Just when we thought there couldn’t be any more versions of the re-born Mini, along came the Paceman (not Pac-man). The eighth model in the series is designed to be a sportier counterpart to the Countryman and has been dubbed a “Sports Activity Vehicle” by Mini. Whatever you want to call it, it scores pretty highly in a number of ways.
Along with the Countryman, the Paceman is not built in Britain but in Austria by Magna Steyr. It’s quite a bit bigger than the standard Mini – possibly pushing the name and whole concept of Minis a little too far for some. It certainly looks sporty with its coupé profile and a sloping roof that has a slight overhang at the back.
The bulging wheel-arches add to the image of a car that’s built for speed and - in a first for Mini - the rear lights are horizontal instead of vertical. The blacked-out window surrounds give the car an extra stylish and premium appearance plus with plenty of funky colour combinations available, it’s a car that will stand out almost anywhere.
In general the Antara is pretty striking – if not actually that pretty.
What’s it like to drive?
Anyone who gets behind the wheel of a Mini may expect it to feel more like driving a go-cart than a car. This is fine with the smaller models. It’s been more of a challenge to put the fun into driving the Paceman.
You’ll find it’s a little less agile than you might expect, and the body does roll when you head round corners, especially in models without the harder sports suspension.
There is a good range of engines though, which means performance is never less than nippy – and if you can find a John Cooper Works Paceman you’ll notice that it’s distinctly sporty.
There is a good range of engines though, which means performance is never less than nippy
A big part of the Mini’s identity - and what sets it apart from many of its competitors - is its interior. The Paceman has an almost identical dashboard layout to all the models in the range. Look out for the big speedometer in the middle of the dash, with room in the middle for the optional sat-nav and other information displays. One handy feature not shared by other Minis is that the electric window controls are in the doors, not on the centre console, which makes them much easier to operate.
The driving position is fairly high and visibility is good all round with plenty of head room. Mini also had a lightbulb moment and decided there’s no point pretending 3 can fit in the back, so there are just two lounge-style seats instead, complete with contoured arm rests in the side of the car. Legroom is still a little limited in the rear. The raised front seats at least let back seat passengers get their feet underneath them to enjoy a little extra space.
The cabin is also very well insulated, so road and wind noise aren’t an issue, although when you drive it hard the engine and exhaust noise is there to remind you that this is a sporty car as well.
The Mini Paceman could well be re-named the Spaceman thanks to the amount of boot and other storage space it gives you. Open the tailgate and you’ll discover there’s more than enough room for the big weekly shop or luggage for a fortnight away. Yes, access to it could be a little better if the rear light clusters didn’t intrude - that’s just a minor quibble.
The back seats fold down easily. Not quite flat though, but still gives you a very decent area for those trips to pick up some flat-back furniture or to take the garden refuse to the tip. There’s even a false floor to keep valuables out of sight when you’re parked up.
Inside the car, there are a number of cubby holes for storage as well as another feature shared with the Countryman, the centre rail storage and attachment system.
Running costs and reliability
There’s a choice of petrol and diesel engines with the Paceman and most agree that the 1.6 litre diesel version hits the sweetest spot for economy and performance giving you an average mpg in the upper 50s. Even the petrol engines are pretty economical to drive with the high-performance Cooper S version promising a little over 47 mpg.
What cinch loves
The Mini Paceman’s sporty looks and practical features make it the perfect choice if you want to combine a bit of fun with a lot of good sense. You know you’re getting a quality car, admittedly at a premium price. Its distinctive styling means you’ll never struggle to spot where you’ve parked it among the hundreds of other cars that all look the same in a crowded car park.
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Big enough to be practical, nippy enough to give you the genuine Mini-driving experience, the Paceman might not be perfect, but it’s pretty close – especially if you don’t mind standing out from the crowd (and leaving that fifth potential passenger behind.)
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