MINI has a problem. It’s a problem Porsche faced and overcame, and now Mini is beginning to do the same. If survival depends on diversity beyond historical constraints – and no brand of decent size can survive on a single model – then how do you diversify when history limits you?
The constraints on this iconic British brand are even stronger than those broken by Porsche. Mini, by its very definition, can only produce small cars; the smaller the better. Cars like the Countryman, and now the Paceman, push the boundaries of what can acceptably be called a Mini.
The Mini Paceman is really starting to push the friendship. For starters, the Paceman name has no roots, and the car itself is basically a Countryman with two fewer doors – and two grand more expensive.
The Paceman shares both its 1.6-litre petrol fours – 135kW turbo in the Cooper S and 90kW non-turbo in the Cooper – and its six-speed manual and automatic transmissions with most of its six brothers. There will be no diesel Paceman, at least initially; nor a four-wheel-drive option.
The 1.6-litre turbo I drove is the range sweetie, with the herbs to deliver on Mini’s trademark sportiness. It’s good at low revs, better at high revs and swings eagerly to the limiter. Mini claims 0-100km/h in 7.5 seconds, which isn’t blistering, but in-gear acceleration feels stronger than that number suggests.
Importantly, the Paceman is practical by Mini standards, and more Mini to drive than the Countryman. Decrying the Paceman as one derivative too far is short-sighted. Equally, dismissing it as a two-door Countryman is unfair. It’s a more enjoyable drive than the Countryman, and more liveable than the hatch.
Is it a true Mini? No, not if you live in the past. Yes if you want more Minis in the future.
Click here to download the Wheels mag digital edition via the magshop app.
For all the latest from Australia's original and best motoring magazine...
Like WHEELS on Facebook
In pics: 2013 Porsche Cayman
Seven important cars for 2013
Nine awesome cars that bowed out in 2012
Most valuable automotive companies
Wheels Car of the Year 2012
Wheels drive: Bentley Continental GT
Wheels drive: BMW 528i
Mercedes Benz issues CLA spy shots
20 sexiest cars from the LA Motor Show
Wheels Review: McLaren MP4-12C
Wheels drive: Mazda MX-5
Wheels drive: BMW M6
Porsche plans big brother for 911
Wheels drive: Audi S6/S7 first drive
Wheels drive: Honda Civic