2013 Mini Cooper Paceman S - Pac-Man Spelled With an "E" - Review

“Drive…He Said” has found a  new use for Duct Tape:

Turning a car into a carnivorous video game character.

Pull the tape off the letter “E” and there’s the eighth model in the Mini car brand: The 2013 MINI Cooper Paceman. Excluding the MINI Cooper E [for limited market Electric] and the John Cooper Works ClubSport.

With Fiat hot on their heels, BMW’s MINI Group is on a furious mission is to broaden the appeal of the spiritual successors to Sir Alec Issigonis’ original Morris Mini.

As of 2012, with the 5-door Countryman, Mini is also into personal crossover utility vehicles. With optional full-time AWD known as ALL4. This fresh breath of life given to a brand built on “retro” is responsible for 1-out-of-every 3 MINI brand sales.

New for 2013, Paceman = Countryman2 side doors.

“E”…as in Extra:

In case you were wondering, it’s the Cooper Paceman’s fast-back rear-sloping roof, optionally available with panoramic glass, that really slices into headroom. With lots of persuasion the rear dual seats will eventually fold – 2/3rds of the way.

Let’s Motor:

The Paceman S’ twin-scroll turbo DI 1.6L DOHC gas inline-four powerplant is part is abetted by Efficient Dynamics.  Which means enduring “Start/ Stop,”  atop a throttle possessed by a “One-One thousand” tip in delay. Except when really laying into the left pedal, four wheel disc brakes grab almost too cautiously.

A good amount of of 177 pound-feet of torque happens by 1600 rpm. Full throttle will actually develop a momentary 192 lb-ft. With a 6-speed manumatic transmission can hold gears til’ redline. That’s enough to create a satisfying shove of the 3200-lb MINI Cooper Paceman S to 60 mph in a swift 7+ seconds. The 400-lbs over a standard MINICooper costs 24 miles-per-gallon in premium-unleaded. What should have been a satisfying helm-attached paddle-shifting experience, mysteriously went on the blink – along with the cruise control.

Electric-assist steering, lively in hand, but a tad under-boosted at a crawl, is the envy of some other “BMW Group” products. The front strut/ rear multi-link has been fitted with faster damping to cope with a higher center of gravity. Ride in the MINI Paceman S is acceptable until the roads traveled become rougher. Optional gumball 225/40 performance all-season Pirelli P-Zero run-flats on 19″ alloys deserve at least some blame for some frost heave trajectory launches.

Optional electronic viscous differential-ed ALL4 all-wheel drive defaults to a 50/50%  f/r power split. Attitude, steering and slip sensors can fire as much as 100% to the front wheels. On the dry ALL4 keeps understeer in check.

Let’s Look at the Details:

The assembled-in-Austria MINI Cooper Paceman offers attention to detail and excellent build, with better cabin insulation than most urban compacts. As it should given its premium price. Still, the cabin isn’t a comprehensive, cohesive visual and sensuous experience as in a “bona fide” BMW.  “Disc” shapes, which inundate the place with video-game modernity, aren’t always paragons of easy operation, e.g. the fussy turn signal stalk and door latch release. Wing-mirrors are obscured by their low mounting point and supportive front bucket seats are far from “one-size-fits-all.”

MINI Connected is “I-Drive” ala MINI,  bespoke with a darkened Elmer’s Glue-cap controller. Any attempt at task-saving is laudable, especially given the depths of setting customization and BMW App menus rests somewhere between complicated and mind-boggling.  Making tone adjustments to the crisp Harman/ Kardon audio system, with it’s aluminum- domed door tweeters, shouldn’t require such sub-menu delving.

The Flying-Saucer of an antique-finished analog speedometer has “Retro” covered inside the MINI Cooper Paceman. As do the toggle switches above the rear-view mirror and beneath the climate controls. Calling on the multi-view HDD navigation maps brings up a  small rectangular screen, which is the proverbial square peg inside the circular hole.

Parallel aluminum rails on the floor divide MINI Paceman’s left and right seating into two continents. These tracks, for attaching MINI-branded sunglass cases and cup-holders, might ostensibly run Lionel “O” Gauge rolling stock.

Our [non-Italian] Beefs:

1) $39,800 is “real BMW” money – as in the vaunted 3-Series.

2) How about half the throaty exhaust note of the $25,000 Fiat 500 Abarth? Hey MINI, the Cooper Paceman S deserves a less mechanical sound coming out the resonator/ muffler.

That extra inch of ground clearance and two extra doors in cousin Countryman may be the closest we’ll ever see a Mini Cooper get to a “utility vehicle.” The 2013 MINI Cooper Paceman seeks redemption with the purists who demand an entertaining “pavement dance partner” first.

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