Don't get us wrong. For a crossover, the Countryman is agile fun. But for a Mini it's decidedly dull-witted. Maybe things would sharpen up with the optional sports chassis, which lowers it. Also, be aware that the tester came on the smallest 17-inch wheels. Larger sizes figure in the options list.

The Juke also rolls a fair bit, but it is more agile and has a better handle on canceling understeer. That torque vectoring system can be felt doing its job, nudging the back end onto a wider line to keep the front pointing where you've steered it. In fact with all the body lean, it can at first seem like the beginnings of roll oversteer, but it's very capable once you learn to keep your foot down and trust it. Even so, the Juke isn't such a blast as the best hot hatchbacks, because the steering is too light and lacks any realistic road feel.

Ah well, at least in both Juke and Countryman you are rewarded for coping with the body roll. They both serve up a nicely compliant ride, both over urban potholes and highway-speed ridges.

The Juke, at 162 inches, is an inch longer than the Countryman. But because of the Mini's slightly longer wheelbase, and especially because of its boxier tail-end shape, the Mini actually has interior space to put it on a par with the Juke's older and bigger brother, the Rogue. That makes sense -- the Countryman's job is to be the Mini for people who need space, while the Juke's job is to be the smallest, cheekiest and most stylish member Nissan's extensive crossover lineup and so it's OK for it to sacrifice space for style.

And the Juke is definitely the more distinctive looker of the pair, with its multi-eyed face and huge wheel housings, supporting a tapering glasshouse, sloped roof and pinched tail. Subtle it ain't, but we found it more attractive as we spent time with it. The Countryman's shape we found a slightly harder thing to love. It seems too much like a bloated parody of the two-door Mini hatchback. Still, it has been made with Mini aspirants in mind, and they'll no doubt forgive it.