The Clubman is now a familiar face on our roads, but its controversial looks still divide opinion. Even if you’re not a fan of its styling, you can’t help but be impressed by the MINI’s quality and detailing. Is this still the case with the new entry-level One?
In basic trim, the door mirrors, grille and side indicator plates are black plastic, while alloy wheels are optional. You can transform your Clubman’s looks via the extras, but the kit is expensive, and most of our testers agreed that there is a simple charm to the basic car. Crucially, the One doesn’t rely on unusual design tricks to look the part – unlike its SUV-inspired rivals.
On the outside, the MINI is lower than the Soul and has a 2,547mm wheelbase – that’s 87mm longer than the Urban Cruiser’s. Inside, there’s more rear legroom than in a MINI hatch, and the Toyota can only match it for passenger space in the back with its sliding bench pushed to its furthest position. The Clubman isn’t a practical family car, as it has only one back door and the smallest boot capacity here, at 295 litres. But it successfully provides a more flexible package than the regular MINI. Our test car’s Salt pack (£510) ensures the rear seats fold completely flat, and this gives a longer maximum load length than the Toyota.
The baby Brit feels most special from behind the wheel. Its driving position is perfect, while the cabin’s blend of top-quality materials and retro design is both ergonomically sound and great to look at. You can feel the quality of the engineering every time you drive this car, too.
Not only is the gearbox superb, the clutch, throttle and brakes are all perfectly weighted. The 1.4-litre engine is eager, and far smoother than either of its rivals. And despite having a smaller power output, the MINI wasn’t left behind at the test track. It was quicker than the Kia in our in-gear assessments, and trailed by only six-tenths in the sprint from 0-60mph, with a 10.7-second time.
Plus, the Clubman is not only the keenest performer in town, it’s the most refined, with the lowest noise readings at 30mph and 70mph. Small 15-inch wheels help the ride, and although the suspension is firm, it’s the most composed car at speed.
Those skinny tyres don’t upset the MINI’s excellent handling, either. In fact, the lower grip they deliver only highlights the superb chassis. Body control is brilliant and the steering supplies a steady stream of feedback.
As the Clubman stops, turns and grips with far more confidence than either rival, it’s great to drive on any journey. Adding to the special feel is the design and quality. That could be key – and so could the MINI’s appeal as an ownership proposition, due to its fixed-price servicing, class-leading residuals and excellent economy.
Chart position: 1WHY: The new entry-level MINI Clubman combines value and quality in a unique package. Is it the car to beat here?