2013 MINI Cooper Paceman Road Test & Review: Introduction
OK, let’s say you’re a feisty, optimistic, and engaging car brand known for defying convention. You’re also known for building premium small cars, but when you take a look at the numbers, your best selling models are your smallest coupe and your largest wagon-esque vehicle. Would not the temptation be great to somehow create a hybrid of the two, plant it on your dealer's lots and see how many wind up underneath the butts of your faithful fan base?
Well, to a large extent, MINI has done precisely that with the introduction of the Paceman, a two-door coupe version of the Countryman “SAV” (sports activity vehicle), better known as MINI’s SUV-ish model. The Cooper hardtop, MINI’s bread and butter vehicle since the brand was reintroduced to North America in 2002, accounts for some 29 percent of the brand’s sales. Meanwhile, the Countryman woos some 21 percent of MINI buyers. Surely a cross between the two vehicles will find some traction — yes?
And while it’s perfectly logical to blend your two best sellers in the hopes of creating a third one, MINI’s thing this year is to be seen as ‘not normal”, playing upon the unconventionality of its iconic motorcars. In a time when the rush to assimilation continues unabated, there is definitely room in my heart for different.
Especially if different is also fun to drive.
The introduction of Paceman adds a seventh model to MINI’s lineup. The company’s marketing team says it feels the brand can support as many as ten models — so stand by, there are certainly more to come.
Given the original sales goal for the entire MINI brand was 20,000 cars a year, and last year the brand moved 66,000 vehicles, we’re inclined to regard that statement as carrying a fair amount of veracity. As of this writing, there are 115 MINI dealers in the U.S.
The ultimate plan is to have a total of 130.
For 2013, MINI is offering Cooper Paceman in three versions; the 121-horsepower MINI Cooper Paceman with a base price of $23,900; the 181-horsepower turbocharged MINI Cooper S Paceman at $27,500, and the all-wheel drive turbocharged Cooper S Paceman with ALL4 at $29,200. All three Paceman versions go on sale in North America on March 16, 2013. Quoted pricing includes MINI’s $700 shipping and handling charges.
Paceman, largely based on Countryman, features the same wheelbase as the four-door vehicle, though it uses only two doors where the Countryman uses four.2013 MINI Cooper Paceman Road Test & Review: Design
The Cooper Paceman features what is probably the most complex exterior design of any MINI model to date. MINI considers the Paceman a compact coupe crossover. As such, it features the tallish ride height and profile expected of a crossover— yet the overall look is decidedly MINI.
MINI’s traditional black bordering on the lower edge of the body, the turn signal repeater at the trailing edge of the front fender between the A-pillar and front wheel arch, and the clear three-level split of the body, passenger compartment, and floating roof are all traditional MINI styling cues. Complementing them is a newfound muscularity derived from dynamically sweeping lines and boldly curved surfaces.
The roof for example sweeps downward toward the rear of the car, while the shoulder line rises in that same direction, creating a sort of a reverse wedge shape. The arched rear fenders, along with the high character line and sculptured surfacing of the rather lengthy doors add detailing to the profile of the car. These features also telegraph the power and capaciousness of the automobile.
As it approaches in your rear-view mirror, there is no mistaking the Paceman for anything other than a MINI. The broad strip of chrome surrounding the traditional MINI grille is the largest ever employed by the company, however it looks right at home next to the large headlights and the domed hood line. Together, these elements give the Paceman the beloved bulldog facial characteristic MINI owners so covet about their cars.
Paceman is also the first MINI model to use horizontal taillights and a rear nameplate.2013 MINI Cooper Paceman Road Test & Review: Comfort & Cargo
Designed specifically to seat four, the Paceman does so with exceptional comfort. As the most spacious MINI coupe, ingress and egress are readily achieved and the lounge-style rear seats offer considerable head-, shoulder- and legroom. The sporty front seats are slightly raised to add to the crossover utility vehicle feel. The seats can be ordered upholstered in cloth, a combination of leather and cloth, or just leather.
The Center Rail interior storage system from Countryman is featured in Paceman as well. This permits the owner to choose a specific set of storage options for the car and place them at their discretion. The second section of the rail system for the Paceman starts between rear seats to make it easier to access either side of the rear passenger compartment from either door. MINI also offers a one-piece version of the Center Rail system, which extends from the front into the rear of the passenger compartment as well.
Rather than a hatchback, the Paceman features a tailgate, making it both a wagon and a coupe. Thanks to the decision to incorporate the Clubman’s full 106.1-inch wheelbase, Paceman offers nearly 40 cubic feet of cargo space behind the back seats.2013 MINI Cooper Paceman Road Test & Review: Features & Controls
Aside for the window switches, which have been moved to the doors to make them easier for people migrating from other brands into a MINI to find them, the Paceman’s interior is classic MINI. Dominated by the large center mounted speedometer, the MINI’s interior treatment is highly distinctive. The single row of toggle switches along the bottom of the center stack adds an aircraft-oriented feel to the car.
MINI’s use of chrome for the switchgear definitely contributes to its upscale interior appearance. This, along with the horizontal geometry of the door panels gives the MINI an interior ambiance no other car approaches. A particularly interesting feature of the interior, one you might not notice immediately, is the way the climate system’s control panel mimics the shape of the MINI logo. While it can be a bit tedious to read the speed of the car if the optional Nav screen is fitted into the center of the speedometer, the secondary speed readout in the bottom of the tachometer mounted on the steering column provides considerable relief in that regard.
