2013 MINI Cooper Paceman: First drive review
MINI's seventh model strikes a proper tone, but is it one MINI too many?
The 2013 MINI Cooper Paceman is the seventh model in the brand's lineup. Slotted in between the Cooper and Countryman, the Paceman is designed to compete head-on with the Nissan Juke and attract bargain seekers leery of the hefty price of the Range Rover Evoque. Is the 2013 Paceman worthy of passing up the classic Cooper or roomier Countryman?
The 2013 MINI Paceman is available March 2013, with Cooper (base price $23,900), Cooper S (base price $27,500 to $29,200 with MINI's ALL4 all-wheel-drive system), and John Cooper Works (base price $36,200) trim levels.
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Under the hood
All 2013 Cooper Paceman versions come with MINI's 1.6-liter inline 4-cylinder engine that ranges from 121 horsepower in the Cooper Paceman to 208 horsepower in the turbocharged John Cooper Works. All Paceman trim levels come with a 6-speed manual transmission standard; an automatic is available as an option. All-wheel drive is standard on the John Cooper Works Paceman, and is an option for Cooper S buyers.
Fit, finish and layout in the Paceman are good, even with the unexpectedly jarring decision to move the window controls from the center console, where they've lived in every other MINI, to the door panels. While this initially seems like a no-brainer of an idea, longtime MINI drivers may take some time to adjust to the new placement. The biggest issue, though, is the rear seats, and results are mixed. It is possible to fit four average-sized adults into the Paceman, but they're not necessarily going to be happy with the experience, and they'll be downright upset about getting in and out.
On the road
The Paceman feels like a MINI. The steering is fine and it handles well, if not as go-kart-like as the classic Cooper or Cooper S. The longer wheelbase, which it shares with the Countryman, cuts the cornering ability of the Paceman a bit compared with the standard MINI Cooper, but turn-in is still fantastic, if lacking a bit in feedback. The ALL4 system is responsive when called upon, and quiet when not needed. The Paceman's weight hurts its sporty aspirations in a big way; the base Cooper Paceman drags its over 3,000 pounds from zero to 60 mph in 9.7 seconds. The Cooper S, with its 60 extra horses, cuts that time to 6.9 seconds, so expect most buyers to opt for the extra power. All-wheel drive is optional, and doesn't really dilute the true-to-brand feel of the Cooper S Paceman.
Right for you?
The MINI Paceman is a car you almost have to drive for yourself. It's not, well, "MINI" enough for fans of the classic Cooper, nor is it as practical as the platform-sharing Countryman. With talk of a line expansion to include 10 models, MINI seems to be OK with creating extremely niche cars that almost have to be discovered by the drivers who will buy them. At least, we hope they're happy with that, because as we see things, there's a very small market for the Paceman and we can't quite define what that market might be. In a vacuum the Paceman is a good car, especially in Cooper S trim. We'd just prefer if it decided to be one thing or the other.
(As part of a sponsored press event, the automaker provided MSN with travel and accommodations to facilitate this report).
James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side as Senior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trend and European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.