Something other than the usual posh German hatches…
Strange specs here?
The Mini comes as a Cooper S, which means a petrol engine. But this one also has All4, the first non-Countryman Mini to get the 4WD option. That makes it a rival for an A3 quattro. We’ve gone for the manual. The Infiniti is also AWD, also 2.0-litre petrol. It has a 7spd DCT ’box as standard. Drivetrain and platform are adapted Merc A-Class gear. The Q30 starts out dearer than the Mini but it does have more kit.
Do they feel like mega-hatches?
The Mini is more powerful than the 3dr Cooper S but it’s much heavier. So performance is merely brisk. It’s all about traction and grip not tweakable handling, and the steering is feel-less, though quick (too quick for M’ways). It’s pretty sober for a Mini, if a riot beside the Q30.
The Infiniti’s steering is glutinous, cornering dull, its engine a drone. But the ride is more cosseting than the Mini’s. The Q30 drives like a bigger car, an effective if uninvolving ground-coverer and motorway eater, and the DCT does its bit. But wind and road noise undermine the refinement.
Are their looks a real alternative?
Though it’s toned down from the hatch’s, the Clubman’s self-conscious ‘fun’ Mini vibe starts to feel a bit overburdened when applied to a family hatch.
Infiniti’s developing design language, meanwhile, is a maelstrom of contrasted concavity and convexity. It ain’t subtle, but at least it’s more adult than the Mini.
They’re family hatch-sized. Practical?
The Mini has well-ordered ergonomics. Clubman in its new generation is class-competitive on rear room, and the boot doesn’t lose out with AWD. But the split doors are just an affectation, annoying to use and bad for visibility.
Cabin room is up to snuff in the Infiniti, and the trim feels plusher that the Mini. Switchgear and dials are an odd mash-up of Japanese and German but actually work pretty well. High-set seat is SUV-lite; Mini is lower, sportier.