The all-new Clubman is the largest model Mini to come of the production line and with this second-generation car Mini are laying down a marker to take it into the premium market where buyers demand bigger and better and no compromise.
There's no compromise here as against the previous Clubman, gone is the cramped cabin, impractical bodystyle and lumpy ride, but niether has the style and fun of it's forerunner been taken away..
At almost 4,300mm long and 1,800mm wide, the all-new model is 270mm longer and 73mm wider than the MINI 5-door Hatch, with 100mm added to the wheelbase, significant gains allowing the Clubman to appeal to family buyers the previous model failed to attract.
While the Clubman may have conformed in terms of size with the competition it's been done in the 'Mini'unique way, with chrome,stylish LED headlamps and a seemingly endless list of personalisation options will keep image-conscious buyers satisfied. Add to that an interior featuring a new centre console and leather sports seats all adding to that upmarket feel the old model lacked
Gone are the old rear-hinged 'clubdoor' more of a hindrance than an aid replacedby two conventional rear doors. They make it far easier for passengers to get in and out, and in the processsolving the problem for UK buyers who had to exit into the road rather than onto the pavement.
Once inside additional size is immediately noticeable, with more knee and headroom but the twin-door boot is retained.
The boot can be opened by hand or for those who take the Comfort Access option, with a simple kick under the rear bumper - a bonus for busy mums with an armful of shopping and a baby on her hip..
Now, as well as making the Clubman a lot more practical, one of MINI's other main targets with the new model was to make it more comfortable. In fact, the brand has gone as far as to say this is most refined car it has ever made.
However, has the newfound sense of refinement come at the expense how much fun it is to drive? To an extent, it has. Because it's bigger and softer, you can feel that initial degree of sharpness has been lost from its responses.
The steering still has that MINI crispness to it, but it's lighter and makes the Clubman feel a tad lazier than the smaller hatchbacks.
The Clubman is in three engine choices, a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol unit, (also on the Mini Cooper), a 2.0-litre diesel and a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine for the flagship Cooper S.
The Clubman is the first model Mini have offered with the option of a new eight-speed automatic gearbox. It's 10g/km cleaner and returns 4mpg more than our six-speed manual test car (45.6mpg and 144g/km), but it's also a costly option, at £1,700.
The entry level model is priced competively at £19,995, while the Cooper D comes in at a starting price of £22,265, and the Cooper S £22,755. BMW, owners are to sell cars with high specifications which will keep its residual values strong so don't expect high sales volumes as a consequence.
The Clubman is 270mm longer and 73mm wider than a Mini 5-Door, and bigger than a Mini Countryman. Its wheelbase is the same as that of BMW's new 2-series Gran Tourer, and uses a transverse engine layout.
The Clubman is the forerunner of MINI move into 'premium motor' territory and it looks like it will be a success. The Clubman is comfortable, well spec'd and retains a rebelious touch of quirkyness that it's ancestors had. The very same qualities that make the Mini such a hit. It may not be to everyone's taste but 'different' is never going to please everyone but when pitched against the run of the mill competition the Clubman's unique styling and characteristics give it a huge edge.
Susan Reay Motoring writer Female First