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Mini Paceman S 2013 Review

The Pacemen is the Countryman without two doors.

The latest pret-a-porter for style seekers is the non-mini Mini Paceman that begs too many questions. It echoes the practice of eccentric European tailors who smile winningly while crafting clothes from the most ghastly coloured and patterned materials for sale to the rich and ignorant.

Alarm bells should have gone off in the customer's head the moment he saw the checked shirt, paisley tie and candy-striped sports jacket with an outrageous price tag -- but he’s happy knowing nobody else will have the same outfit. The Paceman is the candy-striped jacket of the car industry's wardrobe.

VALUE

This depends on how much money you have and by presuming you want people to know how much the car cost you. It's a status symbol. Style, as I have already established, is in the eye of the beholder.

Creating an individual car from the base Paceman Cooper S leads to the creation of a new overdraft, with a toyland of options from $200 (the rail between the seats for accessories) to $2900 (19-inch alloys). The test car jumps from $46,450 to $56,800 with goodies including a sunroof, metallic paint ($900), clear indicator lenses ($250) and sat-nav at $1900.

On-road costs add about another $3500. The downside is no capped-price service deal but the good news is a strong resale value of 56 per cent.

DESIGN

It's no mini car and actually falls into the SUV category. The Pacemen is the Countryman without two doors, with a body top-hat of a raked roofline and wedged side-glass profile. The nose is a downturned grimace and the bonnet bulges awkwardly like an angry bulldog's face and, clearly, it's the rear end that is the most attractive.

It's also big which contrasts to a small cabin and limited interior flexibility. It seats four on individual bucket seats and the rear seats fold forward for luggage but remain intrusive in the cargo area.

Mini has moved the window switches from the crowded centre console to the doors - excellent move - but the dashboard switch arrangment remains confused. The imposing centrally-placed speedo is wasted - there's a digital speedo within the tacho ahead of the driver - and personal storage space is almost non existent. Basically, it's an ergonomic spotted shirt with a paisley tie.

TECHNOLOGY

The Paceman doesn't share the Countryman's optional all-wheel drive system. It remains perfectly simple with the healthy 135kW/240Nm 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine and either a six-speed manual or, as tested, a six-cog auto with paddle shifters.

It's an excellent engine, surprisingly responsive auto and a compliant suspension set on a wonderfully stiff chassis. Mini claims 7.5 L/100km for the auto - I posted 9.2 L/100km - and a decent 0-100km/h sprint of 7.8 seconds, only 0.3 seconds slower than the manual.

It's affected by a portly 1405kg weight and the aerodynamics of a house brick. To save fuel there's a stop-start system and electric-assist steering.

SAFETY

The strength of the car is reflected in the heaviness of the doors, the solid clunk when they close and the bit of paper that says it has a five-star crash rating. There's also some merit, depending on circumstances, in the extra height of the Paceman that may reduce passenger injury in an accident.

To avoid an accident, the Pacemen Cooper S comes with electronic stability and traction control, brake assist and hill-start assist. It also has a $350 optional electronic differential to prevent a spinning wheel when cornering at speed.

There's also rear park sensors and a tyre-pressure monitor. Run-flat tyres are a $250 option. For other tyres, there's no spare but Mini includes a puncture repair kit.

DRIVING

Familiarisation of the switchgear is a starting point. Even the key action - slide into a horizontal slot and press the adjoining start button - is different. Awkward, even. The central speedo is pointless and the information on its dinner-plate size dial is mostly obscured by the sun's reflection.

But the engine is the Paceman's soul. It's aural, acutely responsive to the right foot while the steering is firm yet accurate and belies its electric assistance. There's some softening of the power flow because of the auto but it's not bad and can be sharpened by manually shifting through the gears.

Though huge by Mini standards, the Pacemen lacks little of the brand's go-kart reputation. It points perfectly into corners, squirts confidently off the apex and delivers a pleasant and purposeful exhaust note. The ride is firm but it's not harsh - certainly less jiggly than the shorter wheelbase Mini hatch.

The seats are small in width and cushion height and lack much lateral support. But they provide sufficient comfort even if the driver tends to use the steering wheel as a crutch.

The auto transmission's paddle shifters are all wrong with up-down rocker shift action on both left and right sides - like the Porsche 911 - which is awkward. Again.

VERDICT

The non-mini Mini with the dog's breakfast dashboard redeems itself with off-the-wall styling and a great engine and chassis combination. Would I buy one? No.

MINI PACEMAN S
Price: $46,450
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited km, roadside assist
Capped servicing: No
Service interval: 12mths/15,000km
Resale: 56%
Safety: 6 airbags, ABS, ESC, EBD, TC
Crash rating: 5-star
Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo-petrol, 135kW/240Nm
Transmission: 6-spd auto; front drive
Thirst: 7.5L/100km; 95RON; 175g/km CO2
Dimensions: 4.1m (L), 1.8m (W), 1.5m (H)
Weight: 1405kg
Spare: Repair kit

Pricing Guides

$18,395
Based on 9 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$19,880
Highest Price
$20,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
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
Neil Dowling
Contributing Journalist

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