The first rule of the 2010 Mini Cooper Clubman is you don't talk about the Clubman.

The second rule is you still don't talk about the Clubman.

It seems most people have stuck to this rule as the "other Mini" never seems to get as much ink or respect as the original.

But truth be known, Tyler Durden would drive a 2010 Mini Cooper Clubman over the slightly smaller Mini Cooper.

First of all, it has the words "club" and "man" in it. And the bipolar, slightly delusional leader of "Fight Club" would relish having both in the name of his car. Men, Durden has said, need the bond of men.

And despite its slightly feminine, rounded-corner look, the Mini Clubman holds an appeal to both sexes. There's a toughness under its cute exterior, perhaps in the way it looks well put together.

Durden, the antithesis of consumerism and archaist at heart, is the kind of guy who wants a frugal car that can carry all of his tools for mayhem but still look stylish. He doesn't want to flaunt his wealth, but at the same, he doesn't mind looking good.

Yes, people are not the products they buy, but a car does reflect its owner.

Plenty of space

The Clubman, which is 9.4 inches longer than the normal-size Mini, also has a wheelbase 3.4 inches longer than the original.

That may sound like tiny increments, but the difference is dramatic. The Clubman actually has space in the second row -- a total of 32 inches of legroom, which is enough to cram an average-size person back there. More importantly, if you fold the second row seats down, there's an amazing 62 cubic feet of storage space.

Durden could carry an arsenal back there, not that he would ever use it. But he could easily open up the double-door back end -- reminiscent of the Austin Mini Countryman and Morris Minor Traveller and Mini Clubman Estate from the 1960s.

He also would enjoy the car's spirited, if not raw, ride. The longer wheel base does help smooth out the ride and like the smaller Mini, the Clubman still remains nimble on the road. Even though it's big, in the automotive world it still is small and can fit into little parking spaces.

One can flog the Clubman around nicely. Even on its little wheels it can hit 80 mph on the highway. Its acceleration is OK, though I would recommend the manual six-speed transmission over the automatic.

Comfortable, but some problems

The 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine cranks out 118 horsepower, which is more than enough to get this car rolling. It weighs under 3,000 pounds and so it feels faster than it really is. (Mini gives the Clubman a 0-60 mph time of just a touch of 10 seconds and it doesn't even bother to give it a quarter-mile time.)

The steering, which is electrically powered, is sensitive and light. But it remains comfortable to drive. Additionally, the car corners very well, which would come in handy if attempting to avoid the law after a criminally liable prank.

However, the suspension remains tight and the ride is bumpy. The ride is also noisier than its smaller brother, mostly because the bigger cabin becomes a bigger echo chamber for all the road noise and window to bounce around.

The bigger cabin does create more room and the second row, which is accessible by a second row door behind the passenger's front seat, is easy enough to climb into and can sit two adults. However, it does mean the two people loading into the back will have to either slide over or try to climb into the back through the driver's door. This is much more difficult than most people might expect. Effectively, the Mini Clubman is a very comfortable two- or three-passenger vehicle. Less so for four.

It's perfectly fine

While the Clubman is much different than the regular Mini, most people looking at it might not know the difference.

The inside of the cabin is not as stellar as the exterior. It's certainly unique in the automotive world, which is some of its appeal to the many Mini enthusiasts.

There's the big tell-all speedometer in the center of the dash (the tachometer is behind the steering wheel, where most speedometers go). This allows everyone in the car to know exactly how fast you are going.

Other gauges like the fuel gauge are inside the speedometer, which is bigger than many clocks. There also is a confusing radio set with buttons and a little cheap plastic knob that allows you to adjust the volume.

It takes some time to remember the buttons to open and close the windows are toggle switches mounted at the base of the center stack. These are the idiosyncrasies of all Minis that create enduring fans or cynical skeptics. Tyler Durden would land somewhere in between, embracing the car's unique feel, while dismissing its popularity.

While I'm not even in a club, much less like to fight, I would have to agree with Tyler Durden's assessment of this particular vehicle.

It's got the character, it's got the personality and it's fun to drive. It's certainly not the most perfect vehicle, but it's perfectly fine.

And I know this, because Tyler knows this. Now go out there and don't tell anyone. It's the first rule.

sburgess@detnews.com (313) 223-3217