Yet another Mini variation

With a hatch, coupe, roadster, cabriolet, wagon and soft- roader already in showrooms, Mini has scratched about in its array of hardware and design sketches to create the Paceman, which in simple terms is what you'd get if you put the company's Countryman and Hatchback together in a blender.

Click on photo at left for more views of the Mini Paceman.

Mini even calls the car the first member of a brand new segment it has invented by producing the Paceman which we're told is a "Sports Activity Coupe" the sort of Mini we've been crying out for because of its very absence in the lineup. Not.

BMW Mini paints a picture of the car as having "powerful, dynamically stretched coupe lines and hallmark Mini go-kart feeling teamed up with the exclusive ambience of its variable-usage interior". Whatever that means.

Anyway, the company wants the Paceman to be a pioneer in the urban environment - "one whose character is vividly imbued with the innovative and inimitable style of the British premium brand."

OK. With its two doors and large tailgate, plus two full-size individual rear seats, the seventh model is an intriguing looker.

The front of the car does impart some muscularity and presence compared with a standard Mini hatch while tapered rearward lines and a sloping roof mimic the profile of the Range Rover Evoque, though it does not match the elegance of the that car. The coupe-style roof, swooping downwards towards the rear, does sit well with the basic Mini premise however, and another nice touch is the introduction of a horizontal lighting motif on the model.

For all that swoopy roofline, Mini Paceman has been designed squarely as a four-seater. Sports seats for the driver and front passenger are included as standard, and a pair of individual seats in the rear offer decent shoulder room and headroom (says Mini, though I haven't sat out back yet). The car's side window controls, meanwhile, are integrated into the prominently three-dimensional door trim. The high-opening tailgate of the Mini Paceman and its low boot sill allow a useful luggage area at 330 litres, which increases to 1080 litres when the backrests are folded.

The Paceman will be available with a choice of four engines ranging from the 82kW Mini Cooper D Paceman, the 90kW Mini Cooper Paceman, the 105kW Mini Cooper SD Paceman (105kW/143hp) and the most powerful model, the 135kW Mini Cooper S Paceman. Mini says there are plans in place to add a Mini John Cooper Works Paceman variant to the range in due course. However, the company cannot confirm what engine choice we'll have in New Zealand when the car arrives here next year, though manual and automatic choices will be on our manifest, as will the option of having the Paceman with Mini's All-4 all- wheel-drive system from the Countryman and international rally car.

The Mini Paceman's chassis consists of a MacPherson spring strut front axle and forged cross members in tandem with a multi- link rear axle. The new model comes as standard with lowered sports suspension and DSC (Dynamic Stability Control). Electric Power Steering with standard Servotronic function likewise enhances the Mini's signature go- kart feeling on board.

Standard safety kit includes front and side airbags, as well as side curtain airbags for both rows of seats. All seats are fitted with three-point inertia-reel seat belts. Front seat occupants will also find belt tensioners and belt force limiters, while in the rear IsoFix child seat attachments are in place, should they be required.

Home comforts will include airconditioning, a radio Mini CD with AUX-IN socket, while options will include a sports leather steering wheel (standard in the Cooper S Paceman and Cooper SD Paceman) with optional multifunction buttons and cruise control, heated seats, an electrically operated glass roof, and xenon headlights, as well as adaptive headlights and park distance control.

The Mini Paceman can be expected in New Zealand in the first quarter of 2013.