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Mini Paceman: Love it, hate it?

2013-05-09 16:35

NUMBER UP: The 2013 Mini Paceman has arrived in SA, the seventh version to choose from in the family stable. Image: Mini SA


2013 Mini JCW Paceman

2013-02-28 09:47

Mini adds a seventh model in its John Cooper Works range with the performance version of its Paceman. Check out the 160kW JCW Paceman headed for South Africa!


Mini South Africa has just launched yet another model in its already well-filled stable, taking up the tally seven. 

Being a motoring journalist means we do a lot of driving. Generally I don’t mind because I love being behind the wheel, especially when the launch means driving up, down and around some of the best passes and roads in the Western Cape.  And, bonus points when it’s a fun and quirky car.

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But, for some strange and inexplicable reason I can’t like this car. Not because of its looks or performance but purely because I just don’t get it. My driving buddy and I found ourselves asking each other "what's really the point of this car?". Truth is, we still don’t know. And, judging by the conversation later at the dinner table, neither did our peers.

Yet that doesn’t matter because this car is going to sell anyway, just like its sibling model Countryman has already sold 1900 units since the local launch in SA in 2010.


It’s one of those cars you’re either going to hate or love, just like the Nissan Juke – probably the closest rival it could be compared to. The Paceman is just another variation of choice for the loyal customers and we all know how Mini likes to spoil its peeps for choice by finding innovative ways to evolve and create niche markets.

This one is a sports activity vehicle, plus coupe, plus hatchback.

You could even say it’s Mini’s version of the BMW X6 with lots of room, boot space and four individual seats. It’s also the second model in the range to come with an all-wheel drive option, the All4 – the first model to feature it was the Countryman.

It comes with two engine options as do all Minis: a 1.6 in either fuel-injected or plus a turbo badged Cooper and Cooper S.  Add another 50k to the latter and you’re good to go with the All4 model. Or keep your boodle in the bank for a month and go for the real pack of fun in the form of the John Cooper Works model with 160kW/280(300 with overboost) Nm.


While the Cooper S I drove didn’t exactly have me planted in my seat or waving any pompoms, it has to be more pleasing to drive than the Cooper model if its lack of enthusiasm was anything to go by.

The Cooper Paceman houses a four-cylinder petrol engine with fully variable valve management making 90kW at 6000rpm and 160Nm at 4250rpm. It goes from zero to 100 in 10.4 (auto 11.5). Top speed is 192km/h (184km/h) and claims average combined fuel consumption of six litres/100km. Most impressive is the low CO2 emission reading of 140g/km (auto 168).

The Cooper S isn’t excessively fast but when I put my foot down to give it some horns it did overtake effortlessly every time I needed it to do so.

This model has a twin-scroll turbo, direct injection and fully variable valve management good for 135kW at 5500rpm and 240Nm from 1600-5000rpm (260Nm on overboost). Geting to 100km/h takes 7.5sec and it has a faster top speed - 217km/h. Claimed fuel consumption is 6.1/100km and CO2 emission 143g/km (auto 166).

Standard safety items include dynamic stability control with ABS, electronic brake force distribution, corner braking control, emergency braking help and hill-start help for those who, if they need it, shouldn't be driving.

The Mini Cooper S Paceman with All4 also comes with dynamic traction control which, Mini SA says, permits controlled slip (front-wheel drive) when driving on loose sand/gravel. When the stability system is deactivated an electronic locking function comes into play for the front wheels.

This means it will brake a spinning wheel in a tight corner,if needed. Then there’s electronic differential lock control which takes the car’s traction up a notch. Each can be ordered for the Cooper model, too.


From the outside, the subtle shell differences are easily noticeable. It has the classic and identifying round headlights of any Mini but the chromed surrounds are a bit thicker. There are small flaps on the edge of the bumper, but the new item I liked most were the tail lights - they are usually vertical but these are horizontal, stretching out towards the outside edges.

It also has the "helmet" roof, similar to that found on the Mini Coupe launched locally in 2011 – although that one reminded me more of a boy with a reversed baseball cap. The roofline is rather prominent; the shoulder and roof lines slope towards a “V” at the rear (looked at in profile) to help the car achieve a sporty coupe silhouette.

Inside there’s little new except for the lounge-like atmosphere. How does one make a sporty car look like a lounge? You add elbow and arm rests, silly! Since the Paceman is a two-seater at the rear – and no, you can’t opt for a three-seat bench a la the Countryman. The extra room makes rear passengers feel like they're sitting in a comfy lounge chair.


It takes a while to find a comfy driving position but that's probably because the seats are much higher than usual - better view when driving.

Legroom in the front is ridiculous. Even you’re a lanky fellow you could cross your legs comfortably and still have room to dangle your feet without hitting the door panels. The leather seats (standard in the Cooper S) are a treat, especially the brown skin available with the new "brilliant copper"' body colour. I called it "funky brown".

Finally, the window lift switches are on the door panels – a first for modern Minis. I absolutely hated having to fumble with thos switches below the big rev/speed dial in the centre console - I’d always hit the wrong one.

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The standard Cooper Paceman comes with 16" rims, the Cooper S 17", but 18" and 19” alloys are available.

So, in a nutshell, it’s good-looking, still as much fun as a kart to drive, doesn’t bat an eyelid
(should you want that outrageous extra) through in a tight bend and can overtake quickly - though with it should be a calculated decision.

And, the only reason I think it’s a silly car is because I don’t get its purpose (OK, go ahead and tell me, guys!).

Mini Cooper Paceman R299 236 (R312 600 auto)
Mini Cooper S Paceman R360 407 (R378 302)
Mini Cooper S Paceman All4 R411 400
Mini Cooper Paceman JCW (available in June 2013) R440 500

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