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MINI John Cooper Works Paceman review

Revised MINI John Cooper Works (JCW) Paceman three-door will remain a niche choice

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

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Look at the JCW Paceman objectively and it doesn’t make much sense – it’s less practical than the Countryman and not as dynamically capable as the hatch. Very few buyers will opt for this top-spec model, yet the truth is it’s not a bad car. It’s fun and fast, but a JCW MINI hatch or even just the cheaper Cooper S Paceman both seem to make more sense.

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AS well as the revised Countryman, MINI has also applied the same tweaks to the Paceman – and we’ve tried the flagship John Cooper Works (JCW) model for the first time.

As with its five-door stablemate, the Paceman gets a raft of subtle visual tweaks – most recognisable of which is the flash of red across the grille for this JCW version. The black surrounds for the headlights are part of a new optional styling pack.

The JCW retains its 215bhp 1.6-litre turbo engine, but as with the rest of the range it has now been made more efficient and compliant with Euro VI regulations – the CO2 emissions have fallen from 172g/km to 165g/km.

Despite the fact there’s no additional power, MINI has managed to cut the 0-62mph time from seven seconds flat to 6.9 seconds. And thanks to the standard ALL4 four-wheel-drive system, you can make a blisteringly fast getaway in the JCW. It doesn’t have the hard-edged growl of a Volkswagen Golf GTI, though, with the engine sounding a bit more mundane than that, even with Sport mode turned on.

The Paceman is seen as the sportier member of MINI’s crossover family and this JCW should be the sportiest of the bunch. The quick steering makes the JCW feel really nimble, but you find as the speed rises it’s just not as willing to grip or change direction as the smaller, lighter hatch is.

The ride is right on the edge of what we’d be happy living with every day, too. It’s pretty stiff, and the odd pothole can cause a noisy thud, but if you want a performance-focused MINI, chances are you’ll be willing to make the compromise. There’s a compromise for that sporty styling, too – getting into the back seats is tricky and there’s a lot less headroom than in the Countryman once you’re in. As with that car, though, front passengers do get a few additional pieces of chrome as part of this update.

Constructing a rational argument for JCW Paceman ownership is tricky, but there’s enough performance and fun on offer here to ensure that those few who do choose to buy won’t be disappointed.

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