Monday, 18 February 2013

The new MINI Paceman makes sense. I think

HERE’S a thought. The new MINI Paceman is the car the Countryman should have been.

For what it’s worth, I think the latest addition to the already expansive MINI range has a name that makes it sound a bit like a personal stereo for people with cardiac problems but most of Britain's motoring writers have found other things to be cruel about – it’s a worthy enough car, they reckon, but one that’s completely pointless. Why would anyone want a MINI Countryman with less room and fewer doors?

Well, I would, and here’s why.

Before I go any further I’ve got two things I ought to declare – that I owned not one, but two of the classic Minis, and that I’ve yet to actually drive the Paceman. I have, however, got behind the wheel of its closest cousin, the five door Countryman, the open-top, two-seater MINI Roadster, and a couple of different versions of the vanilla MINI hatchback estates agents up and down the land have loved more than a decade.

There’s nothing that really touches an original Mini for immediate, smile-on-your-face small car fun but I’ve always liked the new MINI because it’s frisky, good looking and packed with character (even though I’d still take a Suzuki Swift Sport over a Cooper). The Countryman though, was the exception the rule – not only is this Nissan Qashqai rival a bit weird and bloated looking, but it didn’t feel like a MINI when I drove it. To badly misquote Get Carter, it’s a big car but it’s out of shape.

The Paceman, though, is like a Countryman that’s been down to the gym to get back into shape – yes, it’s bigger than the normal MINI but it still looks the part, which if you’re in the market for a MINI is what matters. I know you only get four seats to the Countryman’s five and two fewer doors but it’s still measurably more practical than the MINI without looking like its overdone it on the Melton Mowbrays. Better to drive too, if the musings of the motoring magazines who’ve already tested it are anything to go by.

Let me put it to you this way – the MINI Clubvan is hopelessly impractical next to the similarly priced Berlingo and Kangoo vans but not one small business will care, because the Clubvan grabs eyeballs and the Gallic load-luggers don’t. Looks count for an awful lot in MINI land. The Paceman has what it takes, and the Countryman doesn’t.

So I get the point of the Paceman entirely. Just a shame about the name, really.

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