Full disclosure; these two vehicles are not really competitors. For starters, the Land Rover Evoque Coupe begins at a price of $45,040 while the MINI Paceman undercuts it by nearly half, starting at $23,200. The as tested prices narrow the gap a bit, but the Evoque Coupe Pure Plus still costs $46,640 compared to the Paceman Cooper S ALL4 at $33,200. That gap of $13,440 could buy a Nissan Versa.
And the differences don’t stop there. The Evoque Coupe is 9-inches longer, 7-inches wider, 3-inches taller, 650 lbs. heavier and packs almost 60 more horsepower. So why are we comparing these two? Simply put, they are two of a kind. These vehicles are the only compact crossover coupes on the market. They are the automotive equivalent to thigh high boots; stylish, fun, attention getting, but not the most practical. If two doors, all-wheel drive, a bit of luxury and a high seating position are all priorities on the shopping check list, well, here are your choices.
When Land Rover first brought out the LRX concept vehicle, no one thought the production version would retain that seductive shape, yet it did. Two years into production and the Evoque still turns heads everywhere it goes; especially in coupe form. As part of the Land Rover’s new set of ‘soft-roaders’ that includes the Freelander/LR2, the Evoque is a unibody structure and behaves more like a car than a truck. But don’t think all of the Range Rover DNA is bred out of this crossover as the Evoque does still feature Terrain Response control and can wade in nearly 20-inches of water.
The Paceman on the other hand is a completely different. Whereas the Evoque is the Land Rover family member trying to act like a car, the Paceman is a MINI family member attempting its best impersonation of a SUV. All-new this year, the Paceman is essentially a coupe version of the Countryman, so the similarity between the two shouldn’t come as a surprise. Key differences include a sloping rear roof line, two missing doors, a restyled rear end and the distinct flat-black standard wheels. Other than that, the Paceman looks essential the same as the Countryman. In fact it, it carries such strong family styling cues that it gets lost in the sea of various MINI models; there is no wow factor with this new model.
Both of these crossover coupes are powered by turbocharged four cylinder engines. The Paceman Cooper S uses the brand’s ubiquitous 1.6-liter unit developing 181 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. The Evoque counters with a 2.0-liter unit that produces 240 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic for our two test vehicles, but MINI does offer the choice of a 6-speed manual transmission.
With a torque advantage greater than then entire output of a smart fortwo, it is no surprise that the Evoque Coupe feels far more powerful during city driving compared to the Paceman. This isn’t just according to the butt-dyno either; the 3,902 lb. Evoque will go from 0-60 mph in 7.1 seconds compared to the Paceman’s time of 7.6 seconds. Once up to highway speeds, power begins to equal out as both the Paceman and Evoque remain on the good side of adequate, but aren’t exactly hairy-chested torque monsters.
With a much lighter curb weight and a smaller, less powerful engine, the MINI is obviously more fuel efficient. Officially rated at 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, we achieved an average of 23.7 mpg after a week of hard driving. The Land Rover is rated three mpg less in the city and two mpg less on the highway and, surprise, surprise, averaged 2.9 mpg worse than the Paceman at 20.8 mpg.
The Paceman also sets the pace when it comes to chassis feel. Although the Evoque is a noble handler in its own right, it can’t match the MINI’s tighter dynamics; it’s hard to hide that extra 650 lbs. Turn in is quick and precise while feedback is very good for a crossover-like vehicle. Just don’t expect the go kart feeling of regular Coopers with this car, which makes sense since there is a higher centre of gravity and extra weight of the AWD system.
Still, the Paceman can be hustled. Actual cornering grip is fairly equal between the two vehicles thanks the Evoque’s larger footprint of 235/55R19 tires compared to the Paceman’s 205/55R17s. Thankfully the kidney bursting ride found in virtually every MINI is missing in the Paceman. That said, both it and the Evoque ride on the rougher side thanks in part to short wheelbases.
There is also a canyon like gap when it comes to steering feel. Much like the vehicles’ handling, the Paceman’s steering is lively and just a step below that of the regular coupes and convertibles. On the flip side, the Evoque’s steering is as vague as the ending to Inception. It feels artificial and has an on center dead spot like some Hyundai's do.
But the tables turn once inside the vehicles and it is game over for the Paceman. The Evoque’s interior is a masterpiece of modern design. Everything looks and feels even richer and gives off a distinct leathery smell that makes us feel like we are slipping on a bomber jacket. The brushed aluminum strip running across the dashboard looks phenomenal and the rest of the layout is modern and sophisticated.
The Paceman by contrast has a funky enough design, but it hasn’t really changed all that much since 2000 and is getting a bit old. The retro look of the giant speedometer dial in the center of the dash still looks cool, especially with the infotainment screen inside, and the small dial in between the front seats works well to control all of its functions. Even with its trademark toggle switches, the MINI’s interior looks, dare I say it, ordinary compared to the Evoque.
Being a larger vehicle, the Evoque offers plenty of cargo room at 19.4 cu-ft compared to the Paceman’s 11.7 cu-ft. rear seat space in the Paceman is also a bit cramped as there is a distinct lack of headroom and the 33.7-inches of legroom make for awkward leg angles. If more cargo space is require in the Paceman, the rear seats will fold down but the center cup holders must be removed manually in advance for the seats to fold flat.[vs-comparsion-table]
The Paceman’s dual moon roof is a nice touch, but once again gets trumped by the Land Rover’s glass roof, even if it doesn’t open. The big doors on both vehicles make tight parking spaces tricky to get in and out of and sight lines aren’t great due to the sloping roof lines; especially in the horse-blinder-on-wheels that is the Evoque Coupe.
Despite the exterior dimensions of the Evoque Coupe, there is a lot of room inside. Two tall adults can easily fit in the back seat as there are 35.7-inches of leg room and ample headroom thanks to the glass roof. Unlike the four-seat only Paceman, the Evoque can come with 2 or 3 passenger seats in the back. The only real drawback inside the Evoque has to do with the bottom of front seat cushion that a few testers did not find comfortable.
It should come as no great revelation that the more expensive vehicle is the better vehicle. But, in this burgeoning market niche, the Evoque really is the clear standout. It features concept car looks, drives well, has a stylish interior and of course comes with Land Rover pedigree. A two-door crossover is never going to be a practical purchase decision. Instead, owning a vehicle like this is more about wanting something different from the status quo.
The Paceman is not a bad car by any means, but as mentioned earlier, its overload of siblings could be its undoing. If you don't half to have two doors and AWD, other MINIs would be a better choice. If a stylish two-door crossover is an absolute must, save up for the Evoque; it’s worth it.