2013 MINI Cooper Paceman Review

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Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
February 12, 2013

The 2013 MINI Cooper Paceman family is a design-driven, fun, and still functional small car--if you don't need a lot of extra space, why not add some extra style?

The 2013 MINI Cooper Paceman is a two-door, four-seat hatchback with something of an off-road vibe. The Paceman shares much of its equipment and design with the four-door MINI Countryman, and can be considered a two-door version of its bigger brother.

MINI sees the Paceman as something of a middle ground between its Cooper hardtop and the Countryman, and the Paceman's design reflects that. With the Countryman's nose, but all-new sheet metal from the windshield back, the Paceman is a sporty-looking, coupe-like tallish hatchback that should turn heads. At the rear, a set of flared fenders give a powerful stance to the Paceman, combining with the downward slope of the roof to enhance the hatchback's emotion-driven style.

Inside, what you'll see and feel is very much typical MINI, which is to say, somewhat quirky design and relatively high-quality materials. The switches-and-circles design of the typical MINI interior was once fresh and fun, but as the years wear on, we find it a bit heavy-handed, and the design can even get in the way of ergonomics at times.

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Not that the majority of the controls in the MINI Paceman aren't easy to use and readily at hand--they are. Likewise, the car's own controls--brake, gas, and steering--are immediate and direct, engendering the usual MINI "go-kart-like" feel, though in the Paceman it's a bit dulled thanks the a bit more weight and slightly more plush ride characteristics.

Available in Cooper, Cooper S, and, soon, John Cooper Works variants, there's a MINI power level for most tastes. Sharing the same engines used throughout the rest of the MINI lineup, the MINI Cooper Paceman gets a 121-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder; the Cooper S Paceman gets a 181-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder; and the John Cooper Works Paceman gets a 211-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. All models come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, but Cooper and Cooper S models can also be had with a six-speed automatic.

Front-wheel drive is standard on the Paceman, though ALL4 all-wheel drive is also available, just like with the Countryman. Also like the Countryman, ALL4 is only available on the Cooper S model, and is standard on the John Cooper Works model. On the Cooper S, ALL4 comes at a $1,700 premium.

Passenger and cargo space isn't exactly abundant in the Paceman, but it's not as cramped as you might think if you're not familiar with MINI packaging. In fact, the front seats are spacious--there's easily room for those well over six feet in height. The rear seat will fit six-footers, if only just; knee and head room are the limiting factors. The Paceman's sloping roofline makes it about one-half inch lower than the Countryman's. Behind the rear seats, there's just a sliver of space for smaller bags or other gear, but lay the rear seats down, and the Paceman offers up to 38.1 cubic feet of space.

Ranging in price from $23,900 for the base Paceman up to $36,200 for the John Cooper Works, the Paceman ranges from affordable hatchback to premium luxury sedan realms, despite its compact dimensions. While it offers neither the power nor the refinement of a modern luxury sedan, even at the entry-level end of the spectrum, the Paceman's mixture of design, fun, and function still presents a compelling case.

The EPA rates the MINI Cooper S Paceman at up to 26 mpg city and 32 mpg highway when equipped with the manual transmission, but it hasn't yet published ratings for the base Cooper Paceman, which is likely to be the most fuel-efficient. Adding ALL4 all-wheel drive reduces gas mileage by about 1-3 mpg city and 1-2 mpg highway, depending on the choice of manual or automatic transmissions.

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institue for Highway Safety (IIHS) have published crash test ratings for the MINI Cooper Paceman family as yet, but the very similar 2013 MINI Cooper Countryman earned a Top Safety Pick with crash test scores of "good". We expect a similar rating for the two-door Paceman.

We'll update this review with more in-depth impressions and details once we've had a chance to spend more time in the car.

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