Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

When I first saw the 2013 Mini Paceman at the Paris Motor Show, my first thought was, “Oh boy, they’re really stretching it with this one.”

Take the most questionable Mini iteration (the Countryman) and make it even more questionable by removing a couple of doors. The whole reason for the bloated Countryman was to hang the Mini shingle on a more “useful” crossover, so why make it less so by ensuring the back seats are a total pain to get into.

And it’s not like the new Paceman is any kind of beauty queen. A bit of a morose tadpole, actually.

2013 Mini Paceman Cooper S ALL4
2013 Mini Paceman Cooper S ALL4
2013 Mini Paceman Cooper S ALL4
2013 Mini Paceman Cooper S ALL4. Click image to enlarge

Yet after a week of driving this black Paceman Cooper S ALL4, I’ve revised my assessment. In fact, I believe this to be the most enjoyable Mini I driven in quite some time.

Oh yes, it has its flaws and deterrents. The former being an overstyled interior featuring a cartoonish central speedo, lousy ergonomics and cheap plastics. The latter being a $31,200 base price that here swelled to $37,580 (before freight) thanks to a number of option packages.

Obviously the brains at Mini know more than me. The Countryman is second only to the regular Mini in sales, so it stands to reason there will be a few buyers who want a more sporting version of this not-so-mini Mini.

And more sporting the Paceman is.

It gets standard sports suspension, rides 10 mm lower than the Countryman, has a firmer helm and weighs about 20 kg less. The two-door configuration makes for a stiffer structure too. The seat cushions are slightly lower to compensate for the tapering roofline. Still, once perched, it feels more crossover than hot hatch in here, which is exactly the point.

Mini is calling the four-seat Paceman the world’s first Sport Activity Coupe. You can call it whatever you like.

One thing immediately apparent is the improved dynamics over its five-door sibling. I had a chance to fling the Paceman ALL4 down some winding country roads and it shows the classic Mini friskiness without the punishing ride and torque steer of the front-drive regular-size Mini Cooper S in all its permutations, be it Coupe, Cabrio, Roadster, Clubman…

Granted, the Paceman’s 1,450 kilos and drag of the all-wheel-drive hardware dull the performance of the 181-hp, 177 lb-ft (192 lb-ft with overboost) 1.6L turbo-four somewhat when compared to the regular Minis, but it is still an eager unit that pulls strongly from 3,500 rpm to the redline and generates a satisfying snarl in the process.

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