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.
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 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.