Mini Paceman John Cooper Works Review

It’s one hell of a Pacemaker, but is it a step too far?

By Shahzad Sheikh

Mini Paceman JCW

Right off the bat I have to confess I am a fan of the new generation of Minis, and my favourite is a regular hatchback in Cooper S or John Cooper Works guise with a manual gearbox – it is quite simply one of the most entertaining cars you can drive today.

Mini Paceman JCW

Unlike some, I’m also not entirely put off by the diversification of the brand that has seen a convertible, a Clubman ‘estate’, a roadster, a coupe and even a compact SUV (Countryman) join the little hatchback.

Mini Paceman JCW

As I frequently point out, it’s not exactly without precedent as the original 1960s Mini spawned a van, a pick-up, an estate, a saloon (the Riley Elf & Wolseley Hornet) and even a sort of off-roader in the guise of the Mini Moke.

Mini Paceman JCW

I’m also quite a fan of the Countryman, yes you may argue that it’s too big now to be still called a Mini, but you could argue the same about the hatch compared to the Alec Issigonis original, but safety, equipment, modern construction and quality all inevitably dictate the larger dimensions. The point of the Mini is no longer its size, but the essence of its personality, its driver engagement, its pizzazz.

Mini Paceman JCW

So how about the Pacemaker (as I persistently found myself calling it) then, is that just as infused with essence de Mini?

Well on first acquaintance, I’m finally a little stumped. I don’t get it. It’s a two-door hatchback Mini about a size and half of the hatchback progenitor. But it’s taller, it has extra ground clearance and all-wheel drive. Essentially it’s a two-door version of the Countryman, so think of it as a three-door Range Rover Evoque rival then.

Mini Paceman JCW

Okay, but does it need to exist? You go for a Countryman and compromise on the Mini’s traditional low centre of gravity road holding, because it’s a more practical, more family-friendly (small family mind) car. The Pacemaker feels a little more cramped somehow, even though it’s exactly the same length as the Countryman.Mini Paceman JCW

Mini Paceman JCW

I would have driven this thing around completely perplexed over the weekend I had it, if it was not for the happenstance that I ended up exploring the UAE’s best new driving road in this very Mini. Hit the link and go read that story, and you’ll learn that whereas the Mini could have been perceived to have been the odd one to take on this drive, it turned out to be the best car for the job.

Mini Paceman JCW

Particularly because the road is not quite finished yet which means it’s slippery and treacherous as hell, and because access to it still involves having to scrabble over rock, sand and gravel, which the greater ground clearance of the Pacemaker, allowed it to do with ease. And with its off-road ability, albeit limited, it could carry on to some extent along the unfinished road where the other two could not even have contemplated.

Mini Paceman JCW

But it’s not just about its practicality. The Mini proved genuinely fast, and brilliant good fun to steer up such a demanding road. It’s precise accurate steering, handy paddleshifts, good roadholding, and fluid handling which was easily manageable even when it broke traction, made it a real joy to drive.

Mini Paceman JCW

So having return from the epiphany-enhanced drive in the new Paceman, I suddenly want one and can fully justify its AED205,000 asking price right? No, actually. I’d still rather have the Countryman. With exactly the same dimensions and performance, I think the extra doors and better rear seating is the better option. Plus I’d have it with a manual box, the way JCW Minis are meant to be!

2013 Mini Paceman John Cooper Works Auto
Specs
Prices: AED205,000 ($56k)
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder, 218bhp @ 6000rpm, 206lb ft @ 1900-5000rpm
Performance: 6.9secs 0-100kph, 224kph, 7.9L/100
Transmission: Six-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Weight: 1495kg

Read how the Mini did on the UAE’s best new driving road.

Read our review of the JCW Mini hatchback (with classic Minis) and the JCW Works GP Edition

Let us know what you think of the Mini Paceman below in the Comments section

 

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