Friday, August 25, 2017

Devon test drives a new Mini niche coupe

(Photo provided by Devon M) 

There are several new Minis to choose from. A roadster, two-seat coupe, crossover and the newest crossover coupe called the Paceman. It's low slung roof and four passenger interior gives it a real distinct flare among the rest of the line-up. But is it enough to win over new buyers?

Performance: The Paceman comes with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder producing 121hp, with two turbocharged versions producing 180hp and later the JCW with 205hp. Pick of the range is the turbocharged 181hp version, it's the most popular form and is the most fun to drive of the bunch. We have yet to test drive the JCW form, but we do feel that it will be just as fun to drive as the Countryman JCW.

Ride & handling: The Paceman ride can feel overly firm at times over bumps but it doesn't feel as uncomfortable as the Countryman. This is surprising due to the fact that the Paceman has a firmer suspension. The ride and handling is excellent with good body control. The steering often feels light and doesn't offer much feedback.

Refinement: There's plenty of road noise that intrudes into the cabin over rough surfaces. Wind noise isn't the problem in the Paceman, the engine whirl that can be heard at highway cruising speeds makes long journeys feel a bit tiresome.

Behind the wheel: The interior is identical to the Countryman, which means there's the same retro design that is all style but no functionality. The driver's seat provides plenty of adjustment and the steering adjusts for reach and height. The Paceman sits higher than the hardtop version which adds to the practicality of the Paceman.

Space & Practicality: There is plenty of space for four passengers unlike the hardtop. The rear seat only provides room for two passengers, even though taller passengers won't feel as comfortable on longer journeys in the back. Fully loaded with passengers the Paceman feels more verstatile than the hardtop, but the Countryman is better at carrying passengers and their stuff.

Equipment: The base trim adds HD radio technology, central locking, air-con and alloy wheels standard. Step up to the mid-range turbo version adds larger alloy wheels, center rail for the interior and Bluetooth connectivity. Top of the range adds all-wheel-drive. These features seem nice but you'll have to pay extra for the more desirable options that should come standard. When you add these features the price skyrockets.

Buying & Owning: The Paceman only seems like a good deal if you stick with the base trim. Otherwise the higher up the trim you travel the higher the price tag with jump. To get a fully equipped Paceman to your desire you'll be paying twice as much as conventional crossovers which has more space and better practicality. The only benefit for paying the extra cash here is the fact that your investsments are well secured thanks to excellent resale value and reasonable running cost.

Quality & Reliability: The Paceman has a premium image inside and out. Some of the materials used feel rather disappointing seeing the price tag. Reliability is about average for the mechanical bits. The reliability record however has been iffy with customer satisfaction being only average.

Safety & Security: Traction control, electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes are all standard. Runflat tires and a tire pressure monitor is also standard as well. Front and side curtain airbags are standard as well as an engine immobilizer to help keep theft at bay.

The Paceman is a niche vehicle that won't appeal to everyone. It's slightly roomier than the Hardtop version but doesn't really offer anything distinct compared to some keen rivals. The price skyrockets when you add the desired options and the overall appeal of the Paceman is limited. If you desire a fun to drive car that's focused around the driver the Mini is the car for you. If you don't mind paying the premium for one.

Devon's Pick: The Cooper S trim may be slightly more expensive than the Cooper, but you get in return you get a zippy turbocharged engine and a few extra bits. It may not seem like much but for the price and strong resale values. It's the best option in the line-up. 

Likes: Roomier than the hardtop Mini. Turbo engine and overall driving impressions are up to Mini standards.

Dislikes: Options send the price soaring. Niche vehicle with limited appeal compared to most crossovers. Iffy reliability record with only average reliability of mechanicals.

Devon M 

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