Our cars: Mini Paceman Cooper S - June
Week ending June 28
Driven this week 357 miles
Mini Paceman review
I finally managed to put our Mini Paceman through its motorway paces on a trip to Gloucester this week, and I have to say our coupe-crossover was a real pleasure to spend a few hours in. The figure-hugging sports seats kept me comfortable, and the sat-nav is as sharp as you like; not one single misunderstood direction or wrong turn. Perfect.
However, it was the excited curiosity of the children of the What Car? reader I was visiting that really made me smile. They'd never seen a car quite like the Paceman before, and couldn't wait to jump in to test out the seats and see the rainbow lights that come with the Chili pack.
It was a hit with their mum, too, although her four kids mean the Mini with its two individual rear seats won't make the shortlist for the next family car.
Still, the infinitely more sensible Chevrolet Orlando, Peugeot 3008 and Toyota Verso she'd been test-driving for the week had enough of their own charms to temper any feelings of disappointment.
Week ending June 21
Driven this week 156 miles
I'm a self-confessed iPod addict, and listening to music in the car is something of a religion for me. I've been arguing for years that all mainstream cars should have a USB input as standard, and it's why I value great in-car audio systems so much.
The Mini Paceman should be brilliant for it given that it's got the £1800 media pack that includes nav, full Bluetooth and USB audio upgrade. It certainly looked great initially. I plugged my iPhone 4S in and the Paceman obliged with lovely colour images of the album covers coming up, a bar showing that the music was playing, and easy navigation via the rotary controller by the gearlever. But no sound accompanied it. Nothing. I twiddled the volume button, unplugged and re-plugged, turned the phone on and off. Silence.
Then a helpful colleague mentioned that I probably needed to download the Mini Connected app. I did that, I registered, I've plugged in and I now have a fiendishly clever app that (amongst various other tricks) allows me to remotely check the remaining fuel range and send Google map routes directly to the nav from my phone, which is genius. But the USB input still won’t actually play my music. Which isn't genius.
I have now given up and resorted to the Bluetooth connection, which doesn't require the app and delivers deep, satisfying sound quality. However, whilst you can skip tracks using the car’s controls, you have to choose your artist or album via the phone. It's been an immensely frustrating initiation to the otherwise quite fun Mini Paceman.
By Vicky Parrott
Week ending June 14
Driven this week 207 miles
Lots of people have compared the Mini Paceman with the Range Rover Evoque. I don't see it myself. Yes, they share a similar silhouette, and I guess they may appeal to the same type of person, but after flitting between our new Paceman and the Evoque on the What Car? fleet this week, I don't think they share many other attributes.
For a start, the Paceman is far sportier in intent; it's more agile and dartier to drive. Just like a Mini should be, in fact. You sit far lower in it, too. The Range Rover meanwhile has a proper SUV viewpoint from which to survey the outside world. The Mini is far lower, more snug and really no different from a conventional hatch – notwithstanding the characteristic switchgear.
The Evoque has space limitations, but it's a credible family car; the Paceman is nothing of the sort. Yes, the Mini's hatch is handy and it has useful rear space but a family would find it wanting – and fair enough, that's what the Countryman's there for.
That said, I like them both equally. Just don't go thinking they're like-for-like rivals.
By Chas Hallett
Week ending June 7
Driven this week 187 miles
Our Mini Paceman Cooper S has only recently joined the long-term fleet, but I've already had a chance to take it home for a weekend.
While the styling is controversial, there's no denying that the Paceman will have visual appeal to many potential buyers. However, it's still a world away from the striking Range Rover Evoque to my eyes – a car with which it is often compared.
Other areas where I don't think it holds a candle to the Evoque are cabin quality and refinement. I've never been a fan of the Mini hatch's unusual dashboard layout, and it's no better in the Paceman. Switches aren't necessarily where you'd expect them to be, and the back adjustment for the seat is wedged ridiculously tightly between the armrest and side bolster.
While the dials and readouts have all been designed to look snazzy, there's far too much cheap plastic surrounding them for a car that costs this much.
It's also not a particularly relaxing cruiser – the ride isn't too firm, but there's rather a lot of road noise above 50mph, and some of the boot fixtures and fittings rattle over rough surfaces.
As you can tell, I'm not too impressed so far. I hope I'll be able to return to these updates before long to extol some of the Paceman's virtues…
By Ed Callow