By Matt Degen
The 2013 Mini Paceman is the newest member of the Mini family. Like the original Hardtop that revived this British car company a decade ago, the Paceman is a 2-door hatchback with seating for four. But it's really more similar to the Countryman, which is longer, wider and taller than the Cooper Hardtop. The new Paceman is the best of all worlds among Mini models since it blends some of their strongest traits, from the (relative) roominess and available all-wheel drive (AWD) of the Countryman to the high style of the Cooper Coupe. The fuel-efficient Paceman offers Mini's trademark fun-to-drive nature and a premium feel handed down from parent BMW, but comes at a price tag above vehicles like the Nissan Juke and Kia Soul.
If you're longing for a bigger Mini and the Countryman doesn't quite do it for you, the Paceman may be what you've been waiting for. Smaller than a compact crossover like the Ford Escape, the nonconformist Paceman boasts a fun-to-drive nature and head-turning looks for a price starting under $24,000.
If you regularly need to fill the rear seats, the Nissan Juke, Subaru XV Crosstrek or the Mini Countryman all have easier access. Traditional crossover SUVs such as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Mazda CX-5, meanwhile, offer more size and space for the money.
The Mini Paceman is an all-new model for 2013. Basically it's a 2-door Countryman with – to our eyes – better styling. The Paceman is slightly longer and slightly lower than most Countryman models. Like other Minis, the Paceman is fun to drive, highly customizable and available in various power outputs.
Driving Impressions While all Paceman models use an efficient 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine, it's available in three power outputs, each translating to a different driving experience. On the low end are Cooper Paceman...models with a naturally aspirated (non-turbocharged) engine. Acceleration in these models is rather leisurely, with a 0-60 mph time – about how long it takes to get to freeway speeds – of 10.8 seconds for models with the 6-speed automatic transmission and 9.7 seconds for those with Mini's excellent 6-speed manual. More enjoyable are Cooper S versions with a turbocharged engine with zippy acceleration (0-60 mph in the high 6-second to low 7-second range) and good passing power. Those wanting the most bite from this little bulldog will look to the pricey John Cooper Works (JCW) edition, which zooms to 60 mph in just 6.5 seconds. Beyond sheer velocity, all 2013 Paceman models excite with great cornering and braking ability.
ALL4 ALL-WHEEL DRIVE
The Paceman joins the Countryman as the only Mini to offer this feature, which is optional on Cooper S Paceman models and standard on John Cooper Works Pacemans. All-wheel drive equals better traction, which equals better performance and safety. If you live where it snows, you already know the value.
COOPER S PACEMAN
Slotted between the base Cooper Paceman and the wildcat John Cooper Works edition, the Cooper S feels like the Goldilocks of the Paceman lineup. Its turbocharged engine makes the Cooper S Paceman zippy yet fuel efficient, and is an excellent partner on twisty roads. In a word, this Paceman is a hoot to drive.
Unsurprisingly, the Paceman's cabin mimics that of other Minis. There is, of course, that gigantic speedometer in the middle of the dash, offset by small dials and buttons. It only took a decade, but Mini has finally moved the window controls: Instead of tiny switches awkwardly placed low in the center dash, proper buttons are integrated into the armrests. We're happy to report that grown adults can actually fit in the rear seats, though access requires some dexterity. Rear cargo space is adequate for two people's luggage, but not much more. Luckily the rear seats fold to accommodate larger items. The high front seats provide commanding visibility.
Though essentially a 2-door Countryman, the Paceman is very much its own vehicle. In fact, it looks like no other Mini. At just 162.2 inches in length the Paceman is smaller than most compact coupes, yet its taller height and muscular body give it a presence that is larger than its tidy dimensions suggest. Even at a standstill, the Paceman seems ready to pounce. Its rearward sloping roof and bulging fender flares add to its athletic figure. Three levels of ground clearance correspond with trim, from a relatively low 5.3 inches for Cooper models to a sports-car-low 4.2 inches for JCW versions. Paceman is the first Mini to have its name written on the rear, a classy touch in this application. In another Mini first, the taillights are horizontal.
The 2013 Mini Paceman is available in three major trims: Cooper, Cooper S, and the performance-oriented John Cooper Works. Cooper models include a climate-controlled glovebox, 6-speaker audio with HD Radio, and 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. Cooper S models offer a turbocharged engine, and the John Cooper Works has the most powerful engine, all-wheel drive, and numerous performance upgrades. Safety features on all 2013 Paceman models include front, side and curtain airbags, stability control, ABS antilock brakes, cornering brake control and hill assist (so you don't inadvertently roll backward). Also included are complimentary scheduled maintenance for three years/36,000 miles, and 24-hour roadside assistance for four years/unlimited miles. Those seeking a softer ride can opt out of the Paceman's jarring sport suspension.
Mini is renowned for letting owners customize their vehicle, claiming to offer more than 10 million possible combinations. Some of the goodies include a navigation system slickly embedded into the massive speedometer, leather seats, and a harman/kardon premium sound system. We recommend the dual-pane sunroof, which makes the Paceman's sloped cabin feel much more open. Mini's Connected Package should impress the tech-minded with iPhone integration that enables access to RSS feeds and Internet radio. Mini's standard 6-speed manual transmission is a great one, but for the majority of drivers desiring automatic for the people, the optional 6-speed auto does fine, quick work.
The Paceman uses a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine available in three power outputs. Cooper models are good for a just-adequate 121 horsepower, while Cooper S models are turbocharged to make a just-right 181 horsepower. Those willing to spend the most for additional horsepower and other performance-enhancing bits can look to the John Cooper Works version. The JCW's engine is also turbocharged, but tuned to make a robust 208 horsepower. Cooper and Cooper S Paceman models are front-wheel drive (FWD), while Cooper S ALL4 and JCW models have all-wheel drive. With fuel economy rated up to 35 mpg, Paceman models are efficient, but do require premium fuel when filling up.
121 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
118 lb-ft of torque @ 4,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy, estimated: 27/35 mpg (manual), 25/30 mpg (automatic)
1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4
181 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
177 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy:
26/32 mpg (manual, FWD)
25/32 mpg (automatic, FWD)
25/31 mpg (manual, AWD)
23/30 mpg (automatic, AWD)
1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4
208 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
207 lb-ft @ 1,700-4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/31 mpg (manual), 23/30 mpg (automatic)
At just under $24,000, the 2013 Mini Cooper Paceman with manual transmission has a digestible starting price. Start adding features or moving up trim levels, though, and Mini's premium aspirations become apparent. The turbocharged Cooper S Paceman starts at $27,500, and adding all-wheel drive bumps that figure to over $29,000. The top-line John Cooper Works Paceman begins at over $36,000, well into the territory of a BMW X1. These prices put the Paceman beyond quirky counterparts like the Nissan Juke and Kia Soul, and in line with larger SUVs like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape. Before buying a Paceman, be sure to check KBB.com's Fair Purchase Price below to see what others in your area are paying. Because the Paceman is new, we can't forecast its resale value just yet. But if history is any indicator, Mini models fare very well in this area, retaining a good portion of their value over the years.