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

A guide to the Mini Cooper Coupe


If you were considering a mini as a family car you should probably steer clear of the Cooper Coupe as this is very much a couple’s or single person’s sports version of the iconic original.

Although some purists may have been put off by the design, this latest iteration of the model seems to be largely popular with critics. Continue reading A guide to the Mini Cooper Coupe

The Peninsula’s New Fleet: the Mini Cooper

The Peninsula Hotels are known for their upscale perks, like the fleet of Rolls-Royces that its Hong Kong flagship uses to ferry its guests to meetings and to the airport. In New York and Chicago, however, the hotel has opted for an amenity that’s more sporty than glam: chauffeur-driven Mini Coopers.

The cars are available for up to three hours a day to guests who book a suite at either hotel. Passengers can follow city tours that are stored on iPhones or iPads in the cars, or they can simply tell drivers where they want to go.
Continue reading The Peninsula’s New Fleet: the Mini Cooper

Mini Cooper S Cabrio

Funky and fun – these are the words that are often associated with the new breed of Minis with a quality stylish finish and features such as enhanced diesel technology.

People usually fall into one of two camps – Mini lovers and Mini haters. For lovers of Minis, seeing one on the road zooming along the road just doing its thing will always bring a smile to your face. There’s no avoiding that they are a class to themselves – adorable and cute enough to appeal to a broad market of car drivers who want a stylish car to impress, but with the convenience of a small car.

Along with their fun and stylish elements, Minis are also built robustly to achieve high performance and power for such apparently small looking cars.

The Mini Cabrio convertible, equipped with the standard high quality Mini features, offers alfresco driving at its best.

Its performance is not lightweight by any stretch of the imagination. Take for example the Mini Cooper S Cabrio’s specifications. It has a top speed of 225 km and is able to conquer 0-100 km/h in 7.3 seconds.

From an emissions standpoint, it comes up trumps. Mini’s emissions reduction technology produces CO2 emissions of 139 g/km with an average consumption of 6.0 liters/100 km.

The Cabrio has good handling – it overtakes with ease and is able to maneuver corners with absolute sureness. Sometimes the ride can be a touch on the firm side though.

Under that bonnet is a zesty 1.6 liter turbo charged four cylinder engine, which offers 240 Nm at 1600 rpm. Though with the turbo charger it can be pushed up to 260 Nm for when you need a little extra grunt.

Then there are the little side trimmings which make driving a sheer pleasure – the “always open timer” – which records your time spent driving in the open air, whilst the  “wind deflector” is nice for a spot of “draft free” open top driving.

Buyers can customize their Mini to suit their requirements, whether it is indulging in extra leather trimmings for the steering wheel and the gear level knob, or other features such as alloy wheels and sporty headlights.

Be in touch with the world and wired for sound using bluetooth connectivity for mobiles and iPod, all while driving open top. Other nice touches include the CD system, electric windows, ISOFIX child seat mounting, and a remote key to operate the windows and soft top opening.

A minor(!) complaint – the boot space is a tad small.

Open the sun roof and let the sun in, or get the total effect with the top down. Your choice.

For a family with college kids, this could be a good hand me down once you have had fun driving the Mini yourself, and when the kids have gained a bit more experience with driving.

It’s a blast to drive the Mini Cabrio. When budgeting for your adorable Cabrio, factor in car insurance policy costs and additional taxes to your total bill.

It’s a high performing convertible with an exhilarating ride.

No doubt manufacturers will come up with an even spunkier design for their upcoming 2011 Mini Cooper S Cabrio model.