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Published on Wednesday 19 June 2013 07:41
Ten Second Review
The MINI Paceman is, in effect, a Countryman coupe. And that might well be the oddest of the MINI body styles to date. As with some of the others, you may be left scratching your head. Is this the time that MINI confounds us yet again or will the wheels come off with a model too far?
Old-school MINI fans have never really got to grips with the Countryman model. Introduced in 2010, here was a MINI that wasn't at all mini. Nevertheless, sales have demonstrated that there was a whole swathe of buyers who would have liked a MINI if it wasn't quite so small. In the shape of the Paceman, the story takes an even stranger twist. MINI is now looking for a group of buyers for whom the original car was too small, but who now need a bigger model, albeit one whose practicality benefits have been compromised by a coupe body. Confused? Join the club.
So the Paceman may have its work cut out in confusing a sceptical market - but then so did MINI's Clubman estate (with its odd door layout) and the Roadster drop-top (produced when MINI already had a convertible in its range). Both won buyers round and this car, unveiled at the 2011 Detroit Show as the premium small car segment's first 'Sports Activity Coupe', may well do the same.
Being based on the Countryman chassis, the Paceman will doubtless drive reasonably well for a car of its size and weight. One interesting move is to offer lowered sports suspension as standard to focus the driving experience a little more, although regular suspension and ride height are available as a no-cost option.
Paceman customers initially have the choice of two petrol and two diesel engines, all four-cylinder units with a six-speed manual gearbox, or an optional six-speed automatic with Steptronic function for 'manual' shifting. For diesel buyers, the MINI Cooper D Paceman features a 1.6-litre 112bhp turbocharged engine with a 0-62mph time of 10.8 seconds. The flagship diesel is the MINI Cooper SD Paceman, which features a 2.0-litre 143bhp engine and will rattle off the sprint to 62mph in 9.2 seconds.
Petrol people meanwhile get a Cooper Paceman model with a 1.6-litre 122bhp unit offering a sprint to 62mph of 10.4 seconds, while the Cooper S Paceman uses the same engine, tuned to deliver 184bhp. It will get to 62mph in 7.5 seconds 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.
The ALL4 all-wheel-drive system is also available on the Cooper D, SD and Cooper S models. And extra fun can be summoned via a special 'Sport' button, optional on Cooper and Cooper D, which sharpens the engine's responses and the power assistance provided by the steering.
Design and Build
Styled as a coupe take on the Countryman, the Paceman is the seventh spin-off of the MINI theme, and sells alongside the Hatch, Clubman, Convertible, Countryman, Coupe and Roadster. Built on the Countryman platform, bumper to bumper the car is 4,109mm (4,115mm for MINI Cooper S Paceman and Cooper SD Paceman), which makes it almost identical in size to its big-boned sibling.
The shape is a little ungainly at first but your eye soon gets used to it and it looks less wilfully odd than the smaller MINI Coupe. It's inside where things get a little more interesting. The highlight is the unusual rear seat, which has been styled around a 'lounge concept'. That might be over-egging it a bit but you do get two individual chairs with armrests integrated into the rear trim. A two-section version of the MINI Centre Rail storage and attachment system - first seen in the Countryman - comes as standard. Buttons for the windows, which have been toggle switches below the speedometer on every MINI to date, have moved to the door trim panel.
A strict four-seater, the Paceman nevertheless has a practical element. Folding down the rear seats expands the rear load-carrying capacity from 330-litres to a maximum of 1,080-litres. Access is via a large and high-opening tailgate, offering welcome utility for owners who have already deliberately chosen the less practical option open to them.
Market and Model
Prices start at around £19,000, which is almost a thousand pounds over the price of the equivalent Countryman, so in time-honoured coupe tradition, you pay more but get less of most things. MINI doesn't skimp on safety equipment though and every Paceman gets twin front, side and full length curtain airbags. ISOFIX child seat attachments in the rear and a tyre pressure warning light are on every model.
Other standard equipment? Try air conditioning, powered door mirrors and front sports seats. Options include Xenon Adaptive Headlights, Park Distance Control, an electrically operated glass roof, plus the MINI navigation system. Advanced infotainment functions are available via MINI Connected. A range of optional equipment packages are also available. Eight exterior paint shades are on offer, including Brilliant Copper and Blazing Red. Starlight Blue is another shade you might like, also previously unseen and unique to the Paceman. As always with MINI, personalisation is sure to be very popular and there is an extensive choice of bonnet stripes, upholstery variants, interior surfaces and Colour Lines. Get a bit creative.
Cost of Ownership
Cost of ownership is a mixed proposition. The impressive residual figures should be taken with a dose of salt as they rarely factor in the option packs that most buyers choose. On any vehicle of this price, depreciation is always the big ticket item and the Paceman is no exception, but it should fare better than the class norm.
MINI has worked at improving the car's efficiency with a comprehensive raft of measures dubbed MINIMALISM and which include Brake Energy Generation, Auto Start/Stop, Shift Point Display, Electric Power Steering and demand-based ancillaries such as the alternator.
The result is some very good fuel economy and emissions figures. The 1.6-litre 122bhp unit returns fuel economy of 47.1mpg with CO2 emissions of 140g/km. The Cooper S Paceman doesn't fare much worse at 46.3mpg and 143g/km. Go for a Cooper D and you'll be looking at 64.2mpg fuel economy and 115g/km emissions, while the punchy Cooper SD still gets a respectable 61.4mpg with an emissions figure of 122g/km.
Most cars are easy to assess. The very concept of the MINI Paceman makes it less so. In fact, in some ways, it's a car that makes very little sense at all - which is probably exactly why many potential buyers will like it. In any case, MINI is used to carping critics. The brand, after all, took a lot of flak in offering the bigger Countryman model on which this car is based. Traditionalists moaned that it went against the whole philosophy of what MINI should be about but the sales figures have been very respectable indeed.
Will that be the case again with this Paceman? Well, it's much more of a niche proposition. Then there's the interesting marketing issue for MINI of explaining to buyers just why, in the Countryman, it has built a bigger car, then, in this Paceman, negated many of that design's practicality benefits by chopping it into a coupe.
But if any brand can do that, it's MINI. At least this car's different. And that's always a welcome thing.