A week with a Mini Paceman

Posted in DriveL by Richard Porter on Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Day one: It’s very easy to criticise the Mini Countryman. It’s very easy to regard it as a bloated, boggle-eyed, bilious parody which drops its ghastly, Austrian-made trousers and curls out an ugly steaming turd onto the grave of Sir Alec Issigonis. But actually, plenty of people like it. One in every three Minis sold is a Countryman these days and if you look around, they’re everywhere. So now there’s a three door version. I don’t remember demanding such a thing. Did you? No? Oh. Well someone must have. And here it is, looking quite strange. I think it’s the mis-match between the upright windscreen pillars and the more rakish back end. Sitting inside feels odd too. The screen angle is unusual and the whole car feels massive. I can’t get the driving position right.

Day two: Work to do. The Paceman sits outside looking tubby and strange. In the evening I have to go to a place just outside London. Getting there involves following a mate in a Nissan Juke. He drives like a loony. Chasing a Nissan Juke across Surrey in a Mini Paceman. It’s the kind of dream from which you’d wake up screaming. Anyway, from this brisk journey I can report that this Paceman is quite quick, as you’d hope since it’s the Cooper S version, and that it has a lot of grip. Conversely, it gets distracted by ruts and cambers, the steering is too quick for the rest of the car and the ride is appalling.

Day three: Still trying to get comfortable. This has become particularly important because earlier today The Final Countdown by Europe came on in the kitchen and I put my back out trying to play the dog like an air guitar. The seat back adjuster is a tiny tab down between the cushion and the centre armrest. It’s senselessly hard to operate and part of a whole suite of inexplicable design that would really get on your nerves if you owned this car. Half the passenger door mirror and the digital readout in the rev counter become invisible when you have the seat set low; that readout itself won’t let you see what temperature it is and then check something useful like range-to-empty without toggling through all the other modes from a single button on the stalk; the ignition key is actually a little plastic flying saucer that has to put into the slot the right way up or it pops out and falls on the floor; the slot itself is impossible to see without leaning forward and completely disappears in the dark. Why have they done all these things to us? Is BMW still angry about Rover?

Day four: I forgot about another tremendous interior annoyance; the handbrake. It’s an over-designed L-shape which forces you to twist your wrist to work it. I’m sure Mini would describe it as ‘aircraft style’. Not sure aircraft actually have handbrakes. A real ‘aircraft style’ handbrake would be a set of chocks.

My wife has started calling this car the Pacemaker. Later, she also refers to it as ‘fat’. She’s right. It somehow manages to be even bigger than it feels. And it feels pretty big.

Day five: The Mini has a sport mode. It sharpens the throttle, which is good, and makes the steering even weirder, which is bad. Whenever Germans engineer a British car they almost always make the steering heavier than it needs to be. See also the Rover 75 and the original Aston DB9. ‘Oh ja, is totally authentical Britische heritage.’ Sod off, no it isn’t.

I was going to say that the Mini feels solidly and Germanically well made but the ride is so bad that it’s making something in the boot and a part of the door trim rattle. Also, the chrome electric window switches on the door look excellent but creak when you use them.

Day six: In front of the Mini’s gearlever there is a slot which is exactly the right size for an iPhone. How thoughtful. Except it has no lip on it nor a grippy floor so as soon as you accelerate your phone falls out into the cup holder. What the merry frig is going on here? It really is like the entire interior has been designed to be as profoundly irritating as possible. Plus, the massive speedo/screen and the two round vents in the middle of the dash look like Mickey Mouse’s head. It’s not a design that a grown up can enjoy.

Day seven: I think I’ve worked this one out. Traditionally, all Minis are bought by people called Emma. This is a fact (that I’ve just made up). Some time, two or three years ago, the head of the Paceman project had his heart broken by an Emma and from then on he was out for revenge, not just on her but on all Emmas. He wanted their spines to be cracked by terrible ride quality, he wanted their wrists to be dislocated by a stupid handbrake, he wanted their minds to be vexed by an idiotically designed key and their phones to be broken by falling repeatedly into the cup holder. He wanted Emmas to suffer and by buying this car, by God they will. It’s the only explanation for why so much of this thing is almost spitefully shit.

Goodbye: The Paceman is going away. After a week I still can’t work out the point of it. If you want a three door Mini, buy a Mini. If you need more room and practicality, buy a Countryman. This is neither. I wonder if BMW looked at the Range Rover Evoque and decided they also needed a sort of high riding coupe to go alongside the five door. They probably didn’t know that, at the time of writing, 90 percent of UK Evoque buyers pick the five door. So it’s a pointless car with bizarre styling, a terrible ride and an endlessly irritating interior. I bet they sell loads.

The car talked about is a Mini Paceman Cooper S with a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine making 182 horsepower. Mini says it can do 0-62 in 7.5 seconds and hit 135mph. It costs £22,360.

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55 Responses to “A week with a Mini Paceman”

  1. juux says:

    Long may manufacturers continue to submit their products for your consideration.

