From £23,7806
The most powerful version of Mini's facelifted Paceman is a decent driver's car but not the premium experience we'd expect
5 July 2014

What is it?

The fastest, most powerful and, by some margin, most expensive model in the newly facelifted Mini Paceman line-up  – the John Cooper Works Pacemen All4.

Planned to go on sale in the UK alongside other more affordable facelifted Countryman and Paceman models this month, the £29,440 John Cooper Works Paceman aims to provide competition to a growing number of performance-orientated crossover-style vehicles. Included among its rivals are the Audi Q3 2.0 TFSI and recently introduced Mercedes-Benz GLA250 Sport.

As we said when it was unveiled at the Beijing motor show back in April, there is precious little to differentiate this facelifted model from the original John Cooper Works Paceman.

Among the subtle visual changes is a lightly altered grille that now includes a red horizontal rib, and newly styled 18-inch alloy wheels. Buyers can also opt for an optional LED function for the daytime running lights and foglights, but that is about the extent of what really is a very minor mid-life makeover for the extravagantly styled three-door.

Earlier suggestions that the facelifted Paceman would adopt the same much-improved interior as the latest hatchback have proven unfounded. Somewhat disappointingly, it retains the same retro-inspired interior as before, albeit with added sound deadening material aimed at reducing road noise.

As with its styling, the reworked JCW Paceman All4 retains a largely unaltered mechanical package. Mounted transversely in the blunt nose is Mini’s familiar turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. It produces the same 215bhp and nominal 206lb ft as before, giving it 28bhp and 29lb ft more than the Cooper S Paceman All4, which uses the same engine in a milder state of tune.

Drive is channelled through either a standard six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic gearbox via a multi-plate clutch four-wheel drive system which can send up to 100 per cent of the drive to either the front or rear wheels to enhance traction. There is also a standard electronic differential lock to ensure those reserves are placed to the road with minimal fuss.

What's it like?

Predictably, little has changed in the John Cooper Works Paceman All4’s on-road characteristics. It is a pleasingly nimble car with an agreeably eager nature, making it genuinely engaging and fun to drive on more challenging roads.

The electro-mechanical steering is quite direct in the first few degrees away from the straight-ahead position but it progressively becomes less so as lock is applied, meaning you sometimes need a second stab to get the Paceman to turn in to corners.

Despite its generous ride height and relatively tall (by Mini standards) overall height, body control is exemplary. There is some lean as you fire it through tighter corners but the movement is progressive and wonderfully controlled.

With a combination of four-wheel drive and an electronic differential, the new Mini manages to carry a good deal of speed into tight corners without any premature breakaway. Indeed, grip levels are very high and there's strong traction on corner exits.

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Ride quality is also quite impressive – the best of any John Cooper Works model by far. There is sufficient compliance and wheel travel to see the John Cooper Works Paceman soak up potholes and broken sections of asphalt with a good deal of authority, although transverse ridges and larger ruts sometimes send a shudder through the steel body structure.

So it is an entertaining drive. But with 1400kg to haul, the new Mini never feels particularly fast. A sport button, somewhat awkwardly placed low down in front of the gearlever, allows you to call up a more aggressive throttle map. However, it fails to imbue the JCW Paceman All4 with the sort of accelerative ability or in-gear urgency its name suggests, even if it does emit an entertaining crackle on the over-run.  

Official performance figures point to a 0-62mph time of 6.8sec and 50-75mph fifth gear split of 7.6sec. It is peppy, but it lacks the sheer pace of keener rivals. By comparison, the Cooper S Paceman ALL4 possesses respective times of 7.6sec and 9.1sec.

A bigger disappointment are the new Mini’s cruising qualities. There is an annoying drone from the turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine’s exhaust in taller gears at typical motorway speeds. Even worse is the excessive tyre roar, even on relatively smooth roads, and all this despite claims by Mini that added sound deadening material has improved overall refinement levels. There is also a good deal of wind buffeting around the A-pillars at speed.

Should I buy one?

From an enthusiasts’ point of view, there's quite a bit to like about the John Cooper Works Paceman All4. It is a genuinely engaging car to drive, with impressive grip, great traction, tenacious handling and a surprisingly good ride.

But at £29,440, it really should offer more. Its engine is eager in nature, but the hard-working four-cylinder unit ultimately fails to provide the bullish-looking three-door hatchback with the sort of performance its illustrious name suggests it should. We also have reservations about its suitability as a long-distance proposition. Tyre roar, even on the smooth Danish roads on which we drove, proved excessive, making it a chore at motorway speeds.

Smart buyers will choose the Cooper S Paceman All4 and pocket the £7090 difference.   

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Mini JCW Paceman All4

Price £29,440 0-62mph 6.8sec Top speed 131mph Economy 41.5mpg CO2 165g/km Kerb weight 1400kg Engine 4 cyls in line, 1598cc, turbocharged, petrol Installation Front, transverse, FWD Power 215bhp at 6000rpm Torque 206lb ft at 1900rpm (221lb ft at 2100rpm overboost) Gearbox 6-spd manual

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Comments
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TS7 6 July 2014

Managed to spec one to...

... £40,135 just now.

simon955 wrote:

30k what a joke and then the options list?????

However, reading about this pile of cack has at least reminded me of Sniff Petrol's brilliant test from last year:

sniffpetrol.com/2013/05/03/a-week-with-a-mini-paceman/

Flatus senex 6 July 2014

Whatever its dynamic qualities may be, it is gross to behold

Whoever is responsible for "signing off" the external appearance of Minis and small BMWs needs either a trip to Specsavers or another occupation.
simon955 2 July 2014

LOL

30k what a joke and then the options list?????

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