2013 MINI JCW COUNTRYMAN ALL4
Although the Mini Countryman is hardly mini in size, it nevertheless retains the undeniable cool-and-cuteness factor that has been a hallmark of the brand since BMW took over the reins in 2000. The Countryman, a compact crossover that debuted in Europe in 2010, was the first new Mini to feature all-wheel drive, which makes it an excellent choice for those of us in snowy climates.
Now, there’s even more excitement in the form of the John Cooper Works (JCW) version, a forthcoming model of the Countryman that features extra speed, sharper handling and stronger performance overall. A turbocharger affixed to the 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder engine brings added oomph. The lowered ride height and larger anti-roll bars deliver improved handling response, and bigger back brake discs complete the list of sporty credentials.
During a test drive that wound through a network of Tyrolean villages, an early prototype of the JCW Countryman jumped out of the corners and sprinted off effortlessly. The combination of the added power and well-sorted all-wheel-drive system made light work of snow-covered roads that were giving other vehicles all sorts of trouble.
The Mini JCW Countryman All4 has the aesthetic appeal to match all that performance. The retro-slick interior, a Mini hallmark, is augmented by an optional innovative rail that runs down the middle of the cabin and provides a base for containers such as cup holders and cases for sunglasses. Plus, the Countryman has four doors and room for four adults. Pricing TBA
2012 FIAT 500 ABARTH
This tiny style-monger has been ripping up autostrade and tugging at Italian heartstrings since 2007—and now it’s our turn. Powered by a 160-horsepower, 4-cylinder turbo, the Fiat 500 Abarth ratchets up the machismo even further with a sport-tuned suspension, high-performance brakes and a melodic exhaust system that would bring a Verdi fan to tears. From $23,995
2012 SCION IQ
The Scion iQ might be small, but it can seat three adults and one child, has truly deft handling and features no fewer than 11 airbags, the most in its class. The 1.3-litre, 4-cylinder engine is quick enough—and it delivers the best fuel efficiency of any non-alternative-fuel vehicle around. From $16,760
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