Unfortunately, finding that line still take a bit of trial and error, owing to the Clubman’s overly darty, responsive steering. With Mini preferring an immediate feel rather than a gradual build-up around the dead-ahead, it can be difficult to turn pick a cornering line with confidence without making frequent small corrections. Such aggressive responses increase the feeling of agility, but would better suit a small hot hatch than something with this much mass.
Once you’ve spent some time getting used to this, the feel becomes more familiar, and you can adopt a flowing style which we suspect would resort in crushing cross-country, all-weather ability. Through the smooth, flowing corners and in the high-thirties temperatures of our German test route, however, there’s still a nagging sensation you could be having more fun in cheaper, front-driven rivals.
There remain significant snags that stop it being a consummate all-rounder, too. Our test car came fitted with the optional adaptive dampers and smaller 18in wheels, but even on well-surfaced German tarmac the low-speed ride is taut for the most part and somewhat crashy over the worst imperfections. The upside is impressive body control and damping at speed, of course, but we’ll have to wait for a go in the UK to judge the balance for certain.
It's also not entirely clear where the Clubman sits in the family car mix. The six-door estate will sell for its distinctive design and side-hinged rear doors alone, but, in terms of outright carrying capacity, it’s no roomier than a hatchback such as the A35. Those rear doors, fun though they are for the first few uses, also obstruct rear visibility more than a little bit.
Should I buy one?
If something like a Volkswagen Golf R or BMW M135i is too straight-laced for your liking, we reckon the Mini Clubman JCW is definitely worth a look. It’s a considerably better car than the one it replaces, albeit still something of a left-field choice.
It’s around £3,000 more than the outgoing 228bhp model, which seems fair enough given the power boost. But once you’ve ticked a few choice boxes on Mini’s endless option programme – as most customers are expected to – you’re looking at £40,000.
There are better all rounders in this segment - its BMW Group sibling, for example, trades a bit of visual character for a more polished interior, while the Golf R is ahead in terms of ride and refinement, with similar levels of handling prowess.
The Countryman, also now available with with the same powertrain in JCW form, is also a more practical offering. But the Clubman hasn’t been designed purely to tick objective boxes. And, crucially, this is finally a Clubman that feels like it deserves to wear the John Cooper Works badge.
Mini Clubman John Cooper Works specification
Where Frankfurt, Germany Price £34,250 On sale Now Engine 1998cc, 4cyls, turbocharged Power 302bhp at 5000-6250rpm Torque 332lb ft at 1750-5000rpm Gearbox 8spd automatic Kerb weight 1565kg Top speed 155mph 0-62mph 4.9sec Fuel economy 38mpg CO2 169g/km Rivals Mercedes-AMG A35, Volkswagen Golf R estate