Lower yourself into any of the five seats and, if you’re even remotely familiar with a normal family hatch’s interior, you’ll see the compromise here – and simultaneously, that the Clubman probably couldn’t at once be a true Mini and offer all the comfort, space and convenience of a VW Golf or Audi A3 Sportback.
Still, the car offers more than you expect it to. Long doors grant relatively easy access, and although you sit on slightly short, hard seat cushions and have to bend lower than usual to get to them, there’s good leg, knee and head room in both rows, with enough in the back even for two larger adults.
The driving position is low and straight-legged. The seat lacks the cushioning you’d want for prolonged daily driving, but it’s adjustable and comfy enough. The dashboard is more formal-looking than that of the Mini hatch, with neater and more understated air vents and more discreet and refined decorative elements.
But the main features are familiar, from the column-mounted dials to the circular pod crowning the centre stack and housing the large infotainment display.
There’s no shortage of charm – that could be depended upon – but there are more practical touches than you’ll find in smaller Minis. The Clubman has bigger door bins and better cupholders than its siblings and a proper armrest cubby.
At the back, the 360-litre boot measures up as long and as wide as those of most C-segment hatchbacks. It’s a bit shallow with the false floor in place, but not so with it removed or latched upright – and there are side cubbies, lashing points and carrying hooks, too. Optional 40/20/40 split-folding back seats make good use of the through-loading space.
Material quality is good, but not quite good enough to convince an A3 owner that he’s made a rash buying decision.
But such is the difference between the highest perceived quality standards in superminis and premium-brand five-doors. It’s a gap the Clubman fails to bridge in the most convincing way – although the character of its cabin covers the shortfall quite well.
There are three Clubman types to choose from, and as ever a whole host of optional extras to adorn your car with. The Cooper-trimmed Clubmans come with autonomous emergency braking, 16in alloy wheels, a chrome exhaust, electrically adjsutable and heated wing mirrors, front foglights and automatic wipers as standard on the exterior. Inside there is manually adjustable front seats, air conditioning and Mini's infotainment system complete with DAB radio, sat nav, Bluetooth and USB connectivity.