Mini Cooper Paceman SD ALL4 2.0-litre manual.

Price: £24,290.

Top: 122mph.

0-62mph: 9.3 seconds.

Fuel: 57.6mpg (combined figure) CO2 emissions (g/km): 130.

Verdict: Great fun to drive, roomy and practical, sporty and stylish, very well equipped, quality build inside and out.

WHEN some cars get bigger they lose driving appeal.

Not so the new Mini Paceman which retains all the things that make the Mini so great – from the distinctive body styling, the quirky interior and, above all, the go-cart-like driving pleasure.

The four-seat Paceman is styled as a coupe interpretation of the Countryman and five versions are available from its recent launch, including the Cooper S Paceman which really sets the pace with a 0-62mph time of just 7.5 seconds.

Prices start at £18,970 on the road.

Packed with Mini character and with a longer wheelbase, the Paceman is able to add more practicality than the hatch and also part-time four-wheel-drive, capable enough to get you along rough routes or out of the mud without any fuss.

However, the ALL4 car is not designed for serious off-road work, more for ensuring country dwellers get to their destination on time when the weather is bad.

The price tag for the flagship 2.0- litre ALL4 Cooper SD at £24,290 may prevent some potential buyers from purchasing the oil burner.

But when you consider the impressive equipment list, the superb build quality and the comparatively low running costs from the outstanding diesel engine under the bonnet, the price of the Paceman comes more into perspective – if, of course, your budget will run to it in the first place.

Paceman customers have the choice of four powerful fourcylinder engines, two petrol and two diesel. All come with a sixspeed manual gearbox, or the optional six-speed automatic transmission with Steptronic function for manual control.

The newcomer is also a good looker and has no trouble turning heads in the high street. But it’s the fun-to-drive element that matters most. The three-door ALL 4 Cooper SD with a 2.0-litre motor puts 143bhp down onto the road in admirable fashion and is mated to a smooth and fast-changing sixspeed manual gearbox. It gives a splendid blend of performance and economy and especially pleasing is the combined return of 57.6mpg and more with a steady right foot. The raised seat position gives the driver a commanding view of the road and with bags of adjustment he or she can arrive at a comfortable and supportive position to savour the delights of the car.

The Paceman’s extra weight does affect performance but there is still plenty of urge to make the oil burner a quick vehicle with a superb chuckable nature.

There is strong torque or pulling power up through the gears and bags of oomph for swift and safe overtaking manoeuvres.

The car picks up speed rapidly and the grip on the road on fast and twisty routes is simply leech-like so that the driver gains much confidence in the vehicle. And he or she has the satisfaction that the 4WD will come into play should there be any loss of traction.

There is lowered suspension fitted as standard with a choice of settings – normal or sports – with the regular suspension and ride height being available as no-cost options.

Both suspension settings are supple enough to ensure the car maintains its composure and comfort over irregular surfaces with body roll kept in check.

As with other Minis the powersteering is well weighted and responsive so that the driver knows exactly what the car is up to.

Inside, the Paceman oozes quality and is built to last. The fit and finish is superb and the leather upholstery adds a further touch of class to the interior. The dash and instruments retain features of the Mini design, such as the large central speedometer, although there are some detail improvements. For instance, the window switches are now on the door trim – a good move.

While the front is spacious and airy, the rear is a rather tight on leg room for large adults.

However, the back seats slide and fold easily to increase leg or extend the already large boot space. With only two seats in the rear, passengers can sit in comfort with plenty of head and elbow room. Folding down the rear seats expands the rear loadcarrying capacity from 330 litres to a maximum of 1,080 litres with access through a large and highopening tailgate.

As one might expect from Mini, the Paceman is a safe car with a top five-star Euro NCAP rating, airbags galore and numerous electronic safety devices to help keep the car very stable and prevent skidding.