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Mini Paceman John Cooper Works

There probably isn't a huge market for a somewhat off-road-capable, three-door, sporty, compact hatchback. So what is the market for a more hardcore, sporty, less off-road-capable version of that same hatchback?

We're not sure, but that's exactly what the MINI Paceman John Cooper Works is. This is our first look at the hot edition of the Paceman, courtesy of rampant leakage around the web today ahead of its official debut, expected sometime in the coming months.

The 2013 MINI Paceman the John Cooper Works edition is based on was just unveiled to the public at the 2012 Paris Auto Show in September, so the JCW is close on the heels of its more normal (though still somewhat oddball) counterpart.

Leaked to the web without specs or information, the MINI John Cooper Works Paceman is already familiar--if not quite pleasing--to our eyes. But do the official details on MINI's latest car persuade us to want to like it?

Close, but not quite. You see, this is arguably the most confusing and least attractive cut of MINI's one-sausage-many-lengths theory of design. Pairing the high-riding and soft-roading qualities of the Countryman with the enthusiast-focused John Cooper Works formula could have resulted in a three-door MINI Paceman Baja Edition--a sort of micro-Raptor.

Instead, it leaves us with a John Cooper Works Paceman, good for 7 seconds to 100km/h from a 160 kilowatts turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine driving ALL4 all-wheel drive. Peak torque of 300 newton-meters is available from 1,700 rpm to 4,500 rpm with the Overboost function enabled--pretty stout for a smallish turbo four.

A choice of manual or automatic six-speed transmissions is available, and it won't affect the 0-100km/h times. But as strong as that little engine is, the 7-second 0-100km/h time hints at the problems of going tall and off-road-ish: weight. The JCW Paceman is quicker than the JCW Countryman, but not by much.

By way of contrast, the Scion FR-S manages a rather anemic 147 kilowatts from its boxer engine, with at most about three-quarters the torque of the MINI JCW Paceman's engine--and even then, it's all at the top of the tach--and yet it can dash to 100km/h in about the same time, with rear-wheel drive only.

The comparison is apples to oranges on everything, and all of it should favour the MINI. But the clock doesn't. That spells a stout curb weight to us. MINI doesn't disabuse us of this notion with the official announcement--curb weight isn't anywhere to be found.