The Paceman is built on the same platform as the more practical Countryman, but has a distinctive wedge-like shape, runs on sports suspension and is aimed mainly at young up-and-coming city slickers. It also lays claim to being the world's first SAC, or sports activity vehicle.
Paceman come in two models, the Cooper and more powerful Cooper S, both running a BMW-built 1.6 litre four cylinder motor linked to a six-speed manual gearbox. A six-speed auto with paddle-shift is an option.
The Cooper has a 90kW/160Nm output compared to the 135/240 of the turbocharged S, which also has an overboost button that frees up an extra 20Nm of torque for a short burst. The bulldog-stanced car can get to 100km/h in 10.4 seconds with the 90kW engine while the S is three seconds quicker, but at 7.5litres/100km, it's a trifle thirstier. The non-turbo model averages 6.5litres/100km.
Parked in the premium compact nook of the market, the Cooper is $35,900 with the standard manual gearbox and the Cooper S is from $44,100.
Mini expects most urbanites to opt for the auto shifter, which adds $2350. There's an extensive options list, from a glass roof and auto climate control to Sat nav, a 10-speaker Harman-Kardon audio and park distance control, plus a variety of alloy wheels, to customise the Paceman and adjust the price northwards.
FIT-OUT AND EQUIPMENT
Like others in the now seven-model range, the Paceman gets the dinner-plate sized central speedo with a rev counter in front of the driver, ambient lighting via switches above the windscreen and the full suite of electronics such as traction and stability control, hill start, brake assist and ABS. There's also an optional electronic diff lock that works when the stability control is switched off.
The steering wheel is a multi-function delight and Bluetooth and a USB interface are also standard. Likewise front and rear fog lights auto-on headlights and wipers. The twin back seats can be folded nearly flat to expand cargo space from 330 to 1080litres. And that low sports suspension can be swapped for the regular set-up and ride height as a no-cost option.
Seating is great, likewise visibility, and the sloping roofline is a bit of an optical illusion. The rear seats, which may appear to be squishy, can comfortably accommodate a couple of really big blokes.
We spent time in a Cooper S manual and a Cooper automatic in the twisty terrain of Queensland's D'Aguilar range and on the freeways near Brisbane.
The S is a potent beast, though the standard Cooper is hardly a slouch. Both have a razor-sharp electro-power steering, serious stopping power and provide a ride that's great for zipping along smooth roads, but fidgety on corrugations. The engine of Cooper auto, super-quiet inside at low speeds, howls at higher revs, whereas the twin-tailpiped turbo S provides much better music.
Neither sports coupe, nor SUV, the Paceman is more a fun package that separates the individual from the sheep.
Mini Paceman/Cooper S
Price: $35,900, $44,100 (Cooper S)
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited km
Service interval: 12 months/25,000km
Safety: 6 airbags, ABS with TC, ESC, EBD and hill assist
Crash tested: Not tested
Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cyl, 90kW/160Nm; 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo, 135kW/240Nm (Cooper S)
Transmission: 6-speed manual; FWD
Dimensions: 4.12m (L), 1.79m (W), 1.52m (H)
Spare: Tyre inflation kit
Thirst: 6.5/7.6L/100km, 152/175g/km CO2 (manual/auto); 6.6/7.5L/100km, 154/177g/km CO2 (Cooper S)