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MINI Cooper SD ALL4 Paceman green car review

mini-paceman-001.jpg 20 August 2013 by
Paul Clarke

Eco Facts

Model/Engine size: Cooper SD ALL4 Paceman

Fuel: Diesel

Fuel economy combined: 57.6mpg

Beating Spirit rating: 9/10

Introduction

The MINI Paceman is effectively a Countryman minus two doors; so is this a compelling sales proposition?

Summary

• Interesting styling

• Fun to drive

• Less practical than the five-door Countryman

• Powertrain could be more refined

Background

When the Countryman was launched most motoring media seemed to criticise it for being too big for a MINI. Now the three-door Countryman is here in the form of the Paceman. Does this make more or less sense than the Countryman?

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Design & Engineering

The Paceman looks similar to the Countryman but, apart from having no rear doors, it also has a lower rear roofline, and rear lights which are horizontal rather than vertical – all contributing to a more sporty look.

The interior is also similar, apart from some minor details, the most noteworthy of which is that the window switches in the Paceman are mounted on the doors, rather than in the very unintuitive position on the central console in the Countryman and in other MINIs.

The other news in the interior is that there are only two rear seats, as opposed to the Countryman which normally comes with three.

You can probably guess the situation with the powertrain – yes, the mechanicals are same as those found in the Countryman. Our test car was the Cooper SD ALL4 Paceman, meaning that it has the ‘performance diesel’ engine with all-wheel drive.

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MINI Cooper SD ALL4 Paceman Driving Experience

Perhaps you can see this one coming – yes, the driving experience of the Paceman is similar to the Countryman. What they both have in common is the character of the MINI hatch in a bigger package. This means go-kart-like handling – albeit somewhat dialled-down due to the larger body. The steering is quite direct and responsive, and with short front and rear overhangs, the car changes direction quickly. With relatively firm suspension, and in the case of our ALL4 test car, four-wheel drive, both the Countryman and the Paceman like fast corners. In such conditions the Paceman feels both fun and very secure.

Problems can arise on poor surfaces, when the combination of relatively firm suspension, large wheels and low profile, run-flat tyres, can all conspire to send the car crashing over bumps. Having said that, our Paceman handled slightly better than the Countryman, yet it also had a comfortable ride – a result of the Sport suspension ‘deletion’, a no-cost option.

The diesel powertrain could also benefit from greater refinement and flexibility. Although it’s billed as the performance diesel, in the Paceman especially, you feel as though you should have the sort of responses found in machinery such as a BMW 330d, and this definitely isn’t the case. Of course if you want more performance, there’s the petrol Cooper S – but this also has a significantly poorer fuel economy figure.

The Paceman was on test over the weekend of the Cholmondeley Pageant of Power, when its all-wheel drive system was put to the test on the estate’s undulating and, on the Friday, very wet, grassy car parks. A number of muddy uphill tracks were thrown at the Paceman and it coped surprisingly well – although its ultimate ability was limited by tyres with very little tread. We would certainly recommend winter tyres to stand any chance of getting the best out of the 4×4 system in bad weather conditions.

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MINI Cooper SD ALL4 Paceman Economy and Emissions

The Cooper SD ALL4 Paceman has an official combined economy figure of 57.6mpg, along with 130g/km CO2 emissions. For a sporty all-wheel drive car these are impressive figures. We know that all cars will have real-life miles per gallon results that are worse then the official figures, but to differing degrees. The Paceman averaged 43.4mpg during its week with us, which is quite a way off the NEDC figure. This is a greater difference than, for instance, the BMW 320d ED Touring that we tested around the same time, and we believe a key reason for that is aerodynamics – if you do the majority of your driving at around 50-70mph, then good aerodynamics, along with long gearing, will help you achieve a much better economy figure. The 3 Series Touring is a more aerodynamic car than the Paceman, and the real-life miles per gallon figure in typical driving seems to reflect this.

The Paceman features ‘MINIMALISM’ technology, to improve economy and reduce emissions, and this includes Auto Start/Stop, Shift Point Display, Brake Energy Regeneration and on-demand operation of ancillary units.

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Price, Equipment and Model Range

The Cooper SD ALL4 Paceman costs £24,290. For comparison, the Cooper SD ALL4 Countryman costs £23,460 – in other words there’s a premium of £830 for two less doors (and a more sporty appearance).

As is often the case with MINIs, there were various options fitted to our test car, including CHILI pack (£2,445), media pack (£1,035), Harman Kardon – Hi-Fi (£740), leather (£685) and metallic paint (£450). In total, all options took the price of the car to £30,975. Our car also had Sport suspension deletion, a no-cost option, which was probably a key factor in why the ride was better than it often is in an equivalent Countryman.

You can choose between two petrol and two diesel engines in the Paceman, with a six-speed manual gearbox or the optional six-speed automatic (with a whopping 160g/km CO2 in the case of the Cooper SD ALL4 Paceman), as well as between front-wheel or all-wheel drive.

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Conclusion

The MINI Cooper SD ALL4 Paceman attracts admiring looks, it’s fun to drive and it’s relatively economical. Fitted with the right tyres it could even prove useful in the snow or on a muddy field. However it could benefit from improved powertrain refinement and better real-life miles per gallon.

But to us the main challenge for the Paceman is the Countryman. The Countryman is more practical with its five doors, cheaper, it looks just as good, although these things are obviously subjective, and it drives in a very similar way. We’ve awarded the Cooper SD ALL4 Countryman a 10 out of 10 for providing an interesting, fun and efficient alternative to boring family hatchbacks – and judging by the numbers of Countrymans on the roads, many other people also like it. Most people find a five-door car more practical than a three-door one – but if you really don’t need rear doors then the Paceman could be for you.

The Paceman is a good car but it’s difficult to see what substantial benefits it offers above and beyond the Countryman so it scores a Beating Spirit rating of 9 out of 10.

Car Facts and Figures

MINI Cooper SD ALL4 Paceman data

Fuel economy extra urban: 60.1 mpg

Fuel economy urban: 53.3 mpg

Test economy: 43.4 mpg

CO2 emissions: 130 g/km

Green rating: VED band C – first year £0

Weight: 1465 Kg

Company car tax liability (2013/14): 20%

Price: £24,290

Insurance group: 19E

Power: 143 hp

Max speed: 122 mph

0-62mph: 9.3 seconds

Paul Clarke

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