NUTS & BOLTS

2013 Mini Paceman

Engine: Turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder

Wheelbase: 102.2 inches

Length: 162.2 inches

Weight: 3,110 pounds

Cargo space: 11.7-38.1 cubic feet

EPA rating (city/highway): 23/30 mpg

Fuel type: Mid-grade

Base price, base model: $23,200

Base price, test model: $28,500

As tested, including destination charge: $39,800

Mini might build small cars, but their lineup is far from diminutive. It starts with the Cooper, offered as a hardtop and convertible. Mini also offers the Clubman, the Clubvan, the Coupe, the Roadster, the Countryman, and now, the Paceman.

The 2013 Paceman is a three-door version of the five-door Countryman crossover SUV. While the two models are related, they're not identical. Both are Mini's largest vehicles. Overall length is about the same -- shorter than a Volkswagen Golf. Styling up front is identical, with a frowning, unhappy countenance. Clearly, this car is not cute. The vehicle does have an aggressive, athletic stance thanks to its roof, which is 1.6 inches lower than that of its five-door sibling and looks similar to the Coupe's.

Like the Countryman, the Paceman has decent room for four and a generous amount of cargo space. Legroom is adequate in the back and spacious in the front. Rear-seat headroom can be tight for taller riders.

The seats are firm and comfortable with good side bolstering to hold you in place during maneuvers. A rail that runs the length of the cabin separates the seats. BMW offers a number of items, such as sunglass holders, that attach to it. It may seem a bit gimmicky, but it's part of the Paceman's charm.

Less charming is the interior's quality. There are a lot of hard plastic surfaces. While it could be called sporty, the test car's price would lead you to expect better.

Like in other Mini models, a large speedometer dominates the center of the instrument panel. While your passengers can see how fast you're driving, odds are you won't unless you call up the digital readout for speed located in the center of the tachometer. Meanwhile, the center of the Countryman's speedometer is reserved for a large screen that's controlled by a number of small knobs on the center console. Different knobs control different functions. Once used to their location, you can grab a knob and use it without taking your eyes off the road. This makes the screen easy to use while driving. That said, the software is cumbersome to use at times.

The Countryman comes in Cooper, Cooper S, Cooper S All4 and John Cooper Works trim. The base Cooper has a 121-horsepower four-cylinder engine which, given this vehicle's weight, seems inadequate for the vehicle. A better choice would be the 181-horsepower turbocharged four, which nicely balances the demands of power and fuel economy. It's standard on Cooper S models. If that's not enough power, then the John Cooper Works model, and its 208-horsepower turbocharged engine, is your ride. Front-wheel drive is standard on the Cooper and Cooper S models. All-wheel drive is standard on Cooper S All4 and John Cooper Works models. A six-speed transmission, manual or automatic, comes with it.

Mini dropped off a Cooper S All4 for a weeklong test drive. And what a week it was.

The Paceman, like the Countryman, is an absolute blast to drive. Yes, it gives up some of its sporting edge when compared to other Mini models, but its added roominess is a fair trade-off. After all, you can throw the Paceman into a corner and enjoy its remarkable agility and sure-footed grip. Steering is not only ideally weighted; it also has good road feel. Braking is very strong.

The Paceman's ride is extremely firm, but unlike in most Minis, it's not punishing. It's also fairly noisy, but that's to be expected given this vehicle's mission.

Fuel economy was fairly good for a vehicle with all-wheel drive. That's a relief, given that the Paceman requires mid-grade fuel.

Perhaps the only real problem is the view through the back window, which resembles a mail slot. Back up carefully.

Despite its quirks, the Paceman will quickly capture your heart due to its fun-to-drive nature. And its price makes that fun accessible, as long as you're careful with options. Prices start at $23,200 for a Cooper. The Cooper S All4 started at $28,500. A host of options quickly raised the price, however. Mini charges extra for everything from the paint color, $500, to the 19-inch alloy wheels, $1,950.

Other options included black leather seating, power heated and folding mirrors, heated front seats, Bluetooth, smartphone integration, USB ports, navigation, panoramic dual-pane sunroof, automatic climate control, automatic transmission, Xenon headlights, satellite radio, Harman/Kardon audio system, and white turn signals. The bottom line was an eye-opening $39,800.

Admittedly, that's not a small price. Forgoing all-wheel drive and some of the more esoteric options can make it a viable option for many buyers.

And while it's not as cute as some other Minis, its size makes it ideal for negotiating the concrete jungle, while its athletic personality makes it the perfect choice for those seeking entertainment behind the wheel.