site search by freefind
MotorBar: 1200+ unique in-depth car reviews. Plus travel & destinations, and 1000 DVD and CD reviews. Online for 14 years. Written by experts.
MINI Paceman Cooper S

Click to view picture gallery“Some like it hot… and if it’s ‘hot’
  you want, a Cooper S MINI can always
  be relied upon. But which one?
  With eight MINI models to choose
  from, fans of hot are spoilt for
  choice. With an evocative, hint-of-
  racetrack name, three doors and
  four individual sporty seats, the new
  MINI Paceman could be the one...


IF YOU WANT TO NAIL the Paceman down within the MINI line-up, you could just say that it's a three-door Countryman. But if the only nailing down on your mind is nailing the throttle, there's 184 eager horses just waiting for your loving attention under the Paceman's clamshell bonnet.

Back, briefly, to its Countryman lineage: the Paceman and the Countryman share the same frontal styling, the same floorpan, wheelbase, underpinnings and even the same core cabin architecture it's no coincidence that they share the same production line at MINI's Graz plant in Austria as opposed to being born in the UK at Oxford.

“Volvo famously used to
define the average family
as being comprised of
two adults and 2.4
children (and a dog!).
Such families can cross
a Paceman off their list
because the Paceman
seats exactly four (sorry,
no decimal places).
..”
After that they physically go their own separate ways: the Paceman's roof is lower than that of the Countryman; it rides lower; and its 330-litre boot is shy but only by 20 litres of the Countryman's tally.

After that the Paceman's stand-out feature is its rakish, coupe-esque roofline. Horizontal wraparound rear light units (not seen before on a MINI) and pronounced wheelarches complete the geared-up look. For those who need labels, it's easily ID'd by 'PACEMAN' spelt out in chrome letters across the rear hatch.

Volvo famously used to define the average family as being comprised of two adults and 2.4 children (and a dog!). Such families can cross a Paceman off their list because the Paceman seats exactly four (sorry, no decimal places). That noted, four's a practical number despite the sloping roofline, even the Paceman's northernmost pair of passengers enjoy reasonable headroom.

Getting in the rear cabin (and getting out again) is no problem thanks to the long-ish doors. And when you get there you don't have to share your seat with anyone both individual chairs are well upholstered and made to make long journeys more than acceptable. You can, if you like, fit lifestyle 'barriers' between your rear passengers such as clip-in cup-holders, sunglass cases and phone holders. Any average-sized passenger travelling behind another will be more than happy with their personal space.

Those in front will face-off against the instantly recognisable and idiosyncratic MINI controls and dials in other words a centrally-mounted, dinner plate-sized speedo. The good news is that the Paceman's cabin is now easier to live with: for example, switches for the power windows are now on the door where you'd expect to find them; and the infotainment screen visually 'softens' the oversized speedo and makes it far less intrusive than in lesser-specced MINIs.

Not that you need it: the 'S' has a digital speed read-out in the rev-counter sited dead ahead of the driver something we always use in preference to an analogue speedo because in today's cash cow speed camera culture it provides the driver with an instant and absolutely accurate mph figure. For those who like to keep an eye on economy (or who can't judge a gearchange call by the revs) there's a gear change prompt.

For the record, the Paceman we drove seemed 'better' all round. Hard to pin down, but everything from the seats to the driving position to the build quality was tangibly better than on the last MINI we tested. And the Paceman is comfortable not just behind the wheel but to the driver's left and in the rear cabin.

“The Paceman we drove
seemed ‘better’ all round.
Hard to pin down, but
everything from the seats
to the driving position to
the build quality was
tangibly better than on
the last MINI we tested.
..”
The Paceman starts at £18,975 but to go 'hot' (turboed Cooper S) you'll need to fork out £22,360. Naturally you don't have to stop there the personalisation list is as long as the proverbial arm with several value multi-kit 'packs' along with SatNav, voice control, Bluetooth, Harman Kardon hi-fi, heated leather seats, etc, etc, etc.

