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BMW's seventh distinct model to the Mini range - the Paceman - will go on sale in New Zealand midway through 2013.

The new car is best thought of as a slightly sportier two-door version of the boxy Countryman, the large semi-SUV off-shoot of the Mini family.

BMW prefers to call the Paceman the "first Sports Activity Coupe in the premium small and compact segment", and it does indeed shake off something of the Countryman's visual heaviness.

One of the Paceman's jobs is to take on the highly successful Range Rover Evoque - which is now keeping Land Rover's Halewood, UK, factory going for 24 hours and three shifts per day - but probably doesn't quite have the style to present a serious threat; its biggest claim to fame in design terms is that it is the only Mini with horizontally-orientated tail-lights.

Inside, the most distinctive feature is its strict four-passenger configuration with two individual rear seats in place of the usual bench.

Nevertheless, the Mini badge is strong, and BMW is offering four engine options with familiar "Cooper" model designations to show that the Paceman lies at the sportier end of the Mini spectrum; the Mini Cooper D Paceman, the Mini Cooper Paceman, the Mini Cooper SD Paceman and the Mini Cooper S Paceman.

A local Mini spokesperson has confirmed that the only variant that will be offered in New Zealand is the Cooper S.

There will eventually be a John Cooper Works version, which may also be considered, depending on market enthusiasm.

The list of standard equipment includes air conditioning, sports seats and the "Centre Rail" system first seen on the Countryman, but the Paceman wouldn't be a Mini if there weren't ample opportunities to inflate its selling price by choosing from a long list of tempting options. Examples include xenon headlights, a glass roof, sat-nav, and "MINI Connected" in-car phone and music technology.