First drive: Mini Paceman
Another winning formula or a step too far for the once single-car brand? AOL Cars jetted off to Spain to find out.> What is it?
Mini's seventh (yes, seventh) model, the Paceman. Slotting in at the top of the range, think of it as a Countryman with more elegant styling and sportier dynamics.
What's under the bonnet?
The same range of engines you'll find in the Countryman, effectively. We drove the two mid-range models: Cooper S, which comes with a 184bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine, and Cooper SD, which squeezes in a 2.0-litre diesel with 143bhp. Both are fine, but in a car the size and weight of the Paceman they have lost a teensy bit of their edge. 'Comfortably powerful' is how we'd describe them rather than all-out rapid. There's also the choice of standard Cooper and Cooper D – but we're yet to have a go in either – and perhaps more interestingly, a John Cooper Works version with 218bhp is on the way. If it was our money we'd be heading for the Cooper SD – it might be a bit gruff, but it pulls the Paceman around without too much fuss and gets reasonable MPG in the process.
What's the spec like?
Not all that bad. There's no 'One' or 'First' trim, and basic Cooper and Cooper D models get alloys, air conditioning, parking sensors, Bluetooth and DAB radio. Head for the S and SD models and you'll get sportier front and rear bumpers,17-inch alloys, a three-spoke leather steering wheel and 'dynamic traction control'. Also thrown in is a 'Sport' button, the consequences of pressing we're still yet to discover.
Not that we can think of, though Mini says it's targeting anyone from Nissan Juke to Range Rover Evoque drivers. Space inside is comparable to something like a Volkswagen Golf three-door, though the Paceman's boot is considerably smaller and it only seats four.
What's it like to drive?
We'll start with the positives. It drives very well, with direct steering, a nice gear change and tidy handling despite its high stance. The inside is – like every Mini – nicely put together, and full of the kookily designed bits and pieces that give the BMW sub brand its identity. We even like the way it looks (or rather most of the office does), particularly in the lovely deep blue most of the test cars were painted. As for the not-so-positives, it isn't cheap. At just under £19,000 for the basic Cooper it's actually more expensive than the already pricey Countryman – a move we really can't understand. That also makes it a good £4,000 dearer than the standard hatch, and even with more legroom that's a hard pill to swallow. Although Mini has worked hard to disguise its size and weight too, there's no denying the added bulk when you get behind the wheel. Even in Cooper S spec it's not quick, and when Mini are calling it a 'sporting coupe' that sort of thing matters.
The AOL Cars verdict
It's a funny one, the Paceman. We're strangely allured by the way it looks, but we'd find it very hard to justify the premium over the Countryman and Hatch. Don't get us wrong, for what is a coupe-cum-SUV it's a well assembled package that handles very tidily, but we'd rather spend the spare £4,000 on options for a hatch and put up with the small boot. Still, we can sort of understand the Paceman's appeal, and those who do take the plunge will have no complaints with the way it drives, if not how much it costs.
Model: Mini Paceman Cooper SD ALL4
Engine: 2.0-litre, turbo diesel
Power: 143bhp, 305Nm of torque
Max speed: 122mph 0-60: 9.3s
MPG: 57.6mpg (comb'd)
Emissions: 130g/km CO2