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Road test: Comfortable MINI sets the Pace

MINI Paceman

MINI Paceman

  • by Andy Enright
 

Owning a MINI has always been fun but it’s rarely been very practical.

Lovely to have the go kart handling and dinky little shape of course, but over the years, many have quickly tired of the cramped cabin and rock hard ride. The only way the brand could keep these people would be to bring them a sporty MINI that was also comfortable and spacious. This car “the MINI Paceman”.

It’s the eighth member of the MINI family and probably the hardest to pigeonhole. But that all depends on how you look at it. Let me simplify it like this. Essentially, there are two kinds of MINI: the British-built Hatch, Clubman, Convertible, Coupe, Roadster and Clubvan models, all derived from essentially the same platform. And then there’s a rather different, much larger five-door design with styling cues to give it a MINI look, built for the brand by Magna Steyr in Austria: the model we know as the Countryman. Take that car’s greater comfort and practicality, then blend it with a coupe bodystyle and a bit of traditional MINI fun and you’d satisfy quite a few potential buyers. That at least is the thinking behind this car.

Everyone seems to have an opinion about this car and I suppose for any fashionable little trinket, that’s a good start. Dismissing it as merely a three-door version of the chunky Countryman is a bit cruel. MINI, after all, is at pains to point out that though the two cars are identical up to the A-pillar, behind that this Paceman has a 39mm reduction in roof height and a 10mm reduction in ride height to give a sportier, more purposeful demeanour. It certainly looks less wilfully odd than the smaller MINI Coupe.

Is it sporty? Well right up front, I’m going to need to manage your expectations here. This is a high-riding chunky car. It’s never going to handle like a much smaller, lighter, lower-set conventional MINI Hatch or Coupe, so come rather unrealistically expecting that and you’re going to go away disappointed. To try and help things, the engineers have specified firm Sports suspension as standard but a more comfort-orientated set-up is a no-cost option.

Under the bonnet, Paceman customers choose between the same 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engines that all other MINI models must have, though they do enjoy a slightly wider selection than those on offer with the MINI Coupe. Specifically, that means an extra lower-powered 112bhp diesel option at the foot of the range if you can’t stretch to the 143bhp Paceman SD diesel that probably offers the best balance.

Petrol people meanwhile get a Paceman Cooper model with a 1.6-litre 122bhp unit offering a sprint to 62mph of 10.4 seconds, while the Paceman Cooper S uses the same engine, tuned to deliver 184bhp. If you’re quick with the slick, incisive 6-speed manual gearstick, it’ll get to 62mph in 7.5 seconds en route to 135mph but if that’s not fast enough, the flagship John Cooper Works Paceman uses a 218bhp version of this unit allied to ALL 4 all-wheel-drive, taking this variant to 62mph in just 6.9s on the way to 140mph.The ALL4 set-up’s optional elsewhere across the line-up, something unavailable to MINI Hatch or Coupe customers. Another reason for preferring a Paceman.

Factfile

Category: Coupe - Compact

Performance: 80%

Handling: 80%

Comfort: 70%

Space: 60%

Styling: 60%

Build: 80%

Value: 50%

Equipment: 70%

Economy: 80%

Depreciation: 70%

Insurance: 70%

Total: 77%

 

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