Nic Cackett
10 November 2012

What is it?

The production version of the Mini Paceman - the three-door offspring of the Countryman we’ve only previously driven in development form. Dubbed, optimistically, a Sports Activity Coupé, BMW insists this is the car to bridge the gap between its family-focused crossover and the now ageing hatchback.

A new design has been penned around the deletion of the Countryman’s rear doors, which necessitates a retooled rear end, including a lowered roof line and altered tailgate. The subtraction continues inside where the standard rear bench has been replaced by Mini’s individual rear seats (formerly an option on the five-door).

Despite sharing all of its running gear with the Countryman, the Paceman’s racier brief means it gets Mini’s sports suspension, dropping the car a further 10mm closer to terra firma. The engines and transmissions are all direct carryovers: the familiar 1.6-litre petrol unit comes in both 121bhp Cooper guise and 181bhp Cooper S format (driven here). 

First drive review: Mini John Cooper Works GP

Similarly, the diesel options are split between the 110bhp 1.6-litre Cooper D and the 141bhp 2.0-litre Cooper SD. Every powerplant (with the exception of the entry-level Cooper) can be mated to Mini’s ALL4 four-wheel-drive system for a premium, although front-wheel-drive variants will form the bulk of sales.

What is it like?

Muddled, as perhaps, it was always destined to be. Welding shut the rear doors is the oldest trick in the manufacturing playbook, but rendering a sportier vibe from a lumpy crossover is considerably more difficult than doing so from a saloon or hatchback. It is this first hurdle which the Paceman doesn’t so much fall at, but ruinously head butt.

Raking the roof line and retooling the tailgate of the Countryman make theoretical sense, but the real-life result is as genetically confused as a germinating tumor. There’s none of the elegant collusion that makes three-door SUV’s such as the Evoque look desirable; instead BMW has seemingly resorted to pulling the high-rise skin taut over an already misconstrued skeleton.

Conventionally, such a subjective appraisal would be beneath us, but so shallow is the Paceman’s appeal that without a stylistic trump card to play, its rationale flounders. It’s obviously less practical to get in and out of than the Countryman, there’s less rear headroom thanks to the new roofline, fewer seats to fill (which don’t even begin to fold flat) and it all comes with a higher price tag.

It’s regrettable, because dynamically, the Paceman - admittedly driven in Mallorca - comes across as a slim improvement on its SUV sibling - and probably not in the way you might expect. Despite unnecessarily bearing a firmer suspension, the car (somewhat inexplicably) accommodates battered roads slightly better than the notoriously wayward Countryman; there’s far less jarring, even with the springs pre-loaded under cornering.

This makes the Mini SUV far less wearing to drive, and its marginally tighter body control allows familiar liberties to be taken with the still very quick steering rack. Teamed in this instance with the more powerful petrol engine, this makes slice-and-dice suburban driving an appropriate cinch and (despite a whining, insistence sonic presence in sixth on a motorway) an acceptable companion beyond.

Should I buy one?

The only reason to seriously consider it is if you ‘get’ the stylistic revision in a way we don’t.

Despite a slightly more agreeable behind-the-wheel experience (yet to be played out or confirmed on British roads) the Paceman still feels like a car where you’re being asked to pay considerably more for less. 

If you’re insistent on owning a four-metre-long Mini SUV, we’d recommend you continue to opt for the one with five-doors and a whole heft more sense.

Mini Cooper S Paceman

Price £22,355; 0-62mph 7.5sec; Top speed 134mph; Economy 46mpg; CO2 143g/km; Kerb weight 1380kg; Engine four-cylinder, 1598cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 181bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 192lb ft at 1700-4500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

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Comments
29

Utterly pointless but you

1 year 49 weeks ago

Utterly pointless but you watch it sell to the clueless!

Ordinarily Nic, your writing comes across as somewhat too flouncy for this magazine but in this case, your comments "as genetically confused as a germinating tumor" is pure genius and sums this car up perfectly.  

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

If Road tax were based on

1 year 49 weeks ago

If Road tax were based on looks this would be a band M car. Seems a much better way than CO2 to me.

I dont like the car, the principal, or the looks, although i am not sure why Autocar are giving it such a hard time. Is it really that far removed from the Evoque?

