I count my Mini experiences as major high points throughout my life. Each time I’ve driven one, there’s always an adventure that accompanies each drive. In fact, these driving highlights have become known as Mini adventures by those who’ve participated.
From tearing along twisting Scottish Highlands roads in a Clubman putting its road holding ability to the test on the blind rises, sudden hairpin bends and twisting turns to navigating snowy passes near Aviemore in a Cooper S just to enjoy a brief 2 hour window of skiing on a particularly snowy winter. The list of fun-filled joyrides that I associate the Mini brand with is an ever-increasing one, so it was with great anticipation that I tested the John Cooper Works Mini Paceman.
It tore around the corner sporting a blinding red and black paint job both inside and out and I knew that a weekend exploring the best of the Cape’s roads was definitely in order. Time for a new Mini Adventure.
Time for a new Mini Adventure.
There’s something about climbing into a Mini that makes you want to test it, fool around with it and see what it will do – like poking a sleeping cat with a stick. Will it start to purr or will it leap up and bite you? There’s this excitement and anticipation as you quickly become reacquainted to the unique driving style – which still carries through to the larger Paceman – and which is reminiscent of a go-kart in its driveability. The Paceman utilizes the Countryman’s larger chassis and brings a sexy coupe look to the table. But it still handles as a Mini ought, just with more oomph! Pushing out 160kW at 6000revs and with a very nippy 0-100km acceleration of a mere 6.9s from a turbo-charged 1.6l engine, it’s just so much fun to drive. The All4 permanent four-wheel drive gives the Paceman even more superior road-holding ability, even in wet conditions.
Initially, I was skeptical of the automatic gearbox, I’ve always preferred to drive a manual Mini, you get a better hands-on driving feeling and this all adds to the fun of the experience. However, I was impressed with the smooth gear transitions and the response from the paddle shift. It was snappy without jarring between transitions and gave almost as much pleasure as a manual version would have.
For added mischievous fun, put the JCW Paceman into Sport mode…
For added mischievous fun, put the JCW Paceman into Sport mode, switch over to manual gear selection with the paddle shift, then experience the cheeky exhaust fart as you accelerate then pull back off around the 2500rpm mark. It is almost guaranteed to blow away any blue moods and put a smile on your face, but it has an appalling effect on consumption as you backfire your way around twisty roads. Standard mixed driving will give you around 8l/100km, fooling around with the Paceman in a mainly urban environment increased this to 12l/100.
…experience the cheeky exhaust fart as you accelerate…
Space wise, the Paceman offers a surprising amount of room for a Mini. This is largely attributed to the Countryman dimensions that create just that extra amount of legroom at the back, as well as the fact that the Paceman is only a four-seater. The two rear seats are individual bucket seats to offer rear passengers as much ergonomic comfort as those in front. The trunk is just big enough to handle several bags for a sneaky weekend away in Cape Town
The interior finish is in a sporty black leather with chilli red trim – from the upholstery stitching to the bezels along the side of the doors and even the edges of the floor mats all sport the same bright finish. On the outside, a choice of 7 colours and a multitude of sporty go-faster stripes and side mirror and roof colour finishes mean that you’ll be able to personalize your Paceman as you see fit. The Paceman JCW comes standard with 18” alloy wheels with a option to upgrade to 19” (although the 18” wheel was more than adequate in terms of accentuating the sporty look). A couple of differences like the hexagonal grille and horizontal rear lights differentiate the Paceman from other Minis.
…one of my favourite interior touches was the ambient lighting…
Inside, the massive central speedometer dominates the dashboard and one of my favourite interior touches was the ambient lighting, which, if left on purple, adds an almost pimped mood to your drive. The funky reading light and sunroof controls also deserve a special mention.
Now, you may wonder, what is the Paceman supposed to be? Mini are well known for being able to play many variations on the same theme in terms of offering enough product differentiation to keep their loyal customers happy and to attract a broader income group, but you may well wonder what the Paceman is supposed to be? Is it a hatch? Is it a coupe? Is it an SUV? Mini have indeed done it again and combined aspects of all three to bring you an entirely new offering that still has that whiff of Mini familiarity about it.
That means, that if you love Mini, you’re almost certain to really appreciate the JCW Paceman and, if you’ve got some N$440 500 in spare moola hanging around, you’re certain to want to splash out on this pocket rocket.
0-100m: 6.2s / 94.4km/h
0-200m: 9.5s / 121.0km/h
0-300m: 12.2s / 135.9km/h
0-400m: 14.7 / 150.7km/h
1/4mile: 14.7s @ 93.9mph (151.1km/h)
Altitude Sea level
Road Dry tarmac, level
Occupants Driver, no passengers
Fuel level 1/4