Pricey Mini Paceman doesn't merit badge of honour

The Mini brand is continuing its attempt to expand its line-up while retaining the “essence of Mini” that has worked so well …

Make: Mini

Model: JCW Paceman

Year:

Fuel:

Date Reviewed: April 25, 2015

Thu, Mar 7, 2013, 17:23

   

The Mini brand is continuing its attempt to expand its line-up while retaining the “essence of Mini” that has worked so well to date. In a way, it’s a victim of its own success, a winning retro marketing strategy that so intertwines the brand with the 1960s icon that any attempt to expand out of its current format risks damaging the very essence of what makes it a success.

So, in order to keep things relatively fresh, the firm continues to come up with relatively wacky offshoots of the original template. Enter the new Paceman, a niche model that fills a gap in the market no one knew existed – and we’re still not convinced does.

The Paceman is officially a sports activity coupé, a derivative of the Countryman model, which it closely resembles and which it also shares the same platform. Its standout feature is its coupé-style roof that’s angled downwards towards the rear of the car. The Paceman is solely available as a three-door, with seating for four occupants, with two individual seats in the rear. So, some of the looks of a crossover, with less practicality.

Prior to its arrival in Ireland this month, we drove the top-of-the-range John Cooper Works (JCW) model. This brings the JCW versions of Mini to seven– the JCW Paceman follows on from the Hatch, Cabriolet, Roadster, Coupé, Clubman and the Countryman.

Finished in black and Chilli red (an exclusive colour for JCW models), the performance-orientated Paceman stands out from its regular siblings. It sits 10mm lower on sports-tuned suspension; filling the wheel arches are 18in light-alloy wheels (19in optional). Its overall appearance is muscular, with an aerodynamic body kit; this includes a lower front spoiler, side skirts and rear apron with two hefty exhausts situated one either side of the rear of the car, hinting at the car’s potent performance capabilities.

Room for four adults

The car’s racy theme is apparent in the interior. The dash is finished in piano black, with adornments of red stitching on the sports steering wheel, gearshift gaiter and floor mats. Despite its external coupé appearance, the Paceman offers ample room for four adults, with plenty of headroom for the two rear seat occupants, notwithstanding the car’s sloping roofline.

At the heart of the John Cooper Works Paceman is a 1.6-litre petrol engine that utilises a twin-scroll turbocharger to produce a brawny 218hp and 280Nm of torque. This power is transferred to the road through Mini’s ALL4 all-wheel-drive system. It’s a clever piece of technology that incorporates an electromagnetic centre differential which distributes power between the front and rear wheels. It will send up to 50 per cent of the engine’s power to the rear wheels in normal driving conditions, and can send all its power to the rear in extreme conditions.

On the move, the Paceman progresses along at a swift rate if pressed, but, despite its respectable performance figures on paper (0-100km/h in 6.9 seconds), it fails to engage the driver in a way a John Cooper Works model should. Granted, our test car was on winter tyres, which did compromise the car’s handling along our twisty mountainous route, where feedback through the steering wheel was rather vague. The all-wheel-drive system does provide impressive levels of traction on acceleration out of bends, and would be a reassurance for wintry driving conditions.

The standard six-speed manual transmission is effortless to use, with a six-speed automatic transmission also available. Best of all has to be the sounds emitted from the exhaust pipes. In Sport mode there’s a distinct popping and burbling noise on lift-off; this has been electronically generated through the engine’s electronic control unit (ECU).

Same engine as GP2

The JCW Paceman shares the same engine as the hardcore GP2 variant of the hatch, but its acceleration and handling is far from the precision of its faster, lighter sibling. It’s surprisingly more expensive than the performance-orientated GP2, and as there’s already a JCW hatch which can seat four to five adults, it’s therefore somewhat difficult to see why Mini has created a JCW version of the Paceman. Surely, if you want a performance model, wouldn’t the obvious choice be the hatch or the two-seater coupé?

In terms of competition, at this price level (€50,540) the JCW Paceman is similar money to a chic Range Rover Evoque, Land Rover’s saviour of late. The JCW Paceman is a competent car, although I’m at a quandary to see where it fits within the range and why it has been created. The John Cooper Works badge has traditionally been reserved for high-performance Minis with precise handling attributes.

The JCW Paceman does boast strong figures on paper – unfortunately, these don’t translate to the road. Having a JCW variant of the Paceman seems to run counter to the original values of the name. Ultimately, it’s far too expensive, relatively impractical and will struggle to justify its existence.

The lowdown Mini JCW Paceman

ENGINE

1,598cc four-cylinder turbocharged petrol putting out 218hp at 6,000rpm and 300Nm at 2,100-4,500rpm with a six-speed manual transmission

PERFORMANCE

0-100km/h 6.9 seconds, max speed 226 km/h

EMISSIONS

(Motor Tax) 172g/km (€750)

ECONOMY

Urban 9.4l/100km (30.1mpg) extra-urban 6.2l/100km (45.5mpg) combined 7.4l/100km (38.2mpg)

SPECIFICATIONS

Standard features include 18in alloy wheels, sports suspension, All4 permanent all-wheel-drive, sports seats, air conditioning, aerodynamic kit, Chilli Red shade.

RIVALS

Nissan Juke Nismo 1.6 Petrol 200hp €33,375 (motor tax €570)

Range Rover Evoque SD4 2.2 Pure Tech Diesel 190hp €52,200 (motor tax €390)

PRICE €50,540

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