MINI adds its ALL4 four-wheel drive system to the Clubman estate, creating a very specialist model in an already niche marketplace. Heavier and less economical than its front-wheel drive alternative, you'd really have to need the traction advantages it brings to justify spending more for it.
In the Metal:
The Clubman is a MINI, only a BIG one. It's longer and wider for more interior space and a boot that's at least got a hope of managing the needs of a family. Not a conventionally pretty car, the rear barn doors are quirky rather than beneficial. Still, MINI has been fairly successful in carving out a niche for buyers wanting something a little bit different to the mainstream. Whether that's your thing is entirely down to you then. A divisive image isn't necessarily a bad thing; indeed, it's arguably the Clubman's appeal.
Inside, it's all familiar MINI, with lots of chrome, more lights than a mobile disco - depending on whether you've optioned them or not - and the sort of quirks that define the modern MINI interior. So there are toggle switches, mixed with some vaguely familiar systems from its BMW parent. Again, it's down to you whether that's your thing, but there's no denying it's a busy, not always particularly intuitive driving environment. Here, in SD ALL4 form, you can only have it with the automatic gearbox, meaning you'll need a petrol ALL4 if you want your Clubman with four-wheel drive and a manual transmission.
MINIs should be and are largely fairly entertaining to drive, but there's something a little bit awry with the Clubman in this particular specification. Given its SD billing and its ample 190hp output, it should feel lively, but there was rarely any occasion on the drive when we felt as stirred by the Cooper SD ALL4 as we have in other MINIs, the Clubman included. It feels brisk rather than genuinely rapid, though the eight-speed transmission is smooth enough, even if it does seem keen to maximise economy - even when not in its most parsimonious setting. There's the ability to change the driving settings for added sportiness, but it never really feels like it's goading you to enjoy it like you'll get in its less sensible derivatives.
A more mature, grown up MINI then? It certainly appears so, and the improved ride apparent when we first tested the Clubman is retained, which is no bad thing. The steering is accurate enough, if a bit mute, and the brakes fine, though refinement from the diesel could be better at low speed where there's some vibration present, and wind noise when you're at motorway speeds.
The ALL4 system, like most, diverts power to the axle that needs it most, which you'll rarely, if ever, notice in everyday driving. If you're country-dwelling you might find it advantageous. Thing is, the Countryman does all that, too, for less money...
What you get for your Money:
As the range-topping diesel, and hence the most expensive model, it comes decently, if not comprehensively specified. You could comfortably spend €6,000-€8,000 on options, but then MINIs have always been a pick and mix of packs, options and trim. As standard you get cloth seats, though, and probably of more interest to most buyers is the standard fitment of navigation and all manner of connectivity for smartphones.
The ALL4-equipped Clubman covers bases already achieved elsewhere in the range. You'd have to really love how the Clubman looks to consider it over its Countryman relation. It's expensive, too, and the four-wheel drive system adds to the running costs. Buy the standard front-wheel drive one if you're sold on the Clubman, and if you absolutely must have a four-wheel drive estate then you'll be better served elsewhere.