The MINI Paceman is, in effect, a Countryman coupe. And that might well be the oddest of the MINI body styles to date. As with some of the others, you may be left scratching your head. Is this the time that MINI confounds us yet again or will the wheels come off with a model too far?
Being based on the Countryman chassis, the Paceman will doubtless drive reasonably well for a car of its size and weight.
One interesting move is to offer lowered sports suspension as standard to focus the driving experience a little more, although regular suspension and ride height are available as a no-cost option.
Paceman customers initially have the choice of two petrol and two diesel engines, all four-cylinder units with a six-speed manual gearbox, or an optional six-speed automatic with Steptronic function for 'manual' shifting. For petrol buyers, the MINI Cooper Paceman features a 1.6-litre 122bhp unit offering a sprint to 62mph of 10.4 seconds, while the Cooper S Paceman – and try not to envision an astronaut in a fez here – uses the same engine, tuned to deliver 184bhp. It will get to 62mph in 7.5 seconds. For those who prefer diesel, the MINI Cooper D Paceman gets a 1.6-litre 112bhp turbocharged engine with a 0-62mph time of 10.8 seconds. The flagship diesel is the MINI Cooper SD Paceman, which features a 2.0-litre 143bhp engine and will rattle off the sprint to 62mph in 9.2 seconds. MINI's ALL4 four-wheel drive system is available on the Cooper D, SD and Cooper S models and, yes, a John Cooper Works Paceman has been developed too.
Extra fun can be summoned via the sport button, optional on Cooper and Cooper D, which sharpens the engine's responses and the power assistance provided by the steering.
Styled as a coupe take on the Countryman, the Paceman is the seventh spin-off of the MINI theme, and sells alongside the Hatch, Clubman, Convertible, Countryman, Coupe and Roadster. Built on the Countryman platform, bumper to bumper the car is 4,109mm (4,115mm for MINI Cooper S Paceman and Cooper SD Paceman), which makes it almost identical in size to its big-boned sibling. Most cars are easy to assess. The very concept of the MINI Paceman makes it less so.
In fact, in some ways, it's a car that makes very little sense at all – which is probably exactly why many potential buyers will like it. In any case, MINI is used to carping critics.
The brand, after all, took a lot of flak in offering the bigger Countryman model on which this car is based.
Traditionalists moaned that it went against the whole philosophy of what MINI should be about but the sales figures have been very respectable indeed. Then there's the interesting marketing issue for MINI of explaining to buyers just why, in the Countryman, it has built a bigger car in this Paceman, negated many of that design's practicality benefits by chopping it into a coupe. But if any brand can do that, it's MINI. At least this car's different. And that's always a welcome thing.