MINI Paceman

Three-door SUV that drives like a sporty hatchback

6.6
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 10 reviews
  • Premium interior
  • Excellent engines
  • Drives well
  • Only four seats
  • Expensive
  • Harsh ride
 

£19,215 - £33,575 Price range

 

4 Seats

 

36 - 67 MPG

Review

Mini’s Paceman is a Countryman for those for whom five doors are just too many. It’s also a bit sportier than the Countryman – Mini calls it a “Sports Activity Coupe” – with a Range Rover Evoque-style roofline and more dynamic chassis settings. This particular model was facelifted in 2014 alongside the Countryman and the new generation of Mini hatch, but you wouldn’t know to look at it.

Reviews are rather mixed though. Some appreciate its fun factor and improved styling over the Countryman, but others think it’s a little too compromised in areas you’d expect it to excel. Diehard Mini fans will lap it up either way.

Unlike the Countryman which offers rear seating options, the Paceman is a strict four-seater with two individual rear seats. It means they’re comfortable for the two passengers (and the wide doors provide good access), while head and legroom are adequate in the back but not as good as the Countryman. Some people may miss the utility of an extra chair, many won’t.

The 350 litre boot is more than some coupe rivals but less than most hatchbacks. Still, the car also totes a central storage rail that can be packed full of compartments. The rest of the interior is typical Mini, with a large centrally mounted speedometer and plenty of retro touches – a little disappointingly because the Mini hatch has now taken a step away from the backwards-looking quirkiness that the Paceman holds on to.

It isn’t as sporty as some testers hoped, though – the driving position is quite high and the gearlever mounted low – it feels more SUV than it does coupe.

Impressions are mixed on the way the Paceman drives. The steering is quick and precise, like all modern Minis, but some feel it’s over sensitive for a car this tall – as if Mini has sought to artificially mimic the steering feel of the hatchbacks in this slightly less appropriate setting. Still, it’s nimble and agile considering that it’s five feet tall.

The ride quality is really very firm indeed – on the nutter-spec John Cooper Works with larger wheels and stiffer suspension some feel it pushes too far over the line in the sand to become uncomfortable even on smoothest roads. This improved slightly with the 2014 facelift, but don’t expect anything less than a raw time on less homogenous tarmac.

The Mini Paceman engine choice is between three flavours of 1.6 petrol, a 1.6 diesel and a 2.0 diesel. These are trim specific, with the 120hp petrol in the Cooper, 110hp diesel in the Cooper D, a 188hp petrol turbo in the Cooper S, the 141hp diesel in the Cooper SD and the 215hp petrol turbo John Cooper Works. All can be combined with an automatic gearbox, the ALL4 four wheel drive system or both, except the JCW which is only available with four wheel drive.

All are pretty good engines with even the diesels offering some level of sporty character. They can get a bit noisy sometimes though, but are at least economical with both versions netting over 60mpg in basic form. The Cooper S turbocharged four-cylinder is particularly well thought of and the further uprated version in the John Cooper Works even more so, but some expected more performance for the money.

Beware that specifying the ALL4 and/or auto gearbox will seriously harm your fuel economy though. While the Cooper D sits in VED (road tax) band C, the ALL4 version is in band D, the auto model is in band F and the ALL4 auto is in band G. That’s a difference of £145 a year in road tax.

The 1.6-litre turbocharged engine found in the MINI Paceman Cooper S can be found just about everywhere - other MINIs, Peugeots, Citroens, and it's a cracking engine in any application. Here it develops 182 bhp and 177 lb ft of torque, for a 7.5-second 0-62 mph time and a top speed of 135 mph.

That's not bad at all for a slightly weighty and fairly brick-like car like the Paceman, and in general the engine goes down well with the critics. All enjoy its raspy exhaust note and good responses, as well as the pops and crackles on the overrun in Sport mode.

It's possibly best summed up by one reviewer in particular, who calls it a "gem".

The MINI Cooper SD's 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine serves up 143 bhp and 225 lb ft of torque, which affords it fairly decent performance for such a blunt instrument - 62 mph arrives in 9.2 seconds. Testers appreciate the engine's torquey low-end response and suggest that it's a pretty good cruising tool. It's economical too, at 61.4 mpg combined.

This drops to 57.6 mpg if you go for the ALL4 all-wheel drive option, which isn't too bad a hit if you need the extra traction. Some find the engine a little noisy but it settles down at speed. When you're pressing on, you might even find the "modest amount of sporting verve" that one tester notes.

These are general, non-engine specific reviews of the MINI Paceman
The 215 bhp, 206 lb ft engine found in the John Cooper Works (JCW) is essentially an uprated version of that found in the regular Cooper S. That means it shares all the Cooper S benefits such as a nice exhaust note and responsive throttle, but adds a little extra in terms of performance. For the record, that's 6.9 seconds to 62 mph, and a top-whack of 140 mph. With the ALL4 four-wheel drive system, it offers great all-weather traction and stability.

It's not all great news though. One reviewer says it never feels genuinely rapid, even with the sport button pressed. And the JCW is also hugely expensive for what it is and the performance it puts out - at £29,535, it comes very close to the price of a proper sporting hatchback like the 320 bhp BMW M135i.

The Paceman is another example of an untested derivative, so safety information has to be inferred from the parent car. In this case it’s the Mini Countryman and this makes for a reasonably stress-free read.

While not excelling in any category, the Countryman returns safety scores that won’t make you flinch in the slightest, netting 80%+ for occupant safety, 63% for pedestrian safety and 71% for safety assists. That’s an overall five-star score and you should have no real concerns here.

There are two sides to the value coin. The Paceman is a high-quality product and there’s plenty of kit on offer. Fuel economy is good (if you stick with front wheel drive and choosing your own gears) and Minis hold their value very well indeed.

However, it’s a status symbol of sorts and this makes it very expensive indeed. It’s cheaper than some of the other luxury SUV offerings around, but it’s more expensive than Mini’s own Countryman and significantly more than a whole host of other small crossovers – at a £19k start price you could buy the mother of all Nissan Jukes, for example. The John Cooper Works is, at £30k, far too expensive.

Conclusion

The Mini Paceman is a car of mixed talents. It retains Mini values, with a good interior and a relatively high purchase price, but it’s the antithesis of a bulky crossover as it feels sporty to drive but isn’t that practical for families.

Unlike the Countryman, we’d struggle to say who exactly this car is for though – it’s yet another Mini niche product which objectively doesn’t make much sense – and that makes it extremely difficult to recommend even before addressing its shortcomings. Still, that hasn’t prevented the brand’s fans from buying cars in droves before and it’s unlikely to stop them now.