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By Jonathan Crouch
Added 6th December, 2019
The MINI take on battery-powered motoring certainly has its appeal. Jonathan Crouch checks out the MINI Electric.
When it comes to affordable open-topped sportscars that drive well and are usable every day, the used market isn't exactly swollen with talent. There's the evergreen Mazda MX-5, but beyond that, you'll need to step up to much pricier cars like the Audi TT Roadster. Slotting in between these two was an open goal that this MINI was never going to miss.
A little more extreme than an MX-5. A little easier to own - and much more affordable - than a Lotus Elise, this MINI Roadster was extremely carefully targeted, with a very different appeal to any of the brand's previous soft-top models. Buying one will be an unashamed indulgence, as the purchase of any sportscar should be, the beginning of a driving experience that promises fun without too many hard core compromises. It's the MINI method of sportscar ownership. And you can see why many in this market are going to like it.
One journalist we read of described this Paceman as 'the perfect car for someone else' - and we kind of understand what he means. It wouldn't necessarily suit us, but we know a lot of other people who'd simply love it. MINI calls this a 'Sports Activity Vehicle', whatever that means: we'd simply call it a 'cute-ute', a crossover with a bit of sporting attitude. A larger MINI that can also let its hair down a bit.
According to its marketeers, this isn't a car defined by age or gender - which is probably right. It's as likely to be driven by an upwardly mobile thirty-something man as it is by a retiree or a lady who lunches. Yet another reason why this car is so difficult to pigeonhole. But then, that's probably part of its charm.
What we do know is that this Paceman, the MINI Countryman's younger, sportier coupe cousin, offers something refreshingly different, part Crossover, part hot hatch. And it's perfectly pitched to satisfy those who want a sporty MINI with extra space and style. Just as it was intended to.
So what's happened to the MINI 3-Door hatch? Fresh technology, smarter connectivity, standard-fit front and rear LED lights across the range and an advanced dual-clutch automatic gearbox are amongst the highlight changes made to this revised model. That said, despite changing so much under the skin, it feels very much a case of as you were, MINI perhaps a little cautious of alienating either existing owners or potential new customers with something radical.
Don't let that make you think we're underwhelmed by this MINI. It's still a great hatch and the latest changes give it some legs to continue the success story. The prices look very reasonable at the moment, but to get the best from this car, you'll probably want to throw a few of those high-end options at it, so budget accordingly and take that into account when you're calculating your cost of ownership numbers. The MINI might have grown up but it doesn't look as if it's lost its sense of fun.
If you need a practical car from MINI and find the Hatch 5-Door model too small and the Countryman SUV too quirky, then the Clubman may be for you a perfect fit. It certainly makes its BMW 2 Series Active Tourer donor car look a little bland. True, the 2.0-litre engines further up the range aren't quite as efficient as those you'll find in rivals but MINI is close enough to the pace in this regard for that not to matter very much. This revised version gets some minor styling changes and some useful extra options.
It all means that if you want something compact but practical and a bit different, then this Clubman will probably suit. Either way, potential owners have to be people unafraid to fly in the face of convention. If that's you, then a bigger MINI adventure beckons.
Third time round, BMW's modern era MINI turned out to be a much more sophisticated thing. This three-door Hatch version is slightly more practical than its R56-series predecessor and feels considerably better built. It's far more efficient too, with the bulk of the range using a punchier range of eager three cylinder engines. And its more sophisticated underpinnings are better suited to longer journeys. In short, this car came of age in third generation form. But does it make sense as a used buy?
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