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.
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.