I’m going to buck the trend of reviewers wondering where the Mini Cooper S Paceman ALL4 fits in automotivedom’s taxonomic ranks, because I’ve think I’ve cracked it. It’s a Mini that grew up a bit, for drivers who haven’t quite grown up themselves. More spacious, softer sprung and amenable to the spirited long distance travel species, the Paceman feels a little more mature. Add the ALL4 all-wheel drive, and it even approaches inclement weather safely – city smart small during the week and mountain ready for the weekend then?
A turbo’ed 1.6-litre with BMW’s Valvetronic head, the Paceman’s engine pushes out some 181 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque, or 192 in Sport mode with overboost. Our tester came coupled with a conventional 6-speed automatic which stole a little snap from the 130% copy of the Mini hatch. Under the load of the Paceman’s body and running gear weight, it moans a little, but doesn’t feel under powered for around town driving. It is, however, not as whip crack sharp as the smaller Cooper S, despoiling that “S” nomenclature somewhat.
The power is perfectly adequate for anyone who hasn’t been snorting up a more power-mad mix of high-performance automotive blow from Germanic pushers, and likely most day-to-day drivers will find the Paceman sprightly in overtakes, and darting in traffic. Much of the Paceman’s Mini-ness comes not from power, but handling anyways.
The steering is still sharp and reactive, diving into the corners with the merest provocation, especially with the steering rack’s ratio tightening in Sport mode. Admittedly, the feel is slightly more synthetic and assisted than in the smaller Mini’s on offer, and the suspension is considerably more supple. Abrupt steering inputs yield un-Mini-esque amounts of body roll, similar to that of the Nissan Juke, when the Paceman’s height and more compliant suspension catches up with its eagerness into the turn. A little more throttle and the ALL4 all-wheel-drive system directs chassis-balancing torque to the rear tires to counter the under steer. And, once the entire dynamic settles out, and the Paceman corners with proper Mini-like tenacity.
That answers the question of if you can make a 130% copy of a Mini Cooper S hatch, and still have it be a Mini with a 90% affirmative. In some ways the Paceman is better, simply thanks to a less fevered go-cart driving experience and a more supple ride. You could have all this in a convenient 4-door hatch with the Countryman though, so why the Paceman?
Well, those of us not in a family way don’t really need doors to let us stuff the wee-folks or others into the back seats that often. The issue of two versus four doors comes down to a matter of taste over convenience, and style… which is why you’re looking at a Mini instead of blander cute-ute options anyways. Ultimately the Paceman feels like a Mini GT or Grand Tourer – more space, more comfort, and nearly all the handling of its smaller progenitor. Personally, the two door look seems better proportioned to my eye anyways, and once inside the benefits are remarkably similar.
The cabin is bright, airy and spacious. Leg and headroom for rear passengers and luggage capacity has increased proportionally over the smaller Minis. Cargo capacity is also up, with the Paceman offering 300 litres of capacity with the seats up, and 900 with rear seats folded down. The Cooper hatchback, offers 160 and 680 litres respectively. So if you’re taking a weekend ski outing to Whistler, that makes the Paceman a player.
The novelty of the interior’s giant centre stack speedo and impractical rail system instead of a centre console has grown tired since Mini’s 2001 introduction and the plastics could use an upgrade too. At a price point of $31,200 base, and $38,185 as tested, the Paceman All4 is too expensive for the cutesy cabin to feel this cheap. We look forward to 2014 when Mini is expected to tone things down a little.
Retro-cutesy overload aside, the cabin is comfortable, seats are supportive and cosseting, though for the price point one expects more than manual adjustment, especially if you’re scoping options like the Nissan Juke. Up front they are high and easy to get into, kinder and gentler than the Mini hatch then. In the rear, the buckets are a bit more of a scramble to get to, but thanks to the Paceman’s long front doors kids and occasional passengers won’t complain too much.
The Paceman’s biggest selling point for those of an active bend will be the ALL4 all-wheel drive system, enabling the Paceman to point its brave-face grimace of grill towards snowier climes. Ultimately, throw a roof rack on the Paceman, and you’ve a two-person ski-machine that can quickly grab parking during the week in the city, and run to Whistler or Tahoe with added ALL4 all-wheel drive system safety for the weekend. With ALL4, the 2013 Mini Paceman S grows up specifically for those of us who don’t want to.
2013 Mini Paceman S All4
Price, base/as tested: $31,200/$38,185
Type of vehicle: 3-door compact crossover
Engine: 1.6L turbocharged in-line 4-cylinder
Power: 181 hp at 5,500 rpm, 177 lb-ft. at 1,600 – 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic transmission
Fuel efficiency, L/100km: 8.1 city, 6.4 hwy