If you were worried that Mini was starting to make cars that were too big, here's some relief. The new Mini Paceman Concept, which will make its world debut at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show, is no bigger than the recently introduced Countryman.
And the bad news? It's not much smaller, either. In fact, the Mini Paceman is identical to the Countryman except for its height, which is only about an inch lower. Their likenesses should not come as much of a surprise, though, as the Paceman is essentially a two-door version of the Countryman. Oh, and it's just a concept. At least that's what Mini is going with now.
Not Too Far From Production
Mini may have applied the concept label to this two-door Countryman, but the Paceman is clearly designed to enter production. Its visual distinctions are minor and none of them are drastic enough to make changes for production very difficult.
Note that the entire front fascia is carried over from the Countryman. That wide smile framed by the big headlights is there, along with foglights at each corner and an intake between them. There's a slightly different three-bar grille on the Paceman, but that's an easy enough change.
That gold slash that juts down from the A-pillar is nothing more than a splash of paint designed to draw your eye to the unique set of 19-inch wheels. Probably safe to assume that they're not production pieces, although the Countryman offers optional 18-inch sport wheels, so these aren't that far from production specs.
If there's one visual cue that gives the Mini Paceman a unique look, it's the blacked-out C-pillars combined with the contrasting white roof. Mini calls it a "helmet" roof and it's been used on numerous concepts over the years to great effect. Whether it makes it to production is unclear, but it would surely make for a better-looking profile than the Countryman's cluttered lines.
Plenty of Room if You Can Get in
As you might expect, the Paceman carries over much of the Countryman's design to the cabin. It has the same flow-through center rail that extends all the way to the rear seats, along with a centrally located speedometer and large circular side vents.
Mini notes that the door panels were tailored specifically for the Paceman to emphasize the length of the doors. As far as we can tell, they look very much like the Countryman's setup except for the slightly slimmer ellipses.
Since the Paceman has the same overall length as the Countryman, we can only assume that the wheelbase is unchanged as well. This should make for decent-size rear seats, provided you can squeeze into them.
As expected, Mini went ahead and shoved its most powerful engine into the Paceman concept. Why not, eh?
In this case, that would be the 1.6-liter turbocharged unit found in the John Cooper Works models. It generates 211 horsepower and as much as 207 pound-feet of torque, not bad for a little coupe. And what do you know, the Mini Paceman also includes the same all-wheel-drive system as the Countryman. That means it's more or less front-wheel drive until the wheels begin to slip and the center differential redirects some of the power to the rear.
Mini claims that the Paceman gets its own unique chassis setup. It doesn't exactly say what changes were made, but assume that the MacPherson struts and multilink rear end received an appropriate level of retuning.
Is This the Next Mini?
If Vegas took odds on such things, we would put all of our money on "yes," or whatever the affirmative is in books these days. The Mini Paceman is a set of wheels and a paint job away from the showroom in our estimation. Expect to see a wider range of engines, too, of course, along with a few Paceman-only options to make it just a little bit different from the Countryman.
Oh, and hopefully, they'll go with a name change, too. As Sean Penn learned in the late '80s cop flick Colors, no one wants to drive around in a Pac-Man.