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The MINI Cooper has proved to be a prolific little hatchback. From its platform, engineers have conjured up a coupe, convertible, wagon, roadster and crossover. There's yet another spinoff for 2013, the Paceman, a two-door variant of the Countryman crossover. The new model offers more space than the standard Cooper while retaining most of its spunk and agility.
It's debatable whether the Paceman is a true crossover or just a tall hatchback, but it's safe to say most buyers will recognize it as something other than a passenger car. Although mechanically identical to the Countryman, the Paceman offers unique styling that goes beyond its two-door body. The ride height and roofline have been lowered for a more aggressive appearance. The tailgate isn't so vertical, and the rear quarter panel bulge out a bit.
Rear bucket seating is the only configuration available, making it strictly a four-passenger vehicle. Perhaps that won't matter since the Paceman is clearly aimed at active singles and couples, not folks with kids to ferry. It does better when it comes to carrying cargo with 24 cubic-feet of space or 38 with the rear seats folded. That isn't anyone's idea of a hauler, but it's vastly better than the Cooper or anything with a conventional trunk.
Powertrains are shared with other MINIs, starting with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 121 horsepower, matched to a manual or optional automatic transmission, both with six speeds. As expected with an engine this size, fuel economy is strong at up to 35 mpg on the highway, but acceleration ranks as below average.
Performance picks up with S model, which uses a turbocharged version of the 1.6-liter. With 181 horsepower on tap, the S offers brisk pickup with just a small drop in fuel economy. The turbo is the natural choice for all-around performance and drivability in the Paceman. All S models can be ordered with MINI's all-wheel drive system, known as ALL4.
Buyers looking for all-wheel drive and maximum go-power will find it in the John Cooper Works model. The JCW employs an upgraded version of the S's turbo with 208 horsepower and an overboost function that yields more torque during full-throttle acceleration. You also get a sport-tuned suspension and exhaust system, plus sportier interior trim.
Though it doesn't offer the sheer utility of other small crossovers and hatchbacks, the Paceman carries on the MINI tradition of precise handling, efficient sportiness, and unmatchable character.
The Paceman Cooper carries a 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 121 horsepower and a six-speed manual transmission. As with all models, a six-speed automatic is optional. Standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, power windows and locks, leatherette sport bucket seats in front and back, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth compatibility and a six-speaker sound system with CD, HD radio and auxiliary jacks.
Key upgrades include 18- or 19-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, rear parking sensors, a panoramic sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, automatic climate control, and leather seating with or without heat up front. The optional Harman Kardon sound system features 10 speakers and satellite radio. The exterior can be spruced up with chrome accents, roof rails, adaptive xenon headlamps, and a range color schemes and body graphics.
The S adds a turbocharged version of the 1.6-liter good for 181 horsepower. The blown four-cylinder brings substantially better performance with only a slight loss in fuel efficiency. Buyers also get standard fog lamps and a dynamic traction mode for the stability control system. The S can also get MINI's ALL4 all-wheel drive system at extra cost, in addition to everything available on the Cooper.
The JCW edition of the Paceman aims for a higher level of performance, starting with standard all-wheel drive and a more powerful turbocharged engine that produces 208 horsepower. Zero to 60 mph happens in 6.5 seconds, aided by an overboost function on the turbo that increases torque during pedal-to-the-floor acceleration. Additional standard equipment includes 18-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, a performance exhaust system, and more aggressive interior trim.
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Terrific efficiency, sprightly handling, trails in available horsepower
Powerful and refined, lacks the MINI's charm
Choice of two or four doors, stout German performance, uninspired styling
High-performance turbo engines, nicely equipped, stiff price