Among the stars of the upcoming 2010 Geneva Show will be not one, but two crossovers that are small and promise to be fun to drive. One is BMW's Mini Countryman. The other is Nissan's Juke. Once again different parts of the auto industry have come up with the same idea at the same time, from different directions. Meet the sport compact crossover.
Both are compact, 161 inches for the Mini, 163 for the Nissan. Both get top versions with high-tech downsized direct-injection gasoline turbo engines with supernaturally similar figures - 1.6-liters, 182 horsepower (Cooper S Countryman) and 188 horsepower (Juke 1.6-liter turbo). Though both are the Euro-trim outputs, we don't expect great differences when they go on sale here in the U.S.
Both feed their power through optional AWD systems. But neither is even one teeny bit biased toward off-road action. It's all about pavement. Nissan's system even has side-to-side torque vectoring - a principle shared by the previous-generation GTR, and the new-generation Porsche 911 Turbo and the BMW X6M among others. A principle in no way shared with, say, the Toyota Matrix AWD.
The AWD version of the Juke (but not the FWD base cars) gets a multi-link rear suspension. As does the Mini, of course.
You're starting to get the message about sportiness?
True, in terms of design, they convey the same message in different ways, because their brands lead them to. For the Countryman, a palette of well-loved Mini cues, inside and out, does the job instantly.
But for Nissan, aping an existing model -- the Rogue, potentially -- wouldn't have been enough. Instead, the Juke's designers invoked rally cars with bug-eyed accessory-like headlamps, and wild wheel-arch blisters. They drew a fast rear end and tapering side glass. They hid the rear door handles in the C-pillar blackout area. They swooped the rear fenders and installed tail-lamps not unlike that of the 370Z.