Dan Read27 February 2013

First drive: Mini Paceman JCW

"A big personality and that decent 4WD save the Paceman JCW from banishment to the TG scrapheap..."

Mini Paceman JCW

It's a Mini. But which one?

This is a Paceman JCW. So it's a two-door version of the Countryman with some extra firepower from a John Cooper Works conversion.

How much extra firepower?

Until now the fastest Paceman was a 183bhp Cooper S. This one has 215bhp and comes with Mini's rather good All4 four-wheel-drive system as standard.

See more pics of the Mini Paceman John Cooper Works

So it's supposed to be a hot hatch type-thing?

Yes. Though at nearly thirty thousand pounds it's the most expensive Mini on sale, and even if you squint really hard, it's definitely not a traditional hatchback.

Is it any good?

It will never go around corners quite like a proper hot hatch, because ultimately it's just a reskinned version of the somewhat portly Countryman. And it lacks the tingly edge we like so much about other John Cooper Works models.

Do you have a ‘but' coming up?

Yes. Because there's still something likeable about the Paceman JCW. Maybe it's the familiar 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, which blows raspberries down the exhaust. Or maybe it's the excellent electromagnetic centre differential, which chucks up to 100 per cent of the 215bhp to the rear wheels.

Sounds like fun...

We drove all day on cold, wet roads in Germany, gathering confidence with every bend. It's more assured and bearable than other JCWs. There's loads of grip and the brakes are strong. And there's a burst of extra torque under full acceleration from 2,100 to 4,500rpm, which is just enough to make it feel brisk.

See more pics of the Mini Paceman John Cooper Works

What's not to like?

More supportive seats would be welcome, to save passengers from having to anchor themselves with a knee or elbow. And although Sport mode sharpens the throttle and turns the exhaust into a firework when you come off the throttle, it doesn't alter the suspension and actually stiffens the steering too much.

But I really love Minis and can't help myself...

You're a freak. But we'll forgive you for this one, because a big personality and that decent 4WD save the Paceman JCW from banishment to the TG scrapheap. But be warned: for similar money, you could be buying the astonishingly good BMW M135i. But perhaps that doesn't shout loudly enough for some people...

The numbers
1598cc, 4cyl, 4WD, 215bhp, 221lb ft, 38.2mpg, 172g/km CO2, 0-62mph in 6.9 secs, 140mph, 1475kg

Now share it...

What do you think?

This service is provided by Disqus and is subject to their privacy policy and terms of use. Please read Top Gear's code of conduct (link below) before posting.