The good news here is that, thanks to that longer wheelbase and marginally more supple springing, the Clubman isn’t such an acquired taste to drive as its smaller hatchback cousins.
Less good news is that it isn’t as broad-batted as it needs to be to replace an ordinary C-segment hatchback in the day-to-day routine of a disinterested family driver.
Nevertheless, the car feels like it strikes the right kind of dynamic resolution, firstly because it’s easier-going, more comfortable and less highly strung than every other Mini, and secondly because it’s still fun to drive. And any Mini that wasn’t the latter wouldn’t be worth its salt.
The Clubman’s more progressive handling and slightly gentler, softer ride frequency will also endear it to those who simply couldn’t tolerate the terrier-like manners of other Minis. Although you need to do more with the steering wheel than the Mini faithful may be used to doing in order to commit the Clubman to a tight corner or negotiate a roundabout, you don’t feel like you’re doing much.
More to the point, the Clubman turns in crisply and sweetly, with instant response away from the straight-ahead. But it doesn’t surprise you by shifting its weight and pivoting underneath you before you’ve had time to register that the car has begun changing direction – like shorter, firmer-sprung Minis sometimes can.
It operates with handling responses that are likely to be much more in tune with most people’s frequency of inputs – and that’s probably the Mini Clubman’s biggest dynamic success.
Drive above everyday speeds, hard through a few corners, and you’ll find that it’s game and sprightly, hanging onto the road fairly hard and communicating grip levels quite well through its controls.
It generates less lateral grip in outright terms than other hatchbacks because of its stiff rear end and its inability to roll – and therefore falls victim to roll-understeer more than you might expect. But not before it has amused you with its initial agility.
Could the car ride better? Of course it could. Shortness of travel in the suspension makes the ride quite reactive over a choppy B-road – or at least it did on the standard passive damping of our test car. The firmer damper settings of Mini’s variable damper system may help it there, however. Similarly, smaller rims and non-run-flat tyres might take a bit of the apparent edge out of the car’s often thumpy secondary ride.