Despite being bigger and heavier than the Mini hatchback, this is still a decent car to drive. There’s enough front-end grip, while the steering is quick but less nervous than it is in the hatchback. It never weights up very progressively, though, so you don’t feel as connected to the front wheels as you do in its best-handling rivals, such as the Ford Focus. Ultimately, the Focus and Audi A3 are better-balanced cars, too, and more fun for keen 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 and Volkswagen Golf ; the Clubman controls its body movements well but jolts you harder over ridges. Stiffened and lowered sports suspension is a no-cost option on Sport trim and is standard on the JCW, and makes the ride firmer still. Adaptive suspension is a sensibly priced option on all versions, and gives you greater suppleness or firmness on demand.
The entry-level Cooper 1.5-litre petrol is pokey enough and our choice. It'll take you from 0-62mph in a respectable 9.2sec, but, if you want more performance, there's also a more powerful 2.0-litre Cooper S petrol model. The four-wheel drive JCW model aims to rival the best hot hatches, and with more than 300bhp, it's certainly rapid once you get past the automatic gearbox's hesitancy to downshift; you need to stick it in Sport mode to liven it up. However, the JCW still doesn't feel anywhere near as fast as a Volkswagen 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 (apart from 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. The 1.5 Cooper engine is smooth and quiet once you're up to speed, but the automatic engine stop-start system can be rather abrupt in traffic.