Two child-safety gates fit nicely in the backseat while bags of groceries and other household items filled the boot. I must admit that as I was leaving the supermarket, I wondered: How is all this supposed to fit into the car?
The car, in question, is the Mini Cooper S Paceman. One of the latest models by the British automotive marquee (released last year), the two-door coupé may seem just a cute ride. But don't let it deceive you: It is more spacious than many may think, myself included.
As I pile all that I have bought into the car, I am surprised that everything fits nicely. There is sufficient room in the boot, packing up to 1,080L of luggage space. And if I so require, the back seats provide more space for bags, that is, if there are no passengers — which means whoever sits behind can enjoy ample legroom. However, with its unique sloping coupé-styled roof, my gripe is with the slightly lower ceiling at the back, which makes it a little tricky to get in and out of the car if you're taller than the average person. (I myself bump my head twice.)
Now it's time to take this car on the road.
As it is hails from the same corporate company as BMW, the Paceman is fitted with the sophisticated iDrive system. There's no need for a key to turn on the ignition; as long as the key fob is with you, you only need to hit the start button to start the engine.
Growling to life, the Paceman packs more punch than other cars its size. Of course, equipped with a four-cylinder turbocharged engine from its parent company, the roadster is a powerful ride. I zipped in and out of traffic, hardly noticing the weight of the car and all that it is filled with.
My passenger (who I must add was in the used car business back in his heyday) is quite a car fanatic, and is impressed by what a smooth drive the Paceman is.
Providing a comfortable yet sporty experience, the Mini Paceman's athletic and trendy design makes it a delightful ride for the young, first-time driver. Though bigger in size than the usual Mini Cooper models (but smaller than its four-door sibling, the Countryman), this speedster is lower to the ground for better stability and speed. Additionally, it still puts the fun in driving — giving the same hallmark go-kart feeling it is known for — because of how responsive and nimble it is. Case in point: At the traffic light, I step on the accelerator and the engine roars quickly to life. I'm the first to leave the junction, unfazed by its larger, seemingly more powerful counterparts.
Its lengthened doors, long shoulder line and horizontal rear lights may steer away from the typical shape of Minis but it gives the Paceman, no doubt, a sexier, more elegant silhouette. Its Sport mode further impresses with its sheer power for a car of this size, and switched on, is a joy to drive on the expressway.
The car also boasts the quirky interiors it is known for, including its iconic large, dinner-plate-sized speedometer in the centre of the dashboard.
In fact, the Paceman I'm driving today will soon be superseded by a new model. Unveiled recently at the Beijing Motor Show, the new reworked Paceman will boast slight tweaks to the exterior and interior styling, such as new alloy wheel designs, anthracite-coloured dials and chrome trim on air vents. Its major addition is the Mini Connected Infotainment system, allowing extensive integration of smartphones in the car, the use of Internet-based services and cool apps. And of course, the engine will soon deliver 190bhp instead.
But that's not to say the current model I'm driving is any less impressive.
As I approach the series of winding turns within my estate, manoeuvring the car proves easy to do. The Paceman is indeed stable enough to handle the road condition; you can hardly feel the bumps that you would with others of its size.
Turning into the driveway and shifting the gear back to Park, I push the Start button and proceed to unload my loot from the car. My passenger, all this time, expressing how enjoyable the ride is, turns to me before I can hit the lock button: “Shall we go for another round? But this time, can I drive?”
Mini Cooper S Paceman
Engine: Four-cylinder in-line (twin-scroll turbocharger)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Max power: 184bhp
Max torque: 240Nm @ 1,500-5,000rpm (with overboost: 260Nm @ 1,700-4,500rpm) Max speed: 212kph
Acceleration: 0-100kph in 7.8 seconds