Give in to temptation and you could easily raid your piggy bank to the tune of £29,545 the sticker price of a king of the hill John Cooper Works ALL4 Paceman. Shell out that much and you might experience the fleeting thought that £26K could buy you a quicker (0-62 in 6.5, 152mph) three-door Golf GTI… But are we bovvered? Nah!

Buying into the Paceman brings you more inner space than a standard MINI hatch without going the whole nine yards of a Countryman. At 330 litres, the Paceman's boot is a decent size for a coupé plus there's a handy false floor with room for all those odds and ends that drivers seem to have to cart around in their cars these days. If you're not using the rear seats, there's a versatile 1,080 litres for cargo.

While the Countryman is, space-wise, the most practical model in the MINI line-up, the Paceman, despite the Evoque-like coupe-ish roof, still offers plenty of room inside: it's a genuine family car, having decent room for growing families as well as being seriously good when asked to cover long distances (clear views out are another 'plus' that make long four-up journeys enjoyable for those not doing the driving).

As we said at the beginning, nailing the throttle confirms the Cooper S Paceman's 'hottie' standing. In residence under the bonnet is MINI's easy-revving, turboed 1,598cc four-pot that puts out 184bhp and 177lb ft from 1,600-5,000rpm all that's necessary to punch the Paceman off the blocks with verve. Chase the redline if you like (and you will like!) but honestly, you don't have to because changing up earlier through the torquey rev-band that's got the midrange well covered still serves up satisfyingly brisk progress.

And it comes with a sporty soundtrack too especially if you press the Sport button, which gets you plenty of snap, crackle and pop on the over-run. Don't lift off and work the easy-shifting 'box and instead of grin-inducing sounds you'll get GO-GO-GO: 0-62mph is run in 7.5 seconds and it maxes out at 135mph.

“If you haven’t asked yet
then Yes, you can get
a four-wheel drive
Paceman but to be frank
the standard front-wheel
drive version, driving
through a manual six-
speed ’box, is a sure
thing if ‘sporty’ is as you
like it.
..”
Officially the Paceman plays a good hand in the economy game: 46.3mpg combined (37.7 urban; 52.3mpg extra-urban). A week's driving by MotorBar's testers saw a best of 38.7mpg blame Sport mode and the eager-to-play character of the Cooper S lump, and the fact that we didn't take any help from the stop-start system.

The standard-fit sports suspension and distinctive black 18-inch alloys wrapped in lo-pro rubber combo brings with it a firm but not harsh ride allied to good body control and enjoyably exploitable road manners. For those who get a kick out of trackday games, the traction and stability control system can be switched out.

If you haven't asked yet then Yes, you can get a four-wheel drive Paceman but to be frank the standard front-wheel drive version, driving through a manual six-speed 'box, is a sure thing if 'sporty' is as you like it. If your craving is for fast and furious then a John Cooper Works Paceman (0-62 in 6.9 and 140mph) should tick your need for speed box although it only comes with the grippy ALL4 four-wheel traction.

In front-wheel guise and with Sport mode engaged, the steering is responsive and weighty, and you get the undiluted and playful traditional MINI handling with satisfyingly small movements of the leather-rimmed wheel causing the nose to spear this way or that immediately you move your wrist. Combine that with an engine keenly responsive to the accelerator pedal and you have a recipe for driving fun.

Strong brakes can, in the nicest possible way, be taken absolutely for granted. It sure doesn't need long behind the wheel to appreciate that the Paceman is very much a full-blooded MINI with chuckability in spades.

The Paceman, somewhat surprisingly given its lower ride height, sports suspension and stiffer spring rates, rides better than the MINI hatch helped, naturally, by its longer Countryman wheelbase. If the Paceman were a boxer you could apply that old Muhammad Ali catchphrase: floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee! — MotorBar


MINI Paceman Cooper S | £22,360
Maximum speed: 135mph | 0-62mph: 7.5 seconds | Average Test MPG: 38.7mpg
Power: 184bhp | Torque: 177lb ft | CO2: 143g/km