MINI Paceman

The Paceman aims to blend coupe style with the Countryman’s practicality

For many people, the Paceman will be a great bargain alternative to the Evoque. It looks great from most angles and the character-packed cabin strikes the right note. All-wheel-drive traction ensures it has the dynamic abilities to keep you going in the winter, while body control and handling are solid. Fixed-price servicing help running costs.

Purists scoffed at the idea of a crossover MINI, but the Countryman accounted for one in three models the brand sold in the UK last year – so clearly the marketing men got it right, which bodes well for the Paceman.

The car shares its underpinnings with the Countryman, and has an identical wheelbase, but stands out with its sweeping roofline, wraparound tail-lights and curved rear arches. Smart detailing and the usual range of MINI personalisation give it even more appeal.

Inside it’s all familiar MINI, with a dash that’s centred around the massive speedo and lots of retro design touches. Plenty of seat adjustment and a smart three-spoke multifunction wheel ensure driver comfort is good, plus raised SUV-like seating makes for excellent visibility through the curved screen.

As you’d expect for a MINI, build quality is top-notch, plus novel toggle switches and swanky mood lighting help the cabin rival the feelgood factor of the Evoque. Still, a few hard plastics mean it doesn’t feel quite as upmarket as the more expensive Range Rover.

On the plus side, the Paceman is one of the most practical cars to wear a MINI badge. In the back are two individual seats and, while clambering in is tricky, there’s enough legroom for adults.

Anyone stepping up from a MINI hatch will be happy at the space on offer – despite the sporty roofline, there’s just enough headroom, while bigger side windows and a wider rear screen mean it feels airier than the back of the Evoque Coupe.

There’s a sliding rail down the centre of the cabin, to which you can attach a sunglasses case or cup-holders, but the 330-litre boot capacity is relatively small for a car of this size.

However, it’s that famous smile-a-minute MINI driving experience that will attract a lot of people to the Paceman – and overall, the newcomer doesn’t disappoint.

For starters, it’s superbly engineered, and the controls are responsive. You get a snappy gearshift, positive throttle response and weighty steering – all of which are taken up a notch by the Sport button.

Turn-in is positive and body control good, while there’s plenty of grip and obviously no issues with traction. You can feel the higher centre of gravity and extra weight of the 4x4 drivetrain, but there’s still a taste of the MINI hatchback’s enthusiasm and agility.

Yet, weirdly, it doesn’t feel as light on its feet at low speed as the 205kg heavier Range Rover, plus the Paceman follows cambers in the road and feels a bit edgy compared to the more relaxed Evoque.

The MINI gets sports suspension as standard, but you can have a softer set-up as a no-cost option – we’d recommend this as it takes the edge off the ride stiffness without any obvious negative effect on handling. But even without it, the Paceman is firm and the Range Rover is more composed over bumpy tarmac.

With noticeable rattle at low revs and an intrusive drone on the motorway, the MINI’s engine refinement disappoints, too. At least performance is closely matched to that of the front-wheel-drive Evoque eD4, while CO2 emissions of 130g/km are just 1g/km dirtier. And the standard stop-start system helped the Paceman deliver respectable test economy of 42.6mpg.

Yet it’s the £24,290 price that gives the MINI an advantage in the value stakes, as it undercuts the Range Rover by £6,000. It’s worth noting our car had the Chili pack, an extra £2,445, while adding individual options can send the price to within a few hundred pounds of the better-equipped Evoque.

Still, fixed-price servicing and decent residuals make the MINI a strong ownership prospect. And don’t forget you get four-wheel drive, which will pay dividends each winter.

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