Mini’s recently launched, Clubman is looking to take the premium hatchback crown with a raft of new improvements to the new recently revealed compact estate car.
But Audi’s A3 Sportback is not about to give up its position as the class benchmark without a fight.
What Car? Pitched two similarly equipped, powered and priced diesels against each other to see if the newcomer upsets the status quo.
The funky new five-door Clubman is not quite as radically styled as its predecessor, but it still boasts that model’s more practical appeal over the standard three-door car.
Its bigger boot is its main selling point, while its cabin is as stylish and well built as in any other model in the Mini range.
As you might expect, the Audi’s interior is far more sensible, but also beautifully made.
Front and rear passenger space is good in both cars, but despite the Clubman’s luggage area beating that of the first-generation model, it can not quite match the A3’s for either capacity or access.
From behind the wheel, differing approaches to platform set-up means it is a case of Mini entertainment versus Audi quiet determination.
Where the go-kart-like Clubman fidgets and skits around on corners in a way that can provoke understeer, the more composed A3 ultimately encourages faster progress.
Its gentler ride makes for more relaxing travel, particularly on motorways, as opposed to its harder, slightly jarring rival.
Teamed with superior action and feedback in the gearshift, steering and braking departments, the Audi takes the dynamic crown — and its straight-line sprint is quicker as well.
The fun-to-drive Clubman is a clear and admirable improvement over its predecessor, and it is definitely closed the gap. It is a model that will appeal more to the image-conscious than its sensible rival.
However, although price-wise the A3 is slightly more expensive to buy, this is offset by better running costs and residuals to make the car the preferable long-term cost option.
That, combined with those dynamic advantages and Audi’s ever-excellent build quality, mean the German machine retains its place at the top of the premium hatchback tree.
How do they compare?
Mini Clubman 2,0 Cooper D Media Pack
Engine size: 2,0 litre, diesel
Price from: £23 255 ($36 357)
Torque: 243lb ft
0-62mph: 8,6 seconds
Top speed: 132mph
Fuel economy: 51,1mpg (WhatCar? True MPG)
Audi A3 2,0 TDI 150 SE Technik
Engine size: 2,0-litre, diesel
Price from: £23,835 (US$37 280)
Torque: 251lb ft
0-60mph: 7,9 seconds
Top speed: 135mph
Fuel economy: 51,2mpg (WhatCar? True MPG)
The other rivals
The top end of the hatchback market is a fiercely competitive place. These are the other rivals the Mini and Audi A3 must contend with;
VW Golf: Rock solid reputation, diesel scandal, from £17,595 (US$27 508)
BMW 1-Series: Rear wheel-drive, desirable and agile, from £20,930 (US$32 722)
Mercedes A-Class: Looks great, but pricey, from £21,065 (US$32 933)
Volvo V40: Classy cabin, good looks, safe, from £19,195 (US$30 010)
Alfa Romeo Giulietta: Italian flair, good engines, a different choice, from £18,450 (US$28 845) —