Last week we drove MINI’s Paceman and Countryman, travelling along some familiar roads and trying to decide which (if any) we would buy.
In practice, we found little if any difference between them dynamically, but a whole heap of difference in how they make you feel when driving them.
As you’d expect, the Paceman is less spacious inside, which restores some of the classic MINI’s intimacy and provides a more ‘sporty’ ambience. It’s subtle, yet worth bearing in mind if you don’t need the extra space.
Otherwise, it suffers from the usual MINI flaw of overly-stiff front suspension, which massively inhibits traction – fun in short measures, but frustrating if the road is anything but silky smooth.
Anyway, I’m sure if you’re looking at these cars then you’ve already read plenty of reviews, so rather than add another, I thought you might like to see them both pictured side-by-side.
Ultimately, they drive pretty much the same, so it boils down to their personal appeal and which you like the look of. There’s plenty of space in the back of the Paceman (for two six-foot adults) and the Paceman’s boot is just 20 litres smaller than the Countryman’s (330 litres vs 350 litres) – or 1,080 litres with the rear seats folded vs 1,170 litres in the Countryman.
When configured as the 215bhp John Cooper Works (with standard all-wheel drive), the Paceman sprints just 0.1 second quicker than the Countryman to 62mph (6.9 vs 7.0), so we’d be splitting hairs in choosing them based on performance.
If you must choose a two-wheel drive version, then consider dropping the Sport suspension, it may seem more sporty but the Paceman is likely to be faster and a whole lot more comfortable on the standard setup.
Starting at £18,970 (MINI Cooper), the Paceman costs just £910 more than the Countryman, although the entry-level Countryman is a MINI One so technically the more spacious 5-door could be yours for just £16,450.
There are deals to be done on both models, including a £1,000 discount being offered for loyal BMW customers, so make sure you shop around and choose wisely.
We preferred the Paceman – it offers a more practical proposition than the equivalent MINI hatchback, without the dowdy OAP look of the Countryman, but it’s a pricey and far from perfect choice when compared to its competitors from Renault and Volkswagen.
Interestingly, MINI don’t see the Paceman’s competitors as similar sized hatchbacks, but instead Nissan’s Juke and Range Rover’s Evoque. I don’t see it myself, it doesn’t feel anywhere near as big as an Evoque nor as versatile, but I do agree it will appeal to male buyers who’ve shunned MINI’s other coupé models.
The Countryman has become MINI UK’s second biggest seller after the Hatch (with 14,600 sales compared to 25,100), and the company estimates demand for around 3,000-4,000 Pacemans.
I suspect they’ll sell more, but probably cannibalise some of those Countryman sales. Unless you need the extra two doors, the Paceman makes a compelling case for being a consummate (if a little pricey) all rounder.
Pictures: courtesy of MINI USA