Crossovers are taking over the market. Buyers can get big ones, small ones, long ones and tall ones. They can opt for models with three rows of seats, all-wheel drive or in rare instances even manual transmissions. Like it or not these versatile vehicles are rapidly becoming the de-facto choice of drivers in America.
Roger, a faithful AutoGuide reader is considering just such a vehicle. Against his better design judgment the alien-inspired Nissan Juke has caught his eye. And like a red-hot steel chip embedded in his pearly-white cornea he can’t stop thinking about it.
Currently, Roger drives a Dodge Caliber… that should be reason enough to get something different. Yes, Chrysler’s previous small-car effort was cringe-worthy at best, downright appalling at worst, but the brand-new Dart is rapidly putting this unfortunate vehicle in the rearview. Well, maybe not, but that’s a story for another time.
So, a funky-looking compact crossover is the name of the game this week, but what are the criteria? Well, R-man has about 20 grand to spend and fuel economy is a top priority. Of course he wants a few other features – basic stuff like air conditioning as well as power windows and door locks. Nothing fancy, just a reasonably spacious small utility vehicle and no questions asked. Here are a few options to consider.
Suggestion #1 – 2013 Nissan Juke S
The Juke is powered by a spunky little four-cylinder engine. With direct injection and a turbocharger it belts out 188 horsepower with 177 lb-ft of torque. Not bad for a paltry 1.6-liters of displacement.
Best of all, with the Juke Roger has a choice of transmission. He can go with what probably 98.6 percent of buyers do, the continuously variable automatic, or if he’s feeling frisky he can spend a few grand more for a front-wheel-drive NISMO model and get a six-speed manual. We’re not trying to lead him one way or the other; it’s 100 percent his choice, even if he should get the stick…
When it comes to efficiency the entry-level Juke is no slouch, either. With a CVT on board, two-wheel-drive models sticker at 27 miles per gallon city and 32 highway. The vehicle’s combined rating is a solid 29 MPG.
Checking Roger’s boxes even the most basic Juke comes with what he craves. Power windows and door locks are standard, as is a tilt steering column and cruise control. In addition Bluetooth hands-free telephony, a six-way manually adjustable driver’s seat and quite a bit more are also included.
SEE ALSO: 2013 Nissan Juke SL AWD Review
A bare-bones Juke S rings the register bell at about $19,800, including destination and delivery fees. And even at that price it delivers a driving experience that’s nearly as spirited as its exterior design.
Suggestion #2 – 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE
The Japanese automaker’s offering in the compact crossover segment is the Outlandish, sorry, Outlet Store… scratch that, it’s the Outlander Sport.
If most vehicle manufacturers are like so-called “national brands” then Mitsu is clearly generic. The company was pretty successful back in the day, say, 25 years ago, but now it’s a shadow of its former glory. All Mitsubishi is known for today is the Evo, and its stock value is rapidly declining since the car hasn’t been updated properly in years.
As for the Outlander Sport, it’s a decent little crossover with some interesting features. Checking the list of standard equipment base ES front-wheel-drive models are equipped with niceties like cruise control, air conditioning and heated side-view mirrors. A leather-wrapped tiller with tilt AND telescoping functionality plus a hide-covered shift knob are also included, as are fancy-sounding 18-inch alloy wheels. Seven airbags are also free.
Under the Outlander Sport’s hood is a 2.0-liter MIVEC four-cylinder engine that delivers a yawn-inducing 148 horsepower; torque registers at 145 lb-ft. You don’t need us to tell you that’s not very much power for a crossover vehicle, but that’s not very much power for a crossover vehicle. This engine will make you sleepier than downing a whole bottle of NyQuil before going mattress shopping.
But the vehicle does have one banner feature. Like the Juke it’s available with a manual transmission, though only a five-speed. At least you can rifle through the gears if you choose so to do. A CVT is optional.
Generally the tradeoff for low output is improved fuel economy, and the Outlander Sport doesn’t fare too poorly in this department. Base, front-wheel-drive models with standard transmissions sticker at 24 miles per gallon in urban driving and 30 on the interstate. Combined they clock in at 26 MPG. Versions with the automatic are slightly more efficient.
So, what’s the Outlander Sport cost? Well, the most basic version with no options stickers for $20,295 including destination and delivery charges. It may not sound like the most compelling vehicle on the market today – and it isn’t – but you can be sure your hard-earned dollars will go to a good cause, helping patch the hole in Mitsubishi’s hull to keep the old girl afloat for another quarter.
Suggestion #3 – 2014 MINI Countryman
The Juke and Outlander Sport are mainstream offerings with their own strengths and weaknesses, and both of them fit Roger’s budget quite nicely. But if he wants to spend a little bit more he could get a premium compact crossover, the MINI Countryman.
Base price for the most affordable version of this vehicle is $22,895, nearly three grand more than what’s budgeted for this week’s Ask AutoGuide. But too bad, we’re in charge and we can play fast and loose with the rules, or even quick and baggy if it tickles our collective fancy.
Now keep in mind the price listed above includes one of the two “no-extra-charge” colors MINI offers. Cheapskates are limited to white and “light coffee.” If you want fancy paint plan on spending up to 500 bucks more.
And that fact highlights something very interesting about the MINI Countryman: the range it spans. You can snag a stripped-down version for 23 large, or you can get silly with an all-wheel-drive S model and jack the price up to $40,000.
Just like the Nissan, this British-inspired, entry-level crossover is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. Unlike the Juke a base Countryman’s engine is not turbocharged. As such it puts out a meager 121 horsepower with even less torque, just 114 lb-ft. And we had the nerve to complain about Mitsubishi’s engine! It can be matched to either a six-speed manual transmission or an optional automatic with the same number of gears. Opt for the latter and you’ll be hitting 60 mph in 10.9 seconds… yawning all the way.
SEE ALSO: 2011 MINI Countryman S ALL4 Review
When it comes to efficiency MINI’s Countryman is an ace. The base configuration stickers at 28 in the city and 35 highway. The car’s combined score is a surprisingly miserly 31 miles per gallon.
Of course this MINI includes legendary driving dynamics. Its go-cart handling tops even the sporty Juke.
Roger, here are three compact crossovers worth considering. Each one offers the features and efficiency you’re after, and all of them are pretty affordable to boot. If that’s not enough to convince you to ditch your Dodge, nothing will.
As always, good luck in your quest for a new car and thanks again for taking the time to Ask AutoGuide.
If you need a little assistance shopping for your next vehicle feel free to do the same. Send a short message to ask@AutoGuide.com. Let us know the basics of what you’re looking for. How many seats do you need? What size of vehicle do you want? How much are you willing to spend? With some of those fundamentals out of the way we’ll get busy to come up with two or three must-see vehicles that you’ll have to put on your test-drive list.