhouette all out of whack.

INCREASED SIZE, WEIGHT DETRACT SLIGHTLY FROM ADDED POWER

In terms of performance, the Clubman to order is the $31,450 John Cooper Works (JCW) model, which mimics the changes made to the traditional Cooper in this regard, albeit for over $2,000 more. A powerful 208-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine is matched to a robust six-speed manual transmission, and a sport-tuned suspension means the Clubman JCW hangs on for dear life in the corners.

The added length means added heft, and the 2,888 lb Clubman is 180 pounds porkier than a similar Cooper. This puts the Clubman JCW at a disadvantage in the 0-60 mph run, tripping the beams about 0.3 seconds slower than the Cooper (6.5 vs. 6.2). However, the overall weight is better distributed over all four wheels, which gives the Clubman JCW a more neutral feel, and the stretched wheelbase means a less choppy highway ride.

Thankfully, the Clubman JCW gets the same fuel mileage as the rest of the range, a very good 26/34 mpg city/highway.

Cosmetically, the Clubman JCW shares most of the traits of the Cooper JCW, meaning there’s a lowered suspension and badges everywhere, but where the Cooper sticks with its twin center-mounted exhaust, the Clubman moves its pair to the outside.

LONG LIST OF ADD-ON OPTIONS

As with every car from BMW’s smallest division, the JCW comes in a mind-blowing number of paint and color combinations for the body, roof, mirrors and interior. The $1,250 Premium Package features a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, climate control and a multifunction leather-covered steering wheel. The $500 Cold Weather package adds heaters to front seats, folding mirrors and washer jets. Finally, $1,250 Convenience Package offers auto-dimming mirrors, automatic wipers and headlights, Keyless ignition, Bluetooth handsfree, and a USB/iPod adapter. Most of these features can be ordered a la carte as well.

Everything you could imagine on a luxury car can be stuffed into a Mini Cooper JCW, from parking sensors ($500), to high-end audio with 10 speakers ($500). Also, the voice-controlled navigation system is a $2,000 option, and takes up room in the oversized speedometer.

THE VERDICT

As with the Cooper JCW, there isn’t much at this end of the pricing spectrum to compete against other than the obvious Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Volvo C30. However, unlike the Cooper, you can actually use the Clubman JCW for more than just a little runabout or a track day special. Because of the added room, you can get away with using it as an everyday car since you can fit four people (in a big pinch). It’ll swallow a bunch of luggage for a road trip one weekend, and then a set of R-compound tires for an autocross the next. Sure it’s not as fast or as pretty as the Cooper JCW, but the Clubman is the more usable one. It is still a MINI, even if it’s not the mini-est MINI.

RELATED REVIEWS

2009 MINI Cooper Clubman Review – Hot Club: An interesting approach to the classic notion of a sports car 2009 MINI Cooper JCW – MINI’s seriously-fun Cooper JCW is a great alternative to entry-level premium cars Audi A3 2.0T – An Economical Car but not an Economy Car

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