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Distinctive coupé-SUV offers more driver thrills than the Countryman on which it's based - and it's rarer too

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You might be surprised to learn that it wasn’t in fact people running away screaming from dealerships after seeing the Mini Paceman that brought about its premature end.

Instead, it was something as boring as BMW Group bosses believing the SUV was positioned too similarly to the Mini Countryman on which it was based.

In hindsight, it seems the Paceman wasn’t cannibalising too many sales: a leading website currently lists around 200 for sale yet 800 Countrymans of the same age. Well, it did have only three doors and four seats.

Is the Paceman really an SUV, then, or is it actually a big hatchback or even, dare we suggest, a coupé? Really, it’s all three: Mini stated that it had the Volkswagen Golf and Volkswagen Scirocco in its crosshairs as well as the Range Rover Evoque. This ‘car for all reasons’ aspect was probably why sales limped along. It didn’t help, either, that the Paceman was around £1000 more expensive than the Countryman – a situation that has reversed on the used market.

You might be wondering why we’re covering this car at all. Well, six years since it was dropped, its quirkiness and scarcity look like attributes to us. Add its sporty handling (blunted a bit by its height and bulk), lower prices, strong engine range and optional four-wheel drive and – who knows? – in years to come, the Paceman may be regarded as a modern classic.

It sat on the same platform as the Countryman but with lowered sports suspension (check carefully, though, as standard suspension was an option). It had cool pumped-up rear haunches. And it had a lower roof yet, thanks to sculpted seats, just 10mm less head room in the rear. Its boot wasn’t much smaller, either, at a still-spacious 330 litres, or 1080 litres when the rear seats were folded away.

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The Paceman’s engine range was a familiar mix of 1.6-litre four-pot petrols (atmo in the Cooper model, turbocharged in the Cooper S and John Cooper Works) and 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre four-pot turbo diesels (in the Cooper D and Cooper SD).

As diesel is now considered the spawn of the devil (in any case, Pacemans up to and including 2015 are Euro 5 and therefore fall foul of the London ULEZ), we would have to recommend one of the petrols.

The Paceman is a heavy car, so our vote goes to the 181bhp Cooper S. Save the all-out JCW experience for the hatchback.

We’ve dissed the diesels, but on second thoughts, with 141bhp and 225lb ft, the post-2015 Cooper SD offers a good balance of power and economy plus London ULEZ access.

A six-speed manual gearbox and an optional automatic were offered with most engines, while all were optionally available with All4 four-wheel drive. This made for a very grippy car on all surfaces but added weight, complexity and the potential for higher repair costs.

Trim levels were pretty much tied to engines. Choose Cooper S or SD and you get a Sport driving mode and sports seats in addition to the regular car’s DAB radio, rear parking sensors and LED foglights. So go on, be controversial…

Mini Paceman (2013-2017) common problems

Engine and gearbox:

Look for multiple oil leaks and listen for a rattly timing chain from cold. Failures have been blamed on routinely low oil levels and chain stretch. On petrols, the variable valve timing system thrives on regular oil changes. Any shunting from a start could point to loose or broken engine mounts. On low-mileage diesels, poor low-speed running may be due to a coked-up EGR valve.

Transmission:

Check for clutch slip and, in an All4 car, the biting point. A new centre clutch and dual-mass flywheel cost at least £3000 fitted. Also on an All4, be sure wear is even across all four tyres, since differences can stress the transfer box. In an automatic, scroll through the gears using the paddles, checking for quick and shunt-free shifts.

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Suspension and wheels:

A fresh MOT should weed out any serious suspension wear and looseness. Wishbone bushes have a particularly hard time. Check for signs of alloy-wheel corrosion.

Brakes:

The Paceman is a heavy car, so unless they’ve been changed, expect the discs and pads to be heavily lipped and worn, especially in an automatic.

Interior:

The firm suspension can loosen trim and cause all sorts of hard-to-trace rattles, so drive the car on a particularly bumpy test route to be sure you can tolerate them. Check the front seats tip, slide and rise. Feel for damp carpets and water ingress caused by blocked windscreen scuttle channels and failing tailgate seals.

Body:

Make sure the faux-chrome body strips aren’t peeling and that those rear haunches are free from marks.

Also worth knowing:

The All4 four-wheel drive system that was an option on the Paceman is an interesting piece of kit. From a start, it distributes power evenly to the front and rear axles before, assuming that conditions allow, progressively feeding it exclusively to the front wheels using a multi-plate wet clutch.

This means that by, say, 60mph, the power distribution is 60:40 front to rear but by 80mph the rear wheels are completely disengaged. The clutch is made of strong stuff, able to send up to 300lb ft of torque to the rear wheels – much more than any of the Paceman’s engines generate.

The system doesn’t make the car a full off-roader (it’s too low for that), but it does make it much safer in all conditions.

Mini Paceman 2013-2017 First drives