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Mudfest 2013: Tom's Hardware Helps Test 23 SUVs

Mini Cooper S Paceman

Mini’s entry into Mudfest 2013 was an odd choice. If you think the Cooper is too small, the bigger Countryman might be a logical choice. However, Mini submitted a 2013 Cooper S Paceman ALL4. While the Paceman is based on the larger Countryman, and roughly the same size, it lacks the added utility of four doors. In a competition for outdoor activity vehicles, the tiny Paceman stood out like a sore thumb.

General presence aside, the Paceman was still well-equipped with the cold weather package, Mini Connected with Nav Pack infotainment system, xenon headlights, and rear park distance control sensors. The infotainment package largely resembles what you find in the BMW's QNX-based system. Although its layout is weird and it lacks a touchscreen (something even the more value-oriented alternatives have), you do get a control knob and other physical buttons within reach in the center console.

The well-placed knob makes for easy navigation of the system's options while the car is moving. We didn't run into any problems using the Mini Connected navigation system with our HTC Droid DNA test phone. The iPad didn't have any trouble with the Lightning connector, either. Placement of the infotainment system and gauges is truly unique to Mini, with a center stack-mounted speedometer, and the LCD within.

Our S Paceman came with a 1.6-liter, turbocharged engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The Mini ALL4 all-wheel drive system is active full-time, sporting front and rear torque distribution capabilities. It performed competently on the watered-down autocross course and made it through the dirt course, too. There were no signs of under or oversteer with the Paceman’s ALL4 system. Just plenty of grip to go around. It surprised us a bit, but the Paceman is a joy to drive. It's just lacking in the cargo department for a weekend camping trip with the family.

When it comes to style, this is a Mini, through and through. It has a clean retro look, though we find the excess chrome trim surrounding the head, tail, side marker lights, and door handles too much for our tastes. The sloped roof is a nice touch. Painfully, the price you pay for that snazzy style is quite steep at $38,050 (for our sample).

Vehicle Specifications
Vehicle2013 Mini Cooper S Paceman
Trim levelALL4
Engine1.6 L Turbocharged
TransmissionSteptronic automatic
DrivetrainALL4 full-time intelligent all-wheel drive
InfotainmentMini Connected with Nav Pack
Notable featuresPark distance control (rear)
Fuel economy23 city, 30 highway, 26 combined MPG