    Did you not feel a bit of berk getting out of it in a crowded place? I’ve always felt I had to jog away so I wouldn’t be associated with any Mini I’ve just gotten out of.

  2. Andrew says:

    What are you thinking BMW!? JUST STOP IT!

    There are better ways to express how you are “cute”, “wacky” and “interesting” than buying this cross between a Fiat 500 and a hippopotamus.

  3. Frankie says:

    Oh dear.
    But I must say I really wanted to hate this car, and I’m glad I now have a bona fide reason to do so. And AROnline’s band of mouth frothing MINI hateists will love this review.

    That cup holder is proof that BMW wanted to annoy Emmas. Imagine all the phone insurance claims all the Emmas’ iPhones land in their cardboard mug of Costa (if they take the plastic lid off first to aid cooling of the coffee).
    But can I ask: am I the only person who drives with his phone in his pocket?

  4. Niiigel says:

    All Emma’s are evil. That is a longstanding fact. And that slot in the dash is surely for the owner’s makeup mirror thingy?

  5. Sniff Petrol says:

    I tend to keep my phone in my back pocket and I take it out of my pocket if I’m going to be sitting down for a while because of a fear of ARSE CANCER.

  6. Howard says:

    May we assume the cack-handed handbrake is because the orientation wasn’t changed for right hand drive?

  7. Brassic says:

    I have a Countryman (which shares interior design with the Paceman by the looks of it).

    I must say that I find the handbrake quite natural actually, and find the most comfortable position for the seat to be up high and quite upright. THe key slot has never bothered me, I don’t have an issue getting it in, so to speak… fnar fnar!

    As for the iPhone, if you have Mini Connected then you put your iPhone in the armrest cradle or connected to the USB cable and placed in the centre rail.

    The centre dial *does* look like Mickey Mouse (or Mini..!) though, which my 4 yr old daughter likes to remind me!

    Even on my CooperD (not S) the suspension is “firm”, but I have basic 16″ wheels with nice squishy sidewalls 😉

    But (in a Watchdog style…) Why, Oh Why, do they think a 3 dr version is necessary….???

  8. Antony says:

    I think artificially heavy steering is just a BMW thing in general. I remember the steering in my old Rover 75 being surprisingly heavy as you mention, but then it was equally heavy in my brother’s 3-Series, despite there being less weight on the front of the car.

    On a semi-related note, I drove the Clubvan yesterday. It might actually be the best MINI I’ve driven.

  9. Northern Monkey says:

    Another pile of crap with a handbrake designed for left hand drive! Empty headed bimbos will buy them in droves sadly. This car and the rest of the Bini range is payback for losing 2 world wars and the world cup in 1966

  10. Gridlock says:

    This and the Evoque: The Terry Gilliam “Squashed by an angry deity’s foot” School of Design

  11. AliAlfa says:

    Original ‘New’ MINI is fine – this thing is shocking.

    Buy one of these or a CoUNTryman for that matter, and you are telling the world you care nothing about styling and know very, very little about cars.

    And when I see you I WILL laugh at you.

  12. Emma says:

    I love my MINI!!!! What are you talking about!!!! Arseface you will never get off with me. What kind of dog do you have!!!! I bet its’ cute!!!!

    !!!!!!,
    Emma

  13. A-T says:

    SCRAP IT.

  14. Si says:

    What a load of old sh**e, I couldn’t stand the real thing, let alone this.

  15. Jennifer Warts says:

    I’ve seen plenty of these things on the road lately. There’s either an awful lot of Emma’s around or just people with a very bizarre sense of humour. And appreciation for “design”. And taste. And common sense.
    Goes some way to explain the success of things like the X Factor.

    I am now emigrating, goodbye.

  16. Jemma says:

    Thank you, I havent laughed so much in months! The only thing worse than the Pacemaker is the Countryman – I’ve seen light tanks that are smaller and probably nicer to drive. You forgot to mention the SS Barrack Room seats and the horrible cringing look on their face that any male I have seen gets when they are forced to drive anything BINI..

  17. Morgan says:

    I parked my Golf next to one of these in a Waitrose car park the other day.

    As I turned around to check the indicators did indeed flash when I pressed the plipper, I was struck by the sheer size of this MINI monstrosity.

    I’d only walked a few feet from my car, but it was nearly entirely obscured by the very, very ugly MINI.

    As I couldn’t see the indicators of my car flashing (massive MINI in the way), I listened out for the sound of the central locking instead.

    But strangely, all I could hear was the sound of Sir Alec Issigonis spinning in his grave.

    Seriously, WTF are these people thinking?

  18. Fenners says:

    It looks like it’s been reversed into the garage with the door partially down – I thought Bimmer did a reasonable job of re-interpreting the Mini at first – now they’re just taking the pi55

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  20. Philip says:

    You really didn’t get it, you buy Mini because its mini, still the most original car put there. Stick to Fords they’re definately the car for you, boring and predictable, just like your review!

  21. Jim says:

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Each to his own. I don’t care who sells what, or who drives what, or what it does. Buy it if YOU like it. Who is Sir Alec Issigonis anyway?

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