2014 Cute-ute Shootout: Buick Encore vs. MINI Countryman vs. Nissan JUKE

North Americans have a curious affinity towards SUVs, particularly shrunken down versions of them that seem to get smaller with each passing year. That’s why several automakers are now offering eye-catching models to cater to the younger, style conscious demographic. Here we look at three affordable and quirky tiny crossovers that don’t get as much attention as they should.

Buick Encore

Buick Encore

At a mere 4,278 millimetres in length, the Buick Encore is the definition of a cute-ute. Despite its small stature, the Encore is still able to carry 1,371 litres of cargo with the rear seats folded down. A 1.4-litre 138-horsepower EcoTec turbocharged engine powers this tiny SUV that was completely redesigned for 2013. Mated to a standard six-speed automatic transmission with optional all-wheel drive, fuel consumption is manufacturer rated at 7.9 L/100 km for combined city and highway driving. New features this year include the addition of safety features like Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Side Blind Zone Alert, and Siri Eyes Free technology that allows control of your iPhone’s Siri functions via controls on the steering wheel.

MINI Cooper Countryman

MINI Cooper Countryman

Instead of starting from a larger footprint and scaling down, the Countryman went the other way and is essentially a MINI Cooper that has put on some size. Introduced in 2010, the maxi-Mini is available in several trim lines from base level to the hopped up John Cooper Works edition that bumps horsepower from 121 to 208. It was also the first vehicle from the factory to offer four doors (not counting the Clubman’s hearse-like form factor) and a permanent all-wheel drive system dubbed ALL4. Respectable ground clearance and easy passenger access makes this a great choice for loyal MINI fans who want more space.

Nissan JUKE

Nissan JUKE

Quirky is a great way to describe the Nissan JUKE’s looks. Resembling a muscular praying mantis, the JUKE also has a high-performance variant named the NISMO (NISsan MOtorsports) that pumps out 197 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque versus the standard issue’s numbers of 188 and 177, respectively. It is the only example on this list to include a clutchless continuously variable transmission, Nissan’s Xtronic CVT, although a six-speed manual can be had if you opt for front-wheel rather than all-wheel drive. The JUKE is even smaller than the Encore measuring only 4,125 mm in length, but you do get 354 less litres of seats-down space in the back.

There you have it: three markedly compact crossovers from a cross section of the automotive world. And, given the winning recipe of combining truck-like practicality with non-truck aesthetics, who can blame people flocking to the baby SUV en masse?