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We drive the new MINI Paceman on the launch

We went on the MINI Paceman launch, which was quite an adventure.

Mini Paceman-1-2It’s a Tuesday morning, and I’m at the Airport. I’m not flying anywhere, well at least not flying in a plane, but I’m here with about a dozen other journalists and we’re going to give the new MINI a good run for it’s money. This is the 7th MINI in the lineup, there is the regular MINI hatch which we’ve all come to love, the MINI Convertible, the MINI Clubman, the MINI Coupe, the MINI Roadster, the MINI Countryman and now the MINI Paceman.









Our host for the day was Edward, steller chap. He’s the BMW group communications manager, and behind getting the launch together for us. I don’t envy him, it’s a lot of work, and a lot of driving, and a lot of organizing.

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Mini Paceman-3There were 5 MINI’s we could choose from. Two blue, two brown and one white. The white one was an All-4, which is basically an All-wheel drive system in a MINI. That’s the one I went for first, through it would be fun to give it a bash. The All-4 had an auto box, the other 4 were split 2 auto, and 2 manual. I did get a chance to swap half way from the auto All-4 to a manual front wheel drive, and much preferred the manual. All the models we had were the Cooper S, which is a 1.6-litre 135kW engine. There is a standard Cooper available with a 90kW engine and later next month we’ll see a JCW version with 160kW on the market.

Mini Paceman-4The first leg Ray was doing the driving, and it took us from the Airport over Sir Lowrys pass into Grabouw, where we turned off an headed for Franschoek. The Paceman is striking on the road, it’s got some of that funky Evoque styling going on which I think is just awesome. It lacks 4 doors like the Countryman but I think it’s better off for it.

Mini Paceman-5If you happen to come across a MINI Paceman and you’re not sure it’s a Paceman, you’ll just have to look at the back. MINI have been rather daring in putting “Paceman” in big bold letters across the back, and to some this can seem a little busy. What’s also fairly significant about the Paceman is the fact that the rear lights are horizontally spread rather than vertically like the other MINI’s. There is also some chrome around the rear lights that accentuate the styling of the lights.

Mini Paceman-6A stretch of road I drive quite often, and personally think is hugely underrated is the stretch between Grabouw and Franschoek, before you get to Frasnchoek. It can get tricky as there are a lot of trucks on the road, but if you’re lucky to get a clean stretch it’s some marvelous driving road.

Mini Paceman-7Nothing has changed between the Countryman and the Paceman on the inside, you’ll find the typical huge dial in the centre of the car, the centre of which becomes the display for the MINI entertainment system, which is really just adapted from the BMW iDrive system. On the inside the build quality really is good, typical BMW quality, and all the knobs, buttons and sounds have been MINIfied. Makes such a great little car.

Mini Paceman-8Our route took us to Robertson, where MINI made sure we were well fed. It never ceases to amaze me what kind of small gems you find in little country towns. We stopped in at the Robertson Small Hotel, which is a small boutique style hotel hidden in Roberson. It’s a gorgeous setting, and the restaurant is run by Reubens, which means the food was just brilliant!

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One thing became apparent after a few hundred km’s of driving, the MINI has a very MINI ride. It’s firm and provides lots of feedback, but does become a bit tiresome if you’re stuck on a bad stretch of road. Through the twisty bits the MINI Paceman didn’t seem to hug the road quite like the MINI Roadster did, which is likely due to the fact that it’s not only bigger and taller but heavier too. Mini Paceman-10

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Mini Paceman-13After lunch we set off from Robertson on some more good road, heading towards the N2 this time. There really are some magnificent driving roads out there, combined with amazing views in every single direction, it’s a great route for such a funky car.

Mini Paceman-14The support vehicle followed us most of the way. I’m not sure if that’s because we were dead last or if they were watching us and making sure that we behave ourselves.

Mini Paceman-15Next up the route took us to Elgin, where we went quad biking in the forrest with ExtremeScene. The MINI handles better than the quad bikes, but the quad bikes were a lot easier to put sideways in the dirt. It was early evening, the sun was setting, there was a hint of drizzle here and there, and it really was one of the most scenic rides I’ve even had.

Mini Paceman-16Refreshments were available as always.

Mini Paceman-17The quad bikes were split into 2 groups, the semi automatic and the fully automatic. One guess as to which bikes I made a dash for.

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From the Quad biking we headed back to Stellenbosh where we had dinner and a business presentation at Majeka house, a lovely boutique hotel hidden away off the beaten track.

The MINI Paceman is a very cool little car, and MINI clearly are extending their line up. Pricing on the Paceman starts at R300k for the Cooper and goes all the way up to about R450k for the JCW that’s coming later this year. Boot space on the Paceman is far better than the regular hatch, but that’s just because it’s a bigger car.

This is a MINI in every way, even for those who aren’t wild about the bigger body size and different looks.

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