BMW has never made any secret of its desire to push the Mini brand into new and different areas although an estate was a more logical step than the unlamented Paceman or the strange looking Countryman, an Austrian-built sports utility. But Mini is deemed in Munich to be 'quirky', so first-generation Clubman had an odd suicide side door arrangement on the wrong side for RHD markets. This year's gen-two revamp, however, has conventional four doors, with twin wardrobe-style rear doors – strictly speaking, this is a six door. Until the launch of next year's Countryman, this is the largest Mini you can buy and having launched the cooking versions earlier this year, Mini is now offering the hottest John Cooper Works edition which is on sale now with prices starting at £29,345, rising to £30,945 for the automatic version we drove.
As befits a go-faster Mini, the Clubman gets new, duct-festooned front and rear bumpers and red highlighted wing mirrors and brakes. If the standard Clubman looks a bit bulbous and heavy, this one looks pretty hot, although the side view isn't quite as exciting as its designer intended and the kicked-up rear disappears almost completely. The car runs as standard on 18-inch wheels, but 19-inch rims are available at an extra £2,000 if they are ordered with the Chilli pack with heated seats and a wide choice of upholstery materials.
That JCW cabin is fairly funky in its own right, however, with unique quilt-trimmed sports seats, and special sill covers, steering wheel, gear lever, and pedals. The seats are certainly figure-hugging but lack cushioning, so you get a numb bum over long distances. The rest of the facia juts in with almost too much design input: flick switches, circular central touch screen (an option) and a steering column crowded with dials as it meets the facia. Fortunately, there's an effective head-up display for crucial speed and sat-nav information. It's all remorselessly plastic but well made and seems sturdy.
In the back, the bench will seat three adults at a pinch and two in some comfort with head and leg room to spare. The twin rear doors open up onto a 360-litre boot, which expands to 1,250 if you tilt the seats.