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Most powerful, all-wheel drive diesel variant of Mini's distinctive new coupé offers more driver thrills than the Countryman on which it is based

The Mini Paceman is the result of someone at BMW looking at the tall-looking Mini Countryman and decided to turn it into a two-door coupé.

If you fancy one don't hang around as Mini has no intention of replacing it, as it is being phased out gradually.

Within the Mini Paceman range, the Cooper SD ALL4 exists in that sweet spot where acceptable economy and emissions meet strong performance

We have driven the front-wheel-drive 1.6-litre petrol and range-topping John Cooper Works guises, but our test subject on this occasion is the most powerful all-wheel-drive diesel version of Mini’s new coupé, which we’ve previously experienced in front-wheel-drive 1.6-litre petrol and range-topping John Cooper Works guises.

The concept of a three-door version of the Mini Countryman seems to contradict the big Mini's practical traits of extra space and family friendly versatility. However, with the Countryman accounting for one in every three Minis sold here, the BMW-owned brand is keen to capitalise on the growing market segment and turn the heads of prospective buyers of Nissan Jukes and Range Rover Evoques with a sleeker, more sporting take on its largest offering.

Mini says it is even targeting buyers of the three-door Volkswagen Golf or the Volkswagen Scirocco. The typical Paceman buyer, it reckons, will be looking for a sporty, distinctive car with more space than the regular Mini Hatch.

Mini Paceman 2013-2017 news

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Billed as a 'Sports Activity Coupé' by its creator, the Paceman is based on the same four-metre-long platform as the Countryman – giving it dimensions that make it 'Mini' in name only – but features Evoque-like tapered rear styling.

Like the Countryman before it, the Paceman's exterior styling will polarise opinion; two less doors, that sloping roofline and broad rear haunches give the car an aggressive stance that the Countryman lacks but, to our eyes, graceful it is not. Still, there is no doubting the fact that it is distinctive, which fulfils Mini’s mission statement of standing apart from the crowd.

This was our first experience of the Paceman on UK roads. This all-wheel-drive SD ALL4 is fitted with a 2.0-litre oilburner that produces 143bhp and 225lb ft and can cover 0-62mph in 9.2sec.

The engine offers a decent, torquey low-end response which both supplies the Paceman SD with a modest amount of sporting verve and plenty of flexibility to make it a good cruising tool, even if the unit's rasping monotone can become wearing on long trips. However, there are other engines available - in the petrol line-up there is a couple of 1.6-litre petrols - naturally aspirated and turbocharged variants, and two diesels - a 1.6 and 2.0-litre options.

As with other sporting Minis, the Paceman's been equipped with a quick and precise steering rack that enhances the coupe's lively characteristics, particularly on flowing, smooth roads where it feels much more taut and reactive than the more cumbersome Countryman.

The pay-off for the extra splash of dynamism is a ride that still feels very much on the firm side and gets uncomfortable and crashy over poor asphalt surfaces. This was the case even though our test car wasn't equipped with the lowered sports suspension that comes as standard; it is a no-cost option to leave the more dynamic suspension off the car’s set-up.

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The cabin boasts Mini's now-traditional blend of generous kit (which we will come onto later) and glitzy finishings, but the big news is in the rear, where the only seating option available is a pair of individually sculpted seats as opposed to a bench.

It makes the Paceman a strict four-seater, which could alienate some potential buyers who want the flexibility that comes with a more conventional bench.

On the upside, the sculpted seats do mean that rear passengers travel in comfort and with an adequate amount of head and legroom, despite the 4cm-lower roof compared to the Countryman. Boot space is 350 litres, similar to the Countryman’s, more than a Scirocco or a Juke, but less than a three-door Volkswagen Golf and much less than an Evoque Coupe.

The Paceman is fitted with Mini’s central storage rail that runs through the middle of the cabin and to which cup holders, a glasses case or mobile phone tray can be clipped. It’s an interesting alternative to myriad cubby holes.

As for standard equipment, there is three trims to choose from and endless options and packs to finish adorning it with. The entry-level Cooper and Cooper D models get DAB, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, rear parking sensors, air conditioning and LED fog lights as standard, while upgrading to the mid-range Cooper S and Cooper SD trim adds a dedicated sport mode and sports seats. Those wanting to have 215bhp under their right foot can choose the JCW version, which adds dynamic traction control, velour mats, a leather steering wheel, sports suspension and an aggressive bodykit.

Within the Mini Paceman range, the Cooper SD ALL4 exists in that sweet spot where acceptable economy and emissions meet strong performance.

The SD ALL4’s fuel economy of 57.6mpg is a strong point compared to equivalent petrol Pacemans, but prospective buyers with a keen eye on pump prices should think carefully about whether they really need four-wheel drive: opting for the two-wheel drive SD Paceman lops 75kg off the kerb weight of this version and improves the claimed economy to 61.4mpg.

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Overall, the Paceman adds up to a slightly confused package. It introduces a mild dollop of enjoyable driving pizzazz to the Countryman format, but sacrifices some its sibling's most practical attributes in the process and is more expensive to boot, coming in at £700 more than the equivalent Countryman.

The Paceman undercuts a three-door Evoque of similar power and specification by a significant margin, but is more expensive than an all-wheel-drive Juke.

Still, the Paceman is certainly not without merit and with Britain’s Countryman love affair showing little sign of abating it seemed like that Mini has another strong-selling model on its hands - shame it has proven too divisive.

Mini Paceman 2013-2017 First drives