The 2013 Mini Cooper S Paceman: Where did my Mini go?

Back in 1977 I can recall the day I bought my first car like it was yesterday. It was a blue 1970 Mini GT with a 1275cc engine. It was small, brutal to work on, but so much fun to drive. Back in February at the Chicago Auto Show, I was strolling past this huge 2-door hatchback that had a sign on it that said “2013 Mini Cooper S Paceman”. I could not believe my eyes. This Version was double the size of that first love of mine. Oh Lord, what did they do to my Mini?

Like all other British car companies, Mini crumbled under the pressure of actually having to make a profit while building cars and, through a series of takeovers, finally landed in the lap of German car-maker, BMW. Back in my day, the addition of the word Cooper to a Mini made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, much like the word Shelby does to Mustang-lovers, but today, Cooper is just another extension of the brand name. The 2013 Mini Cooper S Paceman is one of 8-9 different models in the Mini line, so many in fact that I forget which model goes with which design. Anyhow, this Mini Paceman is powered by a direct injected, 1.6L turbocharged 4cyl engine which creates 180HP of thrust, which isn’t bad for a smallish car, producing a 0-60mph in about 7.7 seconds. OK, I guess.. Standard is the 6-speed manual transmission which is a welcome upgrade from the old “4spd treacle pot” I used to play with in my machine.

Minis are supposed to be fun to drive, probably only outgunned in that category by the Mazda Miata but there is something about this Paceman that is just so lacking in giddy-up. The size factor, to me, is a huge disadvantage as it appears more like a small SUV than a Hatchback, which is a crying shame if you are trying to relive your teenage years so late in life! The interior is a poor attempt at time travel as the huge, single moon shaped speedometer synonymous with Mini has become an over-clogged driver information system that has to be seen to be believed. If you pony up an extra $2500, you get a litany of applications from Google Search, Social Media, Navigation, Satellite Radio and Bluetooth functions that would keep an old guy like me busy for weeks. The two bucket seats in the back are also an attempt to clutch at the past despite the nice fold down feature for extra cargo space if needed.

The suspension and drive-train computers allow for several different modes from the Sport style to Cruising style and there is even a “scorecard” that tracks your driving skills in comparison to what the car expects of the person behind the wheel. All very strange and unnecessary if you ask me. Fuel consumption is nothing special for this class of car at a 23/30 city/highway spread. One of the faults that traditionalists like myself have had with the way BMW has designed the Mini brand is the way that they have attempted to penetrate almost every class on the market short of the Truck class. The 2013 Mini Cooper S Paceman is just another expensive SUV, at around $31,000 fully loaded, that misses its mark. It neither has the zip of a Mini, nor the refinement of a top class crossover.

I’m off to see if I can find my Mini.

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