Despite being bigger and heavier than the Mini hatchback, this is still a decent car to drive. There’s enough front-end grip and the steering is quick, but less nervous than the hatchback's. The main issue is that it never weights up very progressively, meaning that you're not quite as connected to the front wheels as you are in the best-handling rivals, such as a Ford Focus. Ultimately, the Focus and the Audi A3 are better-balanced cars, and more fun for keener drivers as a result.
If you stick to the smaller wheel options and standard suspension the Mini Clubman offers a well-controlled ride, but it's not as supple as the Mercedes A-Class or Volkswagen Golf. Stiffened and lowered sports suspension is an option throughout the range (standard on the JCW), and switchable dampers that offer more suppleness or firmness on demand, is an option on all versions.
The entry-level Cooper 1.5-litre petrol is pokey enough and our choice. It'll get from 0-62mph in a respectable 9.2sec, but if you want more oomph there's the 2.0-litre Cooper S petrol with quite a bit more zip. The four-wheel-drive John Cooper Works (JCW) model is a hot hatchback rival with over 300bhp. It's certainly rapid but doesn't feel anywhere near as pacey as a VW Golf R or Mercedes-AMG A35, or as excitingly explosive at the top of its rev-range as the Honda Civic Type R.
The diesel-powered Cooper D isn’t quite as willing as you might hope, running out of puff at about 4000rpm and feeling a little inflexible below that. It’s fine if you’re just cruising around but can be a bit frustrating when pressing on.
Unless you live in an area that’s particularly susceptible to slippery road conditions caused by snow, ice or mud, we wouldn’t bother with the All4 four-wheel-drive versions; you really won’t notice the benefits over the front-wheel drive models.
Wind noise is pretty well contained — there's a little buffeting from the door mirrors — as is road noise, as long as you don't go mad adding massive alloy wheels and tyres.