Anyway hopefully the public will vote with their wallets and we wont see many of these. 

Decision already made

1 year 49 weeks ago

autocar wrote:

...Conventionally, such a subjective appraisal would be beneath us, but so shallow is the Paceman’s appeal that without a stylistic trump card to play, its rationale flounders...

In other words, we (Autocar) had already made up our minds we hated the car conceptually, even before we tested it, so it doesn't matter how good or not it actually is.

 

autocar wrote:

...the Paceman still feels like a car where you’re being asked to pay considerably more for less

That applies to the Evoque too, but of course being a JLR car.....

Quote: Is it really that far

1 year 49 weeks ago

Quote:

Is it really that far removed from the Evoque?

Well at least the evoque is pleasant enough to look at, the countryman is one of the ugliest cars on the road today and I imagine that the paceman isn't that far off.

 

Why insist on judging a car

1 year 49 weeks ago

Why insist on judging a car by it looks? Some people will like it and some won't, is subjective and shouldn't be a part of the car's score.

Some people might find the GT86 ugly beyond belief, does it make it less of a "driver's car"? of course not. So why make it such a big issue here?

Road tests should be about the objective, let the buyer decide about the design by himself, as his opinion of it is as good as yours.

Anybody else think this would

1 year 49 weeks ago

Anybody else think this would actually make a great Scirocco rival if they dropped any pretense of it being an SUV and retuned it to a normal ride height. I actually think its rather good looking, unfortunately I would feel like a total berk driving one. I love the ordinary Mini and the Clubman but I feel these are just a little confused. I don't mind the idea of a larger Mini - after all its just a brand now - and the Countryman works for me, but the back is hideous.

same here

1 year 49 weeks ago

I think it looks great as well. IMO, a damn sight prettier than the Evoque. The Toyota Gt86 can be the best car in the world but I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole. Its hideous. As was rightly mentioned , styling is subjective. Leave it out of the articles Autocar. We can make up our own minds if we like the looks or not.

Hmm...

1 year 49 weeks ago

Okay, i cannot disagree, the styling doesn't do anything for me. And, whilst i freely admit that i'm a true MINI enthusiast, there are some models that just don't work for me. However, this car will do well. Particularly in America, North (especially), China and also in Europe itself. It won't underperform, nor will it fall foul of widespread discounting and will increasingly create a niche market, that is still if at all, in its embroynic state. Look at it another way. How many people back in late 2000 when the last classic Mini rolled off the production line  where asked by to stump up £100, maybe £1000 to invest in new mini. How many would have done? and indeed what would there investment be worth today? Well, significantly more then these respective figures. Significantly, with no sign of abating. The MINI brand has a long way to go still and performs an important function because there is no really (apples v's apples) substitute vehicle, and as a stepping stone to other vehicles within the BMW Brand. Today, manufacterers worry is not whether they sell enough vehicles. There worries are, is there any unnecessary duplicity in our model line ups (and that of our competitors), is supply matched to demand, and if the worst comes to the worst, our we giving our competitors a golden hello, in the form of a takeover/merger situation, or indeed could we utilise/asset strip/eliminate a competitor through a takeover/merger. They bought and paid for it dearly with Rover in the late 90's, so thus understand the premium segment better then any, and so appreciate the need to carve out new sectors/segments and continual reinvention as opposed to being a late entrant to the market. The former is significantly more cheaper and richer yielding then the latter and serves to reinforce a much stronger competitive position. MINI, Wolseley, Riley etc, etc stil have a long way to go.

Actually...

1 year 49 weeks ago

I DO find the GT86 'aesthetically challenged'! Not ugly but certainly plain. The rear half looks particularly dated. Whereas so many new cars are a triumph of (over)styling over function, including the Paceman of course. 

I disagree with those

1 year 49 weeks ago

I disagree with those complaining about "judgment".  The article says objectively there is no justification for buying the Paceman rather than the Countryman, let alone paying more for it, unless you particularly like the style.  Having made that point, it is entirely acceptable for the writer to give his own personal view on the styling, with which you are free to agree or disagree.

Other writers have, for example, explained the difference between the "clinical" 12C and the  "emotional" 458, and gone on to state their preference.  Was that wrong?  No.  Etc etc.

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