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Since it’s been around for roughly a dozen years, there’s a lingering question surrounding the Mini Cooper: Is it still cool to own one?

There is no arguing that it was cool driving around in a Mini when it was first introduced to American car buyers in 2000. If you happened to own one the looks – “what is that” – were prevalent. But that wow factor has waned, leading back to the original premise: Is the Mini still cool?


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Personally, I think the Mini Cooper still has an appealing style and personality that attracts car shoppers. Its British background had me visualizing a drive through the streets of London, maneuvering my way around in this tall, two-door hatchback.

The Mini was originally unveiled in 1959 to combat the gas crisis in England. Now owned by BMW, the Mini has managed to stay around despite rumors that the brand would be discontinued.

New for 2013 is the Mini Cooper Paceman, which was driven here for a week. Based on the Mini Countryman crossover, the Paceman is 4 inches wider and 15 inches longer. It retains the signature large doors and large door openings, which are admirable qualities for a compact vehicle.

Not so admirable is the gas mileage and the escalating price for some models.

The Paceman has three trim models (Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper) and the mileage ranges from 23-31 mpg, which is not a selling point for a compact vehicle. And speaking of selling points, the Mini can get pricey very quickly. The base model is $23,200, but the S Paceman driven here ran nearly $40,000 with some extras.

Although the Paceman is roomy for all four passengers, I wouldn’t deem it family friendly. Even with the wide doors, it’s not much fun getting in and out of the back seat. And the Paceman is not as roomy as many other hatchback rivals.

Techie folks will enjoy the optional Mini Connected electronics, an interface system. It has an iPhone-smartphone app integration system that offers access to both social media and Internet radio.

There is a fun factor that comes with purchasing the Paceman turbocharged 1.6-liter, four cylinder that produces 181 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. It goes 0-60 mph in 7.2 seconds, which is a lot quicker than the standard engine (1.6-liter, four cylinder, 121 HP) that travels the same distance in 9.7 seconds. The turbo model has good acceleration and can climb hills admirably.

The Paceman reportedly doesn’t offer the nimble handling of other Mini models, but it seemed just find to me. The steering was precise and the Paceman delivers a certain peace of mind in regards to control. What’s not as appealing is a bumpy ride that gets a lot worse on uneven surfaces.

If style and personality are key ingredients in your car search, the Mini Cooper still meets those requirements. It retains a unique visual appeal and has some other fine qualities as well. But this is not a family vehicle or a compact that provides superior gas mileage and comes at a low sticker price.

2013 Mini Cooper Paceman

  • Performance: 1.6-liter, four cylinder, 121 horsepower or 1.6-liter, turbocharged four cylinder, 181 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate range: 23-31 mpg
  • Price: $23,500 to $35,500
  • Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles; drivetrain 4 years/50,000 miles; roadside assistance 4 years/50,000
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