THE RIDE: Three-door, four-passenger 2008 Mini Cooper Clubman coupe.
DOWN THE ROAD: Earlier this year, Mini introduced the three-door Clubman. It adds 9.5 inches to the base model's wheelbase and 3.2 inches in length. As expected, the iconic British brand vehicle sports a stunning look that is agile and sporty at the same time.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: The naturally aspirated 1.6-liter inline-4 cylinder engine develops 118 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 114 pounds-feet of torque at 4250 rpm. That's plenty to take the little car from 0 to 60 mph in just 8.9 seconds in a standard 6-speed manual transmission. The 6-speed automatic transmission is available for $1,250. Zipping around city streets is fun because of an electric power-assist steering system, which acts responsively to every turn of the wheel. The front of the vehicle is equipped with a MacPherson strut while the rear gets a five-link suspension. For those who believe fuel prices may surge next year, the Mini eked out 30 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving for us.
LOOK & FEEL: The exterior of the Clubman shows off a hexagonal radiator grille with three horizontal chrome-plated crossbars, round headlights, small vertical rear light clusters and twin rear 'barn door' with separate handles. Right in front of the driver is an analog tachometer that hosts readings for outside temperature, time and a driver information center. On the top of the dashboard sits a large speedometer with audio controls. Retro lovers will appreciate the vertically arranged rotary knobs for climate control as well as the toggle switches for power windows, interior lights and door locks. The brand name may signify small but storage areas are numerous. Rear-seat passengers have easy ingress and egress because of the third door behind the front-passenger seat.
SAFETY FIRST: Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction and stability control, antiskid system, three-point seatbelts for all and tire pressure monitoring system are a few of the standard features.
OUT THE DOOR: $19,950, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. The dual-pane panoramic sunroof is available for $1,000.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P175/65R15 performance; wheelbase, 100.3 inches; length, 155.8 inches; weight, 2,723 pounds; fuel capacity, 13.2 gallons; city, 26 mpg; highway, 34 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: If a personalized ride is your cup of tea, the Mini should be in your driveway. Besides, the gas sipper is a blast to drive. Need we remind everyone that BMW owns the car division?