Standard Paceman features include air-conditioning, electrically adjustable exterior mirrors, the Center Rail system, and a CD-based audio system with an AUX-IN audio jack. Optional are a leather-wrapped sport steering wheel with multifunction buttons and cruise control, an armrest between the front seats, heated seats, an automatic climate control system, and an electrically actuated glass roof. Other options include Keyless Access and Start, Xenon Adaptive Headlights, automatically dimming rear-view and exterior mirrors, Park Distance Control, front foglamps, and a rain sensor for the windshield wipers.
A high-powered harman/kardon audio system can be specified, along with the aforementioned navigation system. The MINI connected option brings the best features of Apple’s iPhone into the Paceman fully integrated. This includes Facebook and Twitter feeds, along Dynamic Music, Driving Excitement, Mission Control, and the MINIMALISM Analyser apps.2013 MINI Cooper Paceman Road Test & Review: Safety & Ratings
MINI Paceman’s kit of standard-fitted safety hardware includes front, side, and full-length curtain airbags. All four seats get three-point seat belts with inertia reels. Front seat occupants get belt tensioners and belt force limiters. ISOFIX child seat attachments are installed in the rear of the passenger compartment. While NHTSA or the IIHS have yet to crash test a Paceman, the Countryman, upon which the car is based, passed the Euro NCAP crash test with the maximum five-star rating,2013 MINI Cooper Paceman Road Test & Review: Engine & Fuel Economy
Two engines are offered for Paceman in North America, a 121-horsepower 1.6-liter normally aspirated inline four cylinder, producing 114 ft-lbs of torque; and a twin-scrolled turbocharged and intercooled version of the same engine delivering some 181 horsepower and 177 ft-lbs of torque for Paceman Cooper S variants. All-wheel drive ALL4 versions of the Paceman get the turbocharged engine as well. Two transmissions are also offered. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard with both engines; a six-speed automatic is available as an option.
MINI claims a 0-60 of 9.7 seconds for the Paceman with the manual transmission fitted to the normally aspirated car (10.8 with the automatic). The Cooper S Paceman’s turbo engine does it in 6.9 seconds with the manual transmission, 7.3 seconds with the automatic. The ALL4 does 60 in 7.2 seconds with the manual and 7.6 seconds with the automatic.
The EPA says to expect 35-highway/27-city/30-combined from the normally aspirated Cooper Paceman; 32-highway /26-city /29-combined from the turbocharged Cooper Paceman S; and 31-highway /25-city /27-combined from the ALL4 Cooper Paceman S models with manual transmissions. Cooper Paceman automatics return 30/25/27, 32/25/28 for the S, and 30/23/26 for the ALL4.2013 MINI Cooper Paceman Road Test & Review: Driving Impressions
I drove both the Cooper S Paceman and the Cooper S ALL4 Paceman models.
The tight ride and quick steering everybody loves about MINI is strongly in evidence here. However, compared to the Cooper Hardtop, the Paceman feels (as you might well imagine due to its larger size and elevated ride height) a bit more ponderous.
That said, compared to every other car in its competitive set, the Paceman feels quite sprightly with both front-drive and all-wheel drive. Body roll is minimal, turn-in is reasonably sharp, and braking is first rate. The manual transmission could use a better system for locking out reverse since the shift pattern makes it so accessible, but if you’re careful, it isn’t a significant problem. The automatic shifts quickly and true, with no lag between gears. It also offers a shift-it-yourself option, which I put to good use on the narrow mountain roads to which our test drive route subjected the car. With it, manual shifts are both responsive and crisp for both upshifts and downshifts..
Ride quality is good overall, but as we stated before the MINI is a tight riding little car. If you’re looking for something cushy along the lines of a Corolla, you’d best go to the Toyota store. MINI builds cars for people who love to drive, and those people understand the tradeoff for crisp handling is a slightly stiffer ride.
There was a bit more wind noise than I’d have expected from a car that feels as solid as the Paceman does when you slam the doors. However, this has long been a trait of the MINI species of motorcars.
The turbocharged 1.6 is adequate. Things heat up a bit when the sport button is engaged, advancing the throttle response on all models and the transmission response on automatic-equipped models. In all honesty though, I don’t expect any MINI to pin my ears back. However, my consequent drive of the Cooper GP Works car found its 211 horsepower engine to be more along the lines of satisfying — approaching exhilarating, as opposed to adequate — approaching satisfying.
This is not to say the Paceman is slow, or even lacking, by any means. It’s just, for my tastes, the MINI would be whole lot more fun with another 50 to 60 horsepower at hand (or, more precisely, at foot).2013 MINI Cooper Paceman Road Test & Review: Final Thoughts
I fully acknowledge the Paceman is an interesting concept, and likely to sell quite well.
Still, I wonder what the Paceman would’ve been like if they’d based it on the standard Cooper Hardtop rather than the Countryman.
In other words, I believe there’s a market for a Paceman-sized version of the Cooper Hardtop. That way, they’d have a larger four-seat car with the look everyone likes and truly sporty handling and the sharper road manners of the Cooper Hardtop.
But frankly, I never really “got” the Countryman.
I mean it’s, like, a Crossover MINI.
I have yet to see anybody take one off road.2013 MINI Cooper Paceman Road Test & Review: Pros & Cons
• More space with all of MINI’s lovable quirks
• Handsome wedge shaped styling
• Handles better than a Countryman
• Distinctive interior treatment
• Doesn’t handle as well as the Cooper Hardtop
• Wind noise
• More power would increase fun factor
• Would look better sitting lower over its tires and wheels like the Cooper Hardtop