Review: The skinny on the 2008 MINI Clubman S

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2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman
By Holly R.


  • Super-stiff suspension
  • Light-weight, small and extremely agile
  • Drives like a sports car
  • Superp acceleration
  • Excellent gas mileage
  • You can park this anywhere! EVERYONE has good parking karma in a MINI.


  • Appeared to not have a Bluetooth (even though there was a phone button on the stereo, I never could get it to work)
  • Not all the dials and knobs were intuitive (I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me to find the window controls…)
  • One-touch window control was a bit TOO touchy

I’ve never been particularly “into” the MINIs. Sure, I loved “The Italian Job”, who wouldn’t? But I’d never even ridden in one! My first thought after seeing our test car: “Wow, it’s really cute!”. I actually said that out loud. The MINI looks like a toy car. I was forced to eat those words the second that I accelerated onto the freeway. An unbelievably exhilarating car to drive!

My second thought: “Oh crap, it’s a manual transmission!”. I’ve driven TWO manual transmission cars in 10 years. The first one was in January. I have to say that the Clubman shifted SO well that it was like I’d never quit driving a stick. I never once flubbed the shifting.

I had the best time driving this car! I wore a stupid grin every time I sat in it and started driving! And it was really difficult to stay anywhere near the speed limit!

Fuel Economy:
Advertised: 26 in the city, and 34 highway (29 combined)
Actual: 31.4, and I drove this car HARD (hard for me, that is…). Plus, that’s my combined mileage for city and highway.

2008 MINI Cooper Clubman

Driving Impressions:
If I had one word to describe driving a MINI, it would be “Wow”. It was even fun to drive in stop and go traffic, and that’s saying a lot. You know how you want to switch lanes, but the person in the lane next to you decides to wake up and speeds up? Well, in the MINI, it’s a non-issue. Just stomp on the accelerator and ZOOM! Lane change. Plenty of room to spare! I’m not advocating driving like a jerk, but this car allows you to navigate road boulders and dorky drivers the way it was meant to be.

The shifting is crisp and the H-pattern seems pretty tightly compacted, therefore it’s easy to up-shift or down-shift. REALLY easy. Almost easier than driving an automatic transmission.

Parking was the BEST! I was able to fit this car anywhere. The size and turning radius allow you to get into some parking spaces that an ordinary car wouldn’t have a chance of fitting in.

The “barn door” rear door was distracting to me in the rear-view mirror. The rear view is split in two by the center of the door. It doesn’t hamper what you see or don’t see, but it IS distracting.

When I first got into the MINI, I had a pretty significant blind spot due to the B pilar. However, I realized my seat was a bit too far forward, and once I got my seat situated, the blind spot was gone. If you were really short, and the back of the seat was about even with the B pilar, this is where the blind spot comes into play. Other than this, the car is really easy to see out of.

I cannot emphasize how fun it is to drive on a curvy road! Both up and downhill. This is the only car I’ve been able to drive down a curvy descent faster than I can descend it on my bike. It’s really a testament to its handling and agility.

2008 MINI Cooper Clubman

Every door I opened or closed was solid. Heavy, and well-built. The doors are significantly bigger than they seem, as you can see if you prop one all the way open. The rear doors have a gas hinge so when you start to open them, the hinge does the rest of the work for you. The seats are of good quality and fold forward and back into place easily. The moving parts on the interior are all well-built. I popped the hood and even though the engine is pretty compact (and it would appear to be hard to work on), that is one heavy, solid hood!

One thing I can say and it’s not really a ding, but a fact: the car is small, and the suspension is stiff, so the normal bumps you feel in a standard-sized car seem super-sized in this one. I accidentally hit a couple of bumps (one hole and one blob of asphalt on the highway) and dang. They were bone-jarring experiences. I was afraid I might have hurt the car, but it was actually fine. So it’s built very well, despite the loud thud you hear (and feel) when you run over a nasty bump!

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics:

The good:
Due to the size of the car, everything is within easy reach. You don’t have to reach to put your arm on the window, because it’s right THERE. The gear shift knob is right there too. Easy to reach the stereo buttons, window buttons, sun-roof button, etc.

The best interior feature: the side sun-visor (in addition to the front visor) for the driver. It really helps with the sun during these fall days, when the sun is in a bad place for my commute! I don’t have to tilt my head sideways when the freeway shifts direction, because I could have both the front and side visors down, shielding my eyes from the glare. I wish my own car had one of these!

I had trouble adjusting to the speedometer in the center of the dashboard, but it was large enough to easily see, and the small viewer at the bottom of the tachometer was customizable to see the speed. I was more interested in fuel economy on that view though!

MINI Cooper Clubman interior MINI Cooper Clubman speedometer MINI Cooper Clubman overhead switches

The bad:
Just not a whole lot of room for big items. The bike fit, but I had to angle it and work it in there. 2 bikes? Not likely, unless you have a lot of time to “stack ‘em and rack ‘em”. 1 bike and groceries? Depends on how many groceries you have!

The speedometer in the center of the dashboard! If you have a heavy foot, and you have a nervous passenger, it’s just too easy for them to see just HOW fast you’re really going. Not always a good thing!

The non-intuitive knobs. If someone showed you how, probably easy. If you read the owner’s manual (which I couldn’t find till the last day), probably easy. The windshield wipers were not my best friend… I tried to clean the window and the first go went fine. But I missed a spot. I tried to repeat the first go, but I must have hit the knob wrong or something. I turned the wipers on fast. Uh, then I couldn’t shut ‘em off. Got them turned off, but then they came right back on. I eventually got them back off, but this was after multiple attempts AND spraying cleaner fluid through the sunroof and onto my shoulder. I’m sure those stuck around me at the traffic light were amused, and I was actually laughing (how could you not laugh? it was totally ridiculous!), but yikes. It shouldn’t have been THAT difficult.

(Continued on page 2)

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  • SCLUBMAN says:

    Well done on the review.. Glad that you could see the Clubman for what it is: a fun, driver’s car rather than a just compact hatch attempting some form of practicality. This really is about emotion, exhilaration and aesthetics taking precedence over functionality.
    Perfect for anyone who values the journey as much as the destination.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hey thanks for the GREAT review! LOVE IT!

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