MINI'S 1.6-litre turbocharged engine has always impressed with its deep reserves of power despite a relatively small displacement, but now, there is an even more powerful version of this sparkling power plant and it is found in the Mini JCW Paceman.
JCW stands for John Cooper Works and it denotes the sportiest variant of any Mini model range. This new-generation JCW engine has a twin-scroll turbo, petrol direct injection and variable valve control. So while the previous four-cylinder unit used to pump out 211 hp and 260 Nm (280 Nm with Overboost), this latest version is now capable of 218 hp and 280 Nm (300 Nm with Overboost).
The Overboost function temporarily increases torque to 300 Nm at a slightly higher engine speed when you floor the throttle - from 2,100 to 4,500 rpm to be exact. And when this happens, the 1,420 kg JCW Paceman literally gives back thumping acceleration.
The engine is a free-revving gem. Something this size shouldn't brim with torque, but it does. If you're driving in Singapore, rare will be the situation when it runs out of breath. For even greater urgency, there is a Sport mode to sharpen throttle response.
To rein in all that oomph, the JCW Paceman gets the ALL4 all-wheel-drive system. The power is delivered to all four wheels either through a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic transmission. By using an electromagnetic centre differential to distribute drive between the front and rear axles, the JCW Paceman's traction and stability are improved.
Handling in fast corners is eminently confident, with a steering that is reassuringly sharp and well-weighted. The agility of the relatively tall Paceman (it is 1.53 m high) is great fun, and the faint exhaust backfire increases the enjoyment further.
A surprise is the good level of ride comfort despite being stiffly sprung. The firmly tuned springs and dampers don't take away the pliancy of the suspension set-up, even though the Paceman JCW has a 10 mm lower ride height and beefier anti-roll bars.
The comfort extends to the cabin. The Paceman is a crossover coupé. Unlike other Minis, it is not a low-rider.
Slightly tall with a sloping roof, this three-door model seats four in relatively spacious surroundings. With a 2,596 mm wheelbase, the two individual rear seats have good head and legroom. A six-footer can't complain. Even elbow room is taken care of with a cute little armrest.
In front, the traditional Mini window controls on the the centre console have moved to the door panel.
One quirk from behind the wheel, though, is the driver will notice that the lower part of the passenger side door mirror is actually obscured by the door. So no matter how tall or short you are, only about four-fifths of the image can be viewed. Riding on 18-inch wheels as standard (19-inch ones are optional), with a factory-fitted aerodynamic kit and two-tone paintwork with stripes, the Mini JCW Paceman is no shrinking violet.
But with so much driving fun on tap, being discreet is unlikely to top your list of priorities.
Mini John Cooper Works Paceman
Engine 1,598cc turbocharged
Transmission 6-speed manual / 6-speed automatic
Max power 218 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Max torque 280 Nm @ 1,900-5,000 rpm (300 Nm with overboost)
0-100 kmh 6.9 secs
Top speed 226 kmh (M) / 224 kmh (A)
CO2 emissions 172 g/km (M) / 184 g/km (A)
Distributor Eurokars Habitat
Tel 6473 3777