Luc-Olivier Chamberland

Paceman a good answer to a question not asked

2013 Mini Cooper Paceman

Paceman a good answer to a question not asked

Car Review

Overall rating:

6/10

Strengths and weaknesses:

  • style
  • enjoyable all-wheel drive system
  • driving pleasure
  • brakes
  • option prices
  • reliability

Editor's Ratings:

  • Price: 4/10

  • Performance: 6/10

  • Comfort (front): 7/10

2013 Mini Cooper Paceman

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - There are moments in life when the things we see leave us clueless as to how to interpret them. This is typically the feeling we get when eyeing the new 2013 Mini Cooper S Paceman.

A cross between the “hard-top” Cooper and the Countryman utility, this one’s worth a head scratch… or two. What’s more, we can’t even rely on Mini to help us figure it out; they’re as perplexed about their latest creation as we are!

Does the mix of genres it displays answer the customers’ needs? Yes, probably.

Do we love it? Undeniably.

This Mini 2.0 is possibly the most breathtaking incarnation of the evolution. Borrowing the aesthetic and dynamic features from the Countryman, it nonetheless holds true to the maker’s roadster spirit. Just enough of a right balance to be most appealing to Canadian buyers, who might’ve snubbed the little Brit in the past for its lack of winter skills. Now, equipped as it is with the standard All4 all-wheel drive system, the case is closed – this petite Mini can go anywhere it wants, and easily at that.

When it comes to design, it’s quite simple – the 2010 concept was copied from A to Z, and then built. Everything in front of the A pillar comes straight from the four-door utility vehicle. As for all the rest, it’s completely unique to this new iteration. Mini announces a style evolution that will have a cascading impact on upcoming models (read the 2014 Cooper). Essentially, three distinctive elements can be noticed on the Paceman: a raked roofline, Ponton-styled fenders in back and, for the first time, taillights arranged horizontally. If Mini usually dabbles in originality, this is one fry short of a true marginal look. But whether it’s a hit or a bust, one thing’s for sure – it’s well made and practical, too.

Anyone who’s sat in a Countryman will feel right at ease, as the interior layout is identical. We are faced with one of the strangest dashboards on the market – but one that suits this little oddball perfectly. True to most of the marque’s products, the driving position is good, as is the room for the front passengers. In back, the concessions are legion mainly due to the sloping roofline, which hinders headroom somewhat. Strangely, while the trunk offers decent cargo space, its access is rather difficult. The load sill is high and the opening quite tight.

Under the hood, we’re in known territory. The usual four-cylinder powertrains are available, ranging from 121 – 208 hp. The S version provides good power given its weight, but don’t expect anything too exciting. Where the Paceman comes as a disappointment is its brakes, which feel spongy and slow.

Being a Mini, driving pleasure is the one factor that is sure to remain. It hugs every curve in the road with obvious ease and gusto. Being at the wheel of a Mini is most enjoyable and of particular note is the fact that as of now, this can be enjoyed all year long. Ground clearance is now sufficiently high to make winter a disconcertingly easy proposition.

The Paceman is a product no one really asked for but – now that it’s here – why not? It offers the right balance between two of the line-up’s most popular models, the Cooper and the Countryman. Here is a car with out-of-the-blue looks that ultimately makes a lot more sense than we could believe. The Paceman will be available from March 16 at dealers worldwide.

Fact file:

2013 Mini Cooper Paceman

Models available: FWD; S All4; John Cooper Works All4

Price range: $26,800 – $39,600

Configuration: front engine/ front or all-wheel drive

Available powertrains: 1.6L 4-cyl. (121 hp / 114 lb.-ft.); 1.6L turbo 4-cyl. (181/177); 1.6L turbo 4-cyl. (208/192)

Transmission: 6-spd manual; 6-speed auto with sequential shift

Fuel economy ratings: not yet rated

Warranties: 4 years / 80,000 km (comprehensive)

Competition: Nissan Juke; Range Rover Evoque