The seventh Mini model in its 12 years under BMW, the Paceman is a stretched coupe that pushes the limits of what a manufacturer can do with such a well-known profile. The four-seater with the sloped roofline and squinty windows shuns classic cute for a more menacing look that evokes a certain Range Rover, in miniature, and hints at its nimble performance.
The Paceman is powered with a direct-injection, 1.6-liter four-cylinder that on the Cooper S version that I tested was twinscroll turbocharged to boost its stock 121 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque to a more satisfying 181 and 177, respectively. It was also equipped with an optional sport button that, when engaged, stiffened the steering, made the engine and transmission heed my beck and call with Jeeves-like efficiency and, when plowing through potholes, routinely attempted to pry the steering wheel from my grip.
My tester was front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is an option that operates in front-wheel drive until the car senses wheel slippage in the front at which point it distributes the car's engine power and torque between the front and rear axles to correct course.
The Paceman is, like other Minis, a solid machine. Tipping the scales at 3,070 pounds, it feels dense and well built, but coupling that with more horsepower has a down side. I averaged just 25 mpg.
That weight was also apparent in the doors, which, as my 10-year-old noted the first time he exited the Paceman, were big for such a small car.
Indeed. The wheelbase on the two-door Paceman is the same as the largest car in the Mini lineup -- the four-door Countryman, with which it shares many interior design attributes.
There are dozens of unique style features, from the key fob that nests in a compartment next to the push-button start to the center console. There's no touch screen in the Paceman, just a large, dinner plate of a display operated with a knob that twists and pushes its way through controls for the radio, navigation, Bluetooth and other functions.
Overall, the Paceman's cockpit feels more Boeing than BMW Group. The parking brake looks like the yoke on a small plane. Its air vents resemble miniature turbines. In addition to buttons, there are toggle switches.
Splitting the car down its center is a rail that serves as a mount for cell phones and other devices that, with an optional lighting package, can be lit up like a nightclub in shades of red, blue or yellow. The rail begins just south of the center console and runs through the front bucket seats to twin seats in the rear that will be comfortable only for the smallest of passengers.
With the front seats in the rearmost position, there are literally 2 inches of rear seat legroom that, for passengers over the age of, say, 4, will have them wishing they were flying -- even coach. At least the front seats have literally carved some space into their backsides to better accommodate passenger legs.
2013 Mini Paceman
Powertrain: Twin-scroll turbocharged, direct-injected, 1.6-liter, inline-four-cylinder, 6-speed automatic transmission
Maximum horsepower: 181 at 5,500 rpm
Maximum torque: 177 lb.-ft. between 1,600 and 5,000 rpm
Top speed: 127 mph
Overall length: 162.2 inches
Wheelbase: 102.2 inches
Curb weight: 3,070 lbs.
EPA estimated fuel economy: 25 mpg city, 30 mpg highway
Road test fuel economy (based on 198 miles of driving): 25 mpg combined
Base price: $23,900
Price as tested: $35,600
All prices include destination charge.
©2013 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)
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