MINI’s new Paceman is the seventh addition to the MINI range and is the firm’s most peculiar model to date. The Mini Cooper S Paceman is a crossover coupe designed to blend the performance of the iconic Hardtop with the practicality of the Countryman. It’s a jack-of-all-trades MINI that offers nimble handling, a refined interior and ample cargo space along with a unique, unconventional look.
It shares its platform and a large portion of its design DNA with the Countryman but a loss of two doors and a given it a sporty appearance – it’s most distinctive feature being that of the rearward sloping roofline. MINI makes no pretence about practicality or
off-road ability. It may be based on the Countryman SUV, but MINI insists that the Paceman is, in fact, a SAC – a Sports Activity Coupe.
Inside the car, the Mini Cooper S Paceman is unmistakably MINI – funky buttons, colours and trimmings. The coupe is a proper four-seater and like it’s competitor the Range Rover Evoque offers plenty of comfort in the rear with a customisable centre console for cup holders and removable compartments. Its media system is navigated via a small joystick between the gear stick and the handbrake and features a solid sound system and in-built navigation. Unfortunately, the Bluetooth let the system down as we were unable to pair a single iPhone with it over the entirety of the weekend – very frustrating.
The Mini Cooper S Paceman uses the same 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder unit as the Cooper but is tuned to deliver a respectable 184bhp. It will sprint to 100kmph in 7.5 seconds and go on to reach a top speed of 135mph. The 1.6-litre engine is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox and shifting responses are almost instant and smooth.
The Paceman steers with the same sharpness as a regular Mini and, in the Cooper S petrol version we tried, has the same turbocharged pace and willingness to rev. The downside, thanks to its more slab-sided SUV form, is the inevitably greater feeling of weight transfer when you start pushing the pace. Cornering isn’t as natural as in a Mini hatchback, but it’s certainly one of the agiler small SUVs out on the market.
Normally the steering lacks feel, but prod the Sport button for a sharper throttle response and the wheel’s accompanying extra weight isn’t unwelcome like in other MINIs; it firms up more naturally, the only downside of Sport mode being an artificial collection of pops and bangs.
MINI’s Paceman is not a premium or hot compact, it’s a unique recreational vehicle. Look at the car this way and you’ll have fun in it.