Mini gets bigger with medium-sized Paceman


Sometimes it's in the literal sense, such as the four-door SUV-like Countryman. But if that's a little too big, there's now a Mini smaller than the Countryman, but bigger than the regular Cooper hatchback. It's a medium-sized model called the Paceman.

It definitely looks like a Mini, just sort of plumped up a bit. If you see it next to the standard model, you can tell that it is a bigger car. Take a peek into the back seat and the larger size translates into room for real adults.

Under the hood, you'll still find the Mini hallmark of a small engine, the same 1.6 liter found in other Minis. Choose the S model and turbo-charging means an output of 181 horsepower. But fuel mileage is still good with ratings of 25 to 35 miles per gallon.

And all wheel drive is optional. Mini has campaigned its cars in worldwide rally competition in recent years, where four-wheeled traction is a must.

Mini has kind of been the premium small car for awhile, and they're offering different models now to give buyers a choice. But they do have something they didn't have a few years ago: some real competition.

Fiat has become the other hip Euro small-car brand in America, and there's now a bigger Fiat to go with the tiny 500. The 500L is kind of like a compact SUV blended with a baby van. It offers a view out the front corners, which is definitely not like most cars.

There's lots of spaciousness inside and an upscale trim level called lounge that offers a designer look. Under the L's hood is the turbo four that makes the 500 Abarth a performer. It still scoots the L along at a better-than-adequate pace. A dual clutch automatic is optional, and with it, this grande Fiat achieves a rating of 24 city and 33 highway.

But Mini's still got quite the head start in this boutique small-car game with the new Paceman coming in at a size that's neither big nor small.

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