Mercedes-Benz GLA250 2014 review
The Mercedes GLA might be referred to as a small SUV, but really it looks more like a larger, more...
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Our dog thinks he's a lap-dog, even though he's a German Short-Haired Pointer and can comfortably cover three laps if he tries - the Paceman is similarly confused, or optimistic.
It's not a dog of a car as such, but it's a Mini, but not necessarily as I'd like it to be - an incarnation of the Countryman SUV platform, but with three doors, it gets the height and the heft of the AWD all-terrain wanna-be, without any AWD underpinnings, unless you ask for the JCW version.
The Paceman in Cooper S guise is priced from a not-inconsiderable $44,100 for the turbo-four cylinder front-driver with a six-speed manual - standard gear includes 17 inch alloy wheels on runflats, fog lamps, rear parking sensors, a trip computer, power mirrors, remote central locking and a Sport mode to sharpen up steering (through the grippy sports wheel) and throttle response.
The six-speaker sound system gets auxiliary, USB and Bluetooth (phone and audio) link, but the overly-complex menu system point-blank refused to play nice and I spent most of my time listening to the radio.
Missing from the list is climate control (it's a $715 option, standard fare is air conditioning) and satnav, the latter was fitted as an option for $1150 - but a must-add is the Radio Mini Visual Boost option to get the appropriate control screen, which is another $750.
Also on the test car's options list was the six-speed auto (with pointless gearshift paddles) at $2350, $1700 worth of 18 inch alloys, $475 of interior “piano black” trim bits, the double-pane sunroof (for $1990) and $800 for metallic paint - grand total just over $53,000. Ouch.
Propelling the Paceman with some vigour is the four-cylinder 1.6-litre 16-valve twin-scroll turbo four-cylinder, which offers up 135kW and 240Nm (between 1600 and 5000rpm) by way of direct injection and variable valve lift control, with an extra 20Nm of torque on offer when demanded by the driver. The auto drives up the claimed fuel use figure from 6.6 to 7.5 litres per 100km - we had 10L/100km showing at the end of our time in the car.
Tall and with the Countryman's bulbous snout, the Paceman isn't the most cohesive shape to emerge from the brand's Oxford digs. Function makes way for form in much of this car - four individual seats work for four adults and allowing almost reasonable amounts of space, with the centre tunnel able to have all manner of bits attached to the runners.
The retro switchgear on the centre stack remains but handbrake looks more like a throttle lever from a 1980s jet fighter video game and it clashes with the auxiliary and USB inputs, all of which are difficult to get at because of the centre armrest. Bootspace at 330 litres isn't too bad (there's no spare eating into the capacity back there, thanks to runflats.
While the NCAP crash testers haven't slammed a Paceman into anything yet, the Countryman donor vehicle has been sacrificed for safety and scored five stars. The Paceman doesn't have the AWD system but gets the full suite of traction and stability control systems, with the Cooper S-specific Electronic Differential Lock Control for extra traction under full throttle, automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers, six airbags, antilock brakes and rear parking sensors.
The spirit is willing but the flesh is considerable - the peppy little powerplant is asked for more by the Paceman than in it is in the 150-odd kg lighter hatch and it feels like it. The auto is not without its charms and makes the most of what it's given to send through the front wheels, but even with all the sport modes in play and manual changes made, the computer can still over-ride the driver's choice. Frustrating when you want or need to hold a gear.
While the auto drinks more heavily it is on the pace during take-off - 0-100km/h is claimed in 7.8 seconds in the auto, only 0.3 of a second slower than manual. It zips through a series of bends without causing offence and delivers some fun for the driver, but it doesn't do it much better than a Countryman and is still on the heavy and tall side to live up to the Mini name.
The Countryman was seen as something of an aberration by Mini enthusiasts - too big and heavy to be a Mini - and the Paceman just continues along the same portly path, minus the flexibility of Countryman's five doors or the snow and dirt skillset of the AWD offering. Mini expanded its line up to seven variants with the introduction of the Paceman, I'm left wondering why they didn't work harder to maintain a solid six pack instead. Buy a Cooper S hatch if you really want a Mini.
|Cooper||1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$14,888 – 18,800||2013 Mini Paceman 2013 Cooper Pricing and Specs|
|Cooper JCW All4||1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$30,250 – 36,410||2013 Mini Paceman 2013 Cooper JCW All4 Pricing and Specs|
|Cooper S||1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$19,880 – 20,990||2013 Mini Paceman 2013 Cooper S Pricing and Specs|
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