Dear Mini, surely it’s not possible to bend the common parts of the original hatchback into yet another derivative? Are there not enough versions for every activity? Apparently not. Enter the Paceman – think 3-door Coupe version of the hefty SAV Countryman.
I can see this on the school run, just as I see it parked next to a Range Rover on a London drive. The styling department has been very busy – hold that chrome-ringed overtime cheque though. No question, it has the BMW finish, the car feels high-end and very chunky and solid; certainly it should stand up to some use and abuse.
With two engines at launch, first to sample was the 2.0 litre Cooper S diesel with 143bhp. The diesel engine weighs more than the petrol and that was evident in the succession of climbs and zigzag hairpin bends we dealt with in blustery Bilbao. Engine-pull was adequate but not eager; also, there was a fair bit of body roll and the seats lacked the side-support needed to hold us comfortably. We in the UK are not blessed with Spanish-smooth roads and when we did hit some unbroken tarmac up in the hills, you realise just how firm the car is.
Let’s move on to the 1.6 litre 181bhp Cooper S petrol and suddenly it’s a different beast. This petrol engine provides a way more spirited drive and engine note, particularly with a touch of the Sport button. It’s much more agile and responsive, and the whole package comes together better than I had imagined it would. Of course, the diesel will be better on the pocket. Later this year, we’ll see the John Cooper Works model arrive with 218bhp and a £33,000 price tag.
MINI offer their ALL4 four wheel drive system with the diesel engines and the Cooper S. Also, the Harman Kardon sound system that was fitted in the Cooper S was superb and worth the investment.
So, is there a point to this Paceman? If you have family to carry, you’d go Countryman (it’s slightly cheaper too). The point of the car is really up to you – if it fills the gap in your transport stable, the Cooper S will reward you in many ways and is certainly the pick of the crop so far.
Prices from £18,970.