The Mini Paceman JCW is a melting pot of SUV, coupe and hot hatch. Beneath its extrovert looks, this curious car uses the same chassis, 1.6-litre turbocharged motor and permanent four-wheel drive system as the Mini Countryman JCW.
Apart from the extra power, it’s set apart from the rest of the Paceman range (which is available with a broad range of petrol and diesel engines) by a ride height that's 10mm lower and more styling glitz.
However, the asking price of £29,535 – more than some versions of the Range Rover Evoque – will require some serious justification.
What’s the 2013 Mini Paceman JCW like to drive?
In many respects the Paceman JCW is a fun thing. The engine delivers strong, progressive acceleration and you can carry plenty of speed through bends without fuss thanks to the strong grip.
Go in to a corner too fast and the front wheels will start to wash wide, but it’s a slow, controllable process that’s easily rectified by lifting off the throttle.
The steering is fairly heavy and quick to respond, even in ‘Normal’ mode. Select ‘Sport’ (which also sharpens up the throttle response and induces a cheeky burble from the exhaust) and it gets unnecessarily weighty and can feel twitchy at higher speeds.
Our test car came fitted with smaller-than-standard 17-inch alloys and high-walled winter tyres, which helped soak up small bumps reasonably well despite the JCW’s firm suspension.
However, there was still a substantial amount of thumping and shuddering over rougher surfaces, which doesn’t bode well for UK cars and their standard 18-inch wheels and summer tyres.
Overall, the Paceman JCW is satisfying enough to drive, but never really sparkles. The steering feels too artificial, the handling isn’t engaging enough and straight-line performance isn’t that impressive by the standards of similarly priced rivals, either.
What’s the 2013 Mini Paceman JCW like inside?
The Paceman's interior is virtually identical to the Countryman’s up front, which means you get a retro dashboard that takes some time to learn because it puts style before ease of use.
The JCW gets some bespoke upgrades, including piano black trim accents, darker dials instrument dials and a set of sports seats that are a bit short of side support.
You sit higher than you do in a Mini hatch and there’s plenty of adjustment in the driver’s seat. However, the controls for adjusting the angle of the backrest are hard to reach, and some drivers will wish the steering wheel had a greater range of adjustment.
Move to the back and you'll find a pair of individual bucket seats with Mini's aluminium accessory rail threading between them. They look great, and even smaller adults will be quite happy nestled in them for long journeys, although six-footers may feel a bit claustrophobic.
Should I buy one?
If you can sacrifice four-wheel drive there are faster and more scintillating cars to spend this sort of money on, including the BMW M135i and Volkswagen Scirocco R.
If you must have four-wheel drive and like the Paceman’s opinion-dividing looks, the Cooper S All4 version costs almost £6k less and isn’t that much slower.
What Car? says...
Volkswagen Scirocco R
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
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