So how big is ‘big’ in the inimitable world of Mini, and how practical and usable does that make the Clubman?

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.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Much faffing is needed to make the ambient light ring do anything vaguely useful, such as acting as a rev counter

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.

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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.  

Cooper S models come with (including the ALL4 variants), 17in alloy wheels, front sports seats, twin-chrome exhaust system and various performance modes, while the range-topping JCW version gets 18in alloys, a beefy-looking bodykit, LED head and rear lights and a Brembo braking system.

As you would expect of any self-respecting premium vehicle, the options list is huge, but thankfully Mini have stuck to their principles to create numerous packages which a majority of customers are likely to add. The most popular package is likely to be the Chili pack which includes a part leather upholstery in various colour combinations, heated front seats, rear parking sensors, climate control, LED headlights and foglights, Mini's Comfort Access Pack, additional alloy wheels and lots of additional storage compartment.

The John Cooper Works Chili Pack adds the choice of part leather and leather upholsterys, 18in lightweight alloys, an aerodynamic bodykit, and a JCW roof spoiler on top of the standard pack. The Tech Pack includes a rear view camera, a Harman and Kardon stereo and head-up display, with the Media Pack XL adding a larger touchscreen infotainment system, enhanced Bluetooth, wireless charging, 3D mapping, 20GB hard drive and smartphone mirroring system.

Our test car was fitted with the Chili and Media packs, however none of the Clubman's, or indeed any of the Minis, offer a smartphone mirroring system, but you can access the likes of Twitter, foursquare, Spotify and Glympse via apps — through your phone’s data connection, of course, and provided it’s connected via the cradle.

The navigation system is predictably excellent, with input possible using the rotary controller, fingertip trace input or effective voice commands. Our test car didn’t have the Harman/Kardon premium hi-fi, but its audio system sounded powerful and clear regardless of that.

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