The Paceman, priced from £18,970 to £29,535, joins the MINI range of the Hatch, Convertible, Clubman, Countryman, Coupe and Roadster models.
The additional versions of the MINI pushed the UK registrations up to an all-time record of 51,324 units last year out of a record global total of 301,526 sales. UK sales are already up again this year by 10%. The US is now MINI’s largest market with 66,123 sales last year, the UK is number two and Germany third with 37,000 sales in 2012. China is a fast growing market as well with over 23,000 sales last year.
Although the Oxford factory, where car production has taken place for 100 years, remains the ancestral home of MINI since the original British Mini was launched in 1959, as the family grows production is also taking place in other countries. The Countryman and Paceman models are built by Magna Steyr in Austria, other models will be produced in the former Mitsubishi/Volvo plant in Born, Holland and it is expected the next third generation MINI will also be built in China. The mark-3 MINI is due to see the first versions introduced at the end of this year. It is expected the new line-up will include the addition of a five-door Hatch which will be a big boost to global sales – hence the need for more production facilities in more countries.
But what is the Paceman all about? On the face-of-it it seems to be overkill of the MINI brand to have yet another version but ever-increasing global demand probably disproves that. MINI do not give sales predictions for new models but the Countryman, on which the Paceman is based, registered nearly 15,500 UK sales last year making it the best selling version after the iconic MINI Hatch. The Paceman is unlikely to reach that total because, although it is stylish with three doors and a coupe roofline, it is not as user-friendly as the five door Countryman. The three door Paceman costs around £940 more than the equivalent five door Countryman but over £4,000 more than the three door Hatch.
Paceman customers have the choice of a quartet of mainstream four-cylinder engines, two petrol and two diesels. All come with a six-speed manual gearbox or the optional six-speed automatic with Steptronic function for manual control. There is also the niche selling John Cooper Works high performance petrol variant and the price can be pushed up further with MINI offering their usual array of extra cost option packs and items of specification. Personalisation is an important feature of owning a MINI.
Customers choosing petrol units have the option of the Cooper 1.6-litre 122bhp unit offering a 0-62mph time of 10.4 seconds, fuel economy of 47.1mpg with CO2 emissions of 140g/km. The Cooper S Paceman uses the same engine but tuned to deliver 184bhp. It will sprint to 62mph in 7.5 seconds. Fuel economy is 46.3mpg and emissions are 143g/km. The John Cooper Works model uses a 1.6-litre 218bhp unit giving a top speed of 140mph and zero to 62mph takes 6.9 seconds. Fuel consumption is 38.2mpg with CO2 emissions of 174g/km.
For those who prefer diesel there is the Cooper D version which uses a 1.6-litre 112bhp turbocharged engine with a 0-62mph time of 10.8 seconds. It provides owners with a frugal 64.2mpg fuel economy and 115g/km emissions. The flagship diesel is the Cooper SD which gets a 2.0-litre 143bhp engine. Its 0-62mph time is 9.2 seconds. Fuel economy is 61.4mpg with an emissions figure of 122g/km.
For buyers who want the reassuring grip that comes with four-wheel drive, MINI’s ALL4 system is now available on the Cooper D and SD diesels and Cooper/Cooper S petrol models.
Although styled as a coupe interpretation of the bulbous and chunky Countryman, the Paceman has all the obvious design cues which tie it to the rest of the range but the three door body with its lowered roofline to the rear looks less of a MINI on steroids than the Countryman. It uses the same platform as the five door Countryman with the overall length ranging from 4,109mm to 4,115mm depending on the variant, almost identical to its five door sibling.
MINI says the Paceman has been created to appeal to a new type of design-conscious customer. It is certainly a case of design over functionality as three door coupes are never that easy to live with in terms of practicality of getting rear seat passengers in and out of the car and the wide opening front doors are a real pain when it comes to opening them fully in tightly packed car parking spaces. The Paceman only has two individual ‘lounge’ type seats in the rear as well and headroom for tall passengers in the rear is snug and legroom is tight. A two-section version of the MINI Centre Rail storage and attachment system – first seen in the Countryman – comes as standard. A full-length variant is available as an option.
Although a strict four-seater the Paceman does offer some practicality for load carrying as the two individual rear seats fold down but not fully flat expanding the 330-litre boot space up to 1,080-litres and loading access is via a relatively large, high opening tailgate.
In the front, the raised seating position gives the driver and passenger good vision to the front and sides although the lower coupe roof is a bit restrictive at the rear corners. The instruments and controls will be familiar to MINI fans including the signature large round central speedo. However its black surround and decorative inner rings in high-gloss black or chrome are new as are the redesigned air vent surrounds. Buttons for the windows, which have been fiddly toggle switches below the speedo on every BMW built MINI to date have thankfully been moved to the door trim panels.
The Paceman is not hard to visually identify it from other MINIs but it is the only member in the brand’s line-up to be identified by a rear nameplate. The latest model has its limitations with style ruling function but it looks a better balanced and svelte version than the ‘chubby’ Countryman. Who will buy? Youthful singles or couples and older young-at-hearts where the appeal of fashionable and designer brands extends to their transport. Of course the Paceman is a global vehicle so who buys in the UK might not be the same as who buys in other markets. The ALL4 versions will have appeal for customers who need 4x4 traction during Winter months and do not want a large SUV. The Paceman is unique in its offering but obvious premium brand competitors are the new Audi A3 for two wheel drive customers and the larger Range Rover Evoque three door coupe for those wanting a 4x4.
My test model was the MINI Cooper SD ALL4 Paceman manual priced at £24,290 and the automatic gearbox option will add £1,320 to that price. The Euro 2.0-litre, Euro 6 engine, with 143bhp and 225lb ft of torque is not as refined or as quiet as some other modern turbodiesel units. The 4x4 system does sap some of this power and the long-legged gearing needed for low-ish emissions does inhibit mid-range sporty acceleration and responsiveness. Top speed is a modest 122mph and zero to 62mph takes 9.3 seconds. Officially this version will return 57.6mpg but my test drive week covering all types of roads and traffic conditions returned only 43.9mpg, not impressive for a car of this size.
This road test has been all about the Paceman’s design more than its performance because technically it doesn’t bring anything new to the ever expanding MINI range. The go-kart handling remains but like the Countryman, especially the ALL4 versions, the ride quality and refinement is not as good as other MINI models. It is more practical than the Hatch but not as much as the five door Countryman. However for me it is the most stylish model in the MINI range.
MILESTONES. MINI Cooper SD ALL4 Paceman manual. Price: £24,290. Engine/transmission: 2.0-litre, four cylinder, Euro 6, turbodiesel, 143bhp, 225lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm, 6-speed manual. Performance: 122mph, 0-62mph 9.3 seconds, 57.6mpg (43.9mpg on test), CO2 130g/km, VED road tax £0 First Year rate then £105 for the second year onwards, BIK company car tax 20%. Insurance group: 19E. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,115mm, W 1,996mm, H 1,522mm, boot/load space 330 to 1,080-litres, three doors, four seats. For: Racy styling, more rear seat legroom and boot space than a MINI Hatch, all wheel drive option for those who need more motoring grip. Against: Expensive for what it is, lacks mid-range pace and engine response, fidgety ride, road noise intrusion, easier rear seat access than a MINI Hatch but with less headroom, real-life fuel economy not great, no spare wheel.
By Miles Better News Agency