Though it shares its nose with the Countryman - the two crossovers are essentially identical underneath the sheetmetal - the Paceman features unique styling aft of the A-pillars that sets it apart from the rest of the MINI range. It has an air of ruggedness thanks to a relatively tall ride height and muscular rear "hips", yet a rising belt line and short overhangs also lend it a sleek appearance.
The cabin contains nearly all of the playful, eccentric touches for which MINI has become known, the most notable of which is a speedometer mounted in the center of the dash. It can take some getting used to for drivers conditioned to simply looking down to ascertain vehicle speed, although the steering column-mounted tachometer can be configured with a digital speedometer to approximate a more conventional setup.
An optional MINI Connect infotainment system - controlled through a 6.5-inch display mounted in the center of the speedo - provides smartphone integration along with access to Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, RSS feeds and more. Google search and send-to-car functionality are also part of the package.
Despite its compact dimensions, the Paceman's rear seats are perfectly capable of accommodating average-sized adults for around-town trips. In back, there's room for 11.6 cubic feet of cargo, and 38.1 cubes can be had by folding down the rear seats.
While its added size and weight means it can't quite match the supremely agile dynamics of the smaller Hardtop, the Paceman nonetheless is one of the most dexterous crossovers on the market today. A no-cost sport suspension option further sharpens up the Paceman's handling.
Under the Hood
The Paceman is offered in three different trims: the 121-horsepower Cooper, the 181-horsepower Cooper S and the 208-horsepower John Cooper Works.
The Cooper is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder that produces 121 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is standard, and a six-speed automatic is available for those unwilling to exercise their left leg. Fuel economy is an impressive 35 mpg highway and 27 mpg in the city with the manual, though those figures fall to 30 and 25 with the auto.
The Cooper S Countryman is powered by a turbocharged version of the Cooper's engine that produces 181 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque, a figure that rises to 192 lb-ft for short bursts in "overboost" mode. Mileage is rated at 32 mpg highway for both transmissions and 26 or 25 mpg in the city for the manual and automatic transmissions, respectively.
Optional on the Cooper S is MINI's ALL4 all-wheel drive system, which provides sure footing in the event of inclement weather. It instantaneously splits power as needed between the two axles based on a number of factors including speed, steering angle and rate of acceleration. The system adds about 150 lbs. to the car and sends power to the front wheels under normal conditions.
The ALL4-equipped Cooper S is good for 25/31 mpg with the manual gearbox and 23/30 mpg with the automatic.
John Cooper Works
After pioneering the superior-handling mid-engined layout and enjoying great success in the prestigious Formula One racing series, British racing driver and designer John Cooper turned his attention to transforming the original Mini into a performance machine. The resulting car, known as the Mini Cooper S, enjoyed a string of dominant performances at the Monte Carlo Rally in the mid-1960s, cementing Cooper's status as a racing legend.
Today MINI pays homage to Cooper with the MINI John Cooper Works models, which are the high-performance range-topping vehicles in the automaker's lineup.
True to its heritage, the JCW Paceman is a pure-bred performance machine. It features an aerodynamic body kit, upgraded Brembo brakes and a version of the Cooper S' turbocharged 1.6-liter four that's tuned for 208 horsepower. The twin-scroll turbocharger helps the 1.6-liter engine churn out 207 pound-feet of torque under normal driving. An overboost function allows the JCW to eke out an additional 14 lb-ft for a total of 221.
Transmission choices include six-speed manual and automatic gearboxes. All JCW Countryman models come standard with a sport-tuned version of MINI's ALL4 all-wheel-drive system that uses an electromagnetic center differential to apportion power fore or aft as conditions require.
MINI also recently reworked the JCW's engine to achieve improved fuel economy; the result is an impressive 25 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway for the stick-shifted model, while opting for the automatic reduces mileage to 23/30 mpg.
Handling is tightened up thanks to stiffer springs, dampers, and thicker anti-roll bars.
Standard and Optional Features
The Paceman's standard features include power windows and locks, A/C, leatherette seats, a trip computer, Bluetooth connectivity, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/HD radio stero system with an auxiliary audio jack, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Highlights from the option list include a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, a USB/iPod adaptor, navigation system with 6.5-inch high definition display, leather seats with power adjustability and a Harmon/Kardon sound system.
Buyers can also choose from several option packages. Highlights includes the Cold Weather Package, which bundles heated front seats and heated, power-folding door mirrors. The Premium Package includes a panoramic sunroof, a Harman Kardon sound system, keyless entry, and a storage package. Finally, the Fully Loaded Package bundles parking sensors, navigation, white turn signals, keyless entry, a panoramic sunroof, xenon headlights, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, specific wheels, and white stripes on the hood.
The Paceman comes standard with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems.
The Paceman is one of the few vehicles on the market with no true competitors - aside from the much more expensive Range Rover Evoque Coupe, there simply aren't any other two-door crossovers for sale.
Still, those considering the entry-level Cooper or Cooper S might cross-shop the Nissan Juke and Mazda CX-5, while the John Cooper Works model can be compared to hot hatches like the Volkswagen Golf R and the Subaru Impreza WRX STI hatchback.