What is it?
This is the coupé version of the popular Mini Countryman, and there’s a bit more to it than the simple deletion of a pair of doors. The need to retool most of the side panels of the Countryman to produce two fewer openings has provided the opportunity to create a car of slightly different character to the more practical Countryman, as no more than a glance at the finished thing — the car you see in these images is obviously disguised — reveals.
This is a much sportier-looking bigger Mini. Its tailgate is more raked, its rear quarter panels have swollen to lend its rear half some muscle, its new rear wraparound lamps are decidedly more shapely and its roof dips decisively rearwards. Imagine a shrunken three-door Evoque and you’ve captured much of the visual character of this car, although the bluff nose of the Countryman is retained at the front end. The result is pretty appealing, just as it is inside, where you’ll find stylishly individual bucket rear seats providing usefully more room than the smaller Mini hatch manages.
The Paceman sits on the same structure as the Countryman, of course, and shares the five-door’s wheelbase and track. Its roof, however, stands 4cm lower while losing occupants only 1cm of headroom, in part because it rides 1cm closer to terra firma. That’s consistent with this XL-scale three-door Mini’s mission, which is to deliver a sportier drive than the Countryman while providing more space than the standard hatch. Incidentally, it’s also 20kg lighter than the Countryman.
The dynamic recipe is predictable. Apart from the reduced centre of gravity stemming from its lower stance, the springs and shock absorbers have been retuned to suit its racier mission. Otherwise, this car will be familiar to a Countryman driver, save for the relocation of the electric window and central locking switches to the doors, where they’re more accessible (the same change is also destined for the five-door). BMW says it will be charging a premium of around £1200 over the Countryman for this more dashing bigger Mini, which seems a bit steep given the reduced door count, even if you do get more style.