21 November 2007

2008 MINI Clubman Greets America

North America rolled out the welcome mat for the 2008 MINI Clubman today amidst news of the new model's pricing in the U.S. A MINI Clubman (or MINI Cooper Clubman) will cost $20,600, while a Cooper S Clubman will go for $24,100, inclusive of destination charges.

That price reflects a modest step up from the Cooper and Cooper S, which go for $1,900 and $2,250 less in the states. The 2008 convertibles will still cost more than the Clubman, at $22,600 and 26,050.

MINI claims the Clubman opens up a "totally-new market segment," but in reality the Clubman is still a small sedan. An interestingly designed sedan, but a sedan nonetheless.

The five-door Clubman is laid out with two passenger-side doors - one of which is a suicide door called the "Clubdoor" - two rear doors, and one driver-side doors. The wheelbase on the Clubman is over three inches longer than that of the Cooper, helping to give significantly more room for rear passengers. Family's with two young children will find the Clubman to be a somewhat reliable option, as it will be a bit easier to get child safety seats in and out. Unfortunately, the lack of a door behind the driver may still be a put off for these buyers.

With split-rear doors at the back, MINI Clubman owners will find it easier to load and unload bulky items into the boot, although a hatchback with a higher placed hinge may have connected this model with the Cooper a little more. Still, with significantly more room in the boot, and a body length over 9 inches longer than the Cooper, the Clubman seems to be a solid option for anyone who feels as though they have outgrown their MINI.

The American market is a very important one for MINI, which saw 150,000 sales in its first five years. This may be the single biggest problem with the car: will it only be bought by current and former MINI Cooper owners, or will MINI be able to attract new customers with the Clubman?

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