The Paceman's lowered sport suspension, which had been standard, switches to the options list (where it is no extra charge), a move that should bring some relief in the ride-quality department. Like the Countryman, the Paceman loses the center rail between its rear seats; instead, the rear seats incorporate a double cup holder, a 12V outlet, and an iPod holder...
Mini's current advertising tagline is "Not normal," and that certainly applies to the Paceman. Tellingly, the Paceman was the last of several body styles released by Mini. The Paceman is derived from the Countryman SUV and rides on the same 102-inch wheelbase. Like the Countryman, the Paceman is available with Mini's All4 four-wheel drive. It also has the Countryman's (slightly) raised seating position, but its sloped rear hatchback means less room in the rear seat and less luggage space. Curiously, the two-door Paceman is actually more expensive than the four-door Countryman.
The Paceman is effectively a two-door fastback version of the Countryman. In switching from the Countryman's practical, squared-off, four-door shape to a sportier, sloped-roof, two-door body, the Paceman gives up a lot of the Countryman's appeal without much gain. If you like its unique silhouette, that's an advantage, and the Paceman's relative rarity means you won't see yourself coming and going. Against that, the Paceman loses the obvious practicality of four doors and the Countryman's roomy rear seat.
The Paceman shares the Countryman's slightly higher ride height and is derived from the Countryman's larger version of the Mini body. That means the Paceman isn't quite as nimble as other Minis, but this is a difference of only the smallest degrees. All Minis, really, are fun to drive. Their quick steering and flat handling are their trademark qualities.
The Paceman's elevated suspension -- compared to other Minis -- can make it somewhat easier to get into and out of. Getting into the rear seat is still not easy, though; here the four-door Countryman (or even the Clubman, with its rear half-doors) has a distinct advantage. But no one is probably going to want to sit back there anyway.
The Paceman's other big differentiating factor within the Mini family is the availability of All4 all-wheel drive. It's optional on the Cooper S ($1700) and standard on the John Cooper Works; it's not available on the base Cooper. All4 can be had with either the six-speed manual or the six-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive subtracts 1 mpg from the EPA ratings on the Cooper S (with the manual) or 2 mpg with the automatic. If you're not looking for AWD, the standard Cooper saves considerable cash, but its 121-hp 1.6-liter four is less than thrilling. Our preference is the Cooper S and its much more powerful turbocharged 1.6-liter, with 181 hp. The John Cooper Works gets an additional 27 hp from the same engine, but its mid-$30s price tag is steep for a Mini.
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