First manufactured in 1959, the original Mini became the iconic car of the 1960s and its popularity quickly spread far beyond its homeland of Britian. Fifty-seven years and a number of parent company changes later, Mini is still doing its thing and the models are looking as stylish as ever.
I’d ridden shotgun in a Mini once, quite a few years back, but never had the pleasure of driving one myself until last weekend, so to say I was excited for my test drive would be something of an understatement.
It was the Paceman, Mini’s entry into the crossover market, that I would be driving and with slightly elongated doors and a gently slanting roof, it cut a unique and effortlessly chic silhouette that only heightened my desire to get behind the wheel and see what it was capable of.
Inside, the distinctive design continues with numerous quirky touches dotted around the cabin. The first thing that struck me was the unusual placement of the speedometer, which occupies centre stage, curving its way around the infotainment system. For those who find this a little confusing or distracting, there is also a digital display of your speed directly in your eye line, below the rev counter. Hitting the relatively quiet Muscat Expressway on a Friday morning, I found that the Paceman sticks to the road like a go-kart thanks to the optional ALL4 all-wheel drive. You’re quite low to the ground, which is not to everyone’s tastes, but you can have a great deal of fun picking your way between the monster-sized SUVs and 4x4s that dominate Muscat’s roads and have no fear of the Paceman going anywhere other than exactly where you want thanks to superb handling.
Sport mode is engaged by flicking a switch instead of pressing a button, which just adds to the racy feel of the overall package, and once you’ve done this, the 190-horsepower 1.6-litre twin-scroll turbo engine kicks in, hurtling you forward with a smile on your face. To get the most out of the engine and for a more exhilarating experience, I’d recommend selecting manual and controlling the gear changes via the paddles behind the steering wheel.
It’s hard to put into words, but I just felt good driving the Paceman. The model I had was a striking electric blue colour, with a contrasting white roof and wing mirrors that made it stand out from the motoring crowd with ease.
The fact that I knew I was turning heads as I shot by couldn’t help but give me a warm feeling inside and a broad grin on the outside.
It would perhaps be foolish to try and cram three people into the back of a compact car like a Mini, so the designers haven’t even tried. Instead, the Paceman offers two individual seats in the back, complete with two cup holders, a storage compartment and a 12-volt power outlet. The effect is that while from the outside you may have reservations on the interior space the car offers, climb in and you’ll be pleasantly surprised as even the rear passengers travel in luxury and comfort.
Officials at Mini say that “the legend is in the detail” and customisation is certainly one thing that the brand prides itself on (the website boasts 10 million potential configurations), which means almost everything can be tweaked to your exact liking. Ambient lighting packages, roof colour, steering wheel design, style of alloy wheels, inlay colour and the type of cloth used for the seats – the choice is quite literally yours.
Despite having only a short time with the Paceman, the overwhelming sense I got from it was one of pure fun. It’s a quirky, young and vibrant car that was an absolute pleasure to drive. I want one.