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Is the Paceman a Real Mini?

A view from a European’s eye.

by on Jan.12, 2011

The Mini Paceman concept vehicle.

“Mini will always remain Mini,” or so says Marcus Syring, the British brand’s new chief of design.

It may seem trite, at first, but it is a question that is being asked a fair bit, lately, as Mini steadily expands its line-up.  What was originally little more than a few subtle variants – like the Cooper S – off a single model will soon grow to at least seven with the addition of such nameplates as the Countryman.

That offering stretched the boundaries in a variety of ways.  It was the BMW subsidiary’s first 4-door, for example; its first SUV/crossover; and the first with all-wheel-drive.

Now comes the Paceman concept, which starts with the same basic platform as Countryman.  Officially just a show car, senior Mini officials don’t disguise the fact that it will soon reappear in production trim – albeit with a different name.

Making sure the resultant product fits the strict visual definition of a Mini is the challenge for Syring, who handled the exterior design together with his predecessor Gert Hildebrand and Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW Group’s head of design.

For the Paceman, his team used a revolutionary form for the rear lights. They are horizontal and stress the lower stance of the model.  But there are also the familiar Mini cues when it comes to the headlights, grille and even the rake of the windshield.

Those are things that are less likely to change in future designs.  But what could be in for revision?  Mini has been exploring the use of alternative materials, such as aluminum, for one thing.

Even though, at this very moment, there are no plans for the use of lighter materials, we may expect something in the not-too-distant future. “That is, after the Coupe and the Roadster that will arrive later this year,” hinted Syring

Both of those projects were a sort of tease for the design team. “We have to keep the numbers (of sales) high and we are always after something new,” he explained, adding that, “We are able to (add) both models since we use the same components. For instance: the deck lids are different, but the cars share the same rear fenders.”

The Paceman concept is based on the five-door Mini Countryman but here repositioned as a premium compact coupe. It should go into production by the end of 2012, though that date has not been officially confirmed yet.

Mini is in the fortunate position that the brand attracts both males and females — a roughly 50/50% mix — and that people are willing to wait for their car.

The new Countryman has a delivery backorder time of about four months and even Americans, who usually demand whatever is on the dealer lot, are willing to wait.

“That is because customers can order customized cars, they are unique,” suggested Syring. “If you look what is on the production line, you do not see two of the same cars.”

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3 Responses to “Is the Paceman a Real Mini?”

  1. skirstein says:

    didn’t all of these come originally from the Austin line of cars upon which the mini was the foundation as well? If so, then it’s just a logical brand extension with a historical foundation.

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      The names certainly have a historical precedent, and a check of Mini’s past reveals the maker was constantly coming up with variants, some wild some mild. My understanding, from talking with Mini execs, is that about 8 or 9 models will probably wind up in the franchise over the next couple years.
      Paul A. Eisenstein
      Publisher, TheDetroitBureau.com

  2. cmcnaughton says:

    Is Mini moving out of its niche? How to avoid the automotive equivalent of a comb-over.

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    McNaughton Automotive Perspectives
    http://autoperspectives.com