With seven Mini model lines available there’s plenty of choice, whether you want classic, small and nimble, or something with more space, like this new Paceman.
Despite the Mini’s oxymoronic proportions (it’s not exactly ‘mini’ and adds almost 180kg over a standard Mini Cooper S), it delivers a relatively peppy 7.5 seconds to 100kph, which is half a second slower. You get the same 135kW, 240Nm 1.6-litre turbocharged engine. Fuel economy is OK for a petrol car with Mini quoting 6.1l/100km combined, 5.4l/100km extra-urban and 7.5l/100km urban. Those figures are for the 6-speed manual, which we tested; if you go for the automatic, it’s more thirsty.
The Paceman’s boot is where you get the main advantage over the standard Mini. It has 330 litres of space with the seats up (over twice as much as a Mini) and 1080 litres with the seats down, versus 680 in a Mini. The Paceman’s fuel tank is three litres less than a Mini at 47 litres.
The seats don’t fold fully flat in the rear. There are only two of them, too, and you won’t be transporting basketball players in comfort. You get to the rear seats via the front doors and sliding the front seats forward. The front seats don’t return to the place they were when you moved them forward, though, so you will end up making adjustments each time. Between the seats are two cup holders.
My drive to Piha on Auckland’s west coast quickly taught me that you have plenty of overtaking power, and excellent cornering ability, but the Paceman has quite an active drive when the roads are bumpy; it demands to be controlled because of the firmer suspension and sharp steering. You’ll feel like you need two hands on the wheel if the road is narrow and undulating because it feels fidgety on its large 18-inch alloys with 225/45R18 run-flat tyres, and the steering is very light. If you take command, though, it delivers a fairly engaging drive with an almost sports car-like feel at times. This is helped by an excellent driving position, supportive bucket seats and the fact that the suspension has been lowered 10mm to create a lower centre of gravity.
The Paceman has stability control with traction control, brake assist, cornering brake control, electronic brake force distribution, and six airbags as standard.
If you’ve never climbed inside a Mini before be aware that it will take you some time to acclimatise. The switches are all beautifully set in their own little roll cages, and they’re in places you wouldn’t expect, so you need some familiarisation time. There’s a dinner plate-sized speedo in the centre of the dash which is only for showing the rear seat passengers what speed you are doing as the driver gets a rev counter and digital readout.
Things to watch out for: it’s too easy to select reverse instead of first (something that made me nearly come a cropper when manoeuvring), and you are paying a premium for the coupe-style looks; if you really want a roomy Mini, then the Cooper S Countryman (which is mechanically pretty much identical and has a much more useful five doors rather than three) is two thousand dollars cheaper.
Perhaps it’s time for Mini to stop the incessant plastic surgery and create a whole new car with an interior that brings the functionality of an Audi A3 or VW Scirocco to the table (both of which are a better drive for similar money). The Mini is very stylish, but it puts style before ease of use, and there are better, more modern user interfaces that are implemented on other vehicles that still achieve a sense of class and style.
Even though you do get a fairly good amount of kit as standard (for a Mini), at $53,000 I would expect a reversing camera and Bluetooth streaming audio to be included. However, there isn’t a car out there (except maybe the New Beetle) that matches or beats the Mini for fashion accessory status. It takes an iconic brand and makes it both trendy and practical by making it, well, not ‘mini’.
- Performance is brisk
- Ultimate fashion accessory
- If you’re seriously considering buying a Mini, you’re buying a visual statement, so you probably won’t care much about the foibles mentioned above
|Transmission and Technology|
|6-speed manual transmission||■|
|Four-cylinder twin-scroll turbocharged in-line petrol engine||■|
|Single-joint spring-strut front||■|
|Multi-link rear axle||■|
|Power steering, electronic speed-related||■|
|Airbags for driver and front passenger (2 front, 2 side, 2 curtain)||■|
|Anti-lock braking system including Brake Assist and Cornering Brake Control||■|
|Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)||■|
|Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) including Electronic Differential Lock Control (EDLC)||■|
|Electronic Braking Force Distribution Control||■|
|Park Distance Control, rear (PDC)||■|
|Wheels and Tyres|
|Light-alloy wheels, 18″ Light alloy wheel Turbo Fan, 7 1/2 x 18 / runflat tyres 225/45 R18||■|
|MINI Mobility System||■|
|Locking wheel bolts||■|
|Interior Design and Comfort|
|Sport seats for driver and front passenger||■|
|Seat-height adjustment for driver and passenger seat||■|
|Centre front armrest||■|
|3-spoke sports leather multi-function steering wheel with cruise control||■|
|Cloth Diagonal Track||■|
|4 seats with rear lounge seat||■|
|Floor mats in velour||■|
|Interior surface Dark Anthracite||■|
|Colour Line Carbon Black||■|
|Interior colour Carbon Black||■|
|Chrome Line Interior||■|
|2-part centre rail||■|
|Automatic air conditioning including microfilter||■|
|Radio MINI Boost CD with AUX-In connection||■|
|On board computer||■|
|Bluetooth mobile preparation with USB audio interface. (A snap-in adapter in the centre armrest is available via Genuine MINI Accessories at additional cost. Snap-in adapter enables charging and external roof aerial functionality)||■|
|Cup holders – 2 in front centre console||■|
|Storage compartment package||■|
|Luggage compartment screen – foldable and removable||■|
|Roof in body colour||■|
|Mirror caps in body colour||■|
|Side scuttles in Chrome with S designation||■|
|Exterior mirrors, electrically adjustable||■|
|Chrome Line Exterior||■|
|Clear indicator lenses||■|
|Dual exhaust tailpipes on left and right in Chrome finish||■|
|Radiator grille in Chrome surround with Black honeycomb insert||■|
|Air inlet integrated between bumper and radiator grille||■|
|Light and Sight|
|Front fog lights||■|
|Rear fog light||■|
|Rain sensor with automatic headlight control||■|
|Halogen headlights for low-beam and high-beam||■|
|Interior lights package||■|
|Heated rear window||■|
Words and photos: Darren Cottingham