Not quite as good to drive as the standard Mini, but close and more practical to boot

What is it?

The big new Mini, the Clubman, which is not really all that mini, at 240mm (and two doors) bigger than the standard car.

If 240mm doesn’t seem like a lot, then you really ought to know that the Clubman’s wheelbase is, in fact, just 80mm longer than the regular Mini’s. The rest of the length is eaten up by slightly larger overhangs and around 100 litres more boot space.

That means that in the cabin, not an enormous amount has changed; you could fit four six-footers in there, but they’d need to be friends. Still, the extra boot space is a tangible benefit for anyone who’s ever struggled with the Mini’s pitiful effort.

What's it like?

The regular Mini did not succeed thanks solely to references to its predecessor and the same applies here. So while there are echoes of the Mini Traveller and Countryman, the attention to detail that has made the modern Mini so refined is still in evidence. There are some beautiful engineering touches such as damped twin rear doors with built-in surrounds that clunk over fixed light clusters, or a pair of rear windscreen wipers.

And of course, there’s that extra door on the flank (officially called the ‘Club door’), positioned behind the driver in right-hand-drive models. It’s neatly done and it does make access the rear easier but then, as even Mini has admitted, it’s on the wrong side of the car for UK.

The Clubman is only 80kg heavier than the regular hatchback, so it doesn’t feel much slower on the road; the turbocharged engine in Cooper S models is willing and smooth.

The target was to create a car that felt as good drive as the regular Mini and while that hasn’t quite been achieved (you can feel the extra mass behind you sorting itself out if you chuck it at a corner, although the diesel model’s weight distribution might improve this), the Clubman strikes a decent balance between safety (DSC is standard across the range) and enjoyment.

The ride on the Cooper S’s standard 16in run-flats is slightly fidgety, as you might expect, but it’s preferable to the Sport pack experience, which adds 17in alloys and stiffer suspension. Curiously, Mini fitted the optional limited-slip differential to all launch models, so we’ll hold fire on a verdict on mid-corner acceleration until we get a standard Clubman on UK roads, but it’s hard to imagine that the safety systems won’t cope, given the longer wheelbase.

Should I buy one?

While the Clubman is only a little more practical than a standard Mini, this has always been a car you want rather than need. The new addition – which costs £1200 more than its baby brother - probably offers enough practicality to find new buyers without rubbing away too much of the trendiness that tempts current brand devotees.

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