Mini is no longer alone in the premium compact segment, though the Fiat 500 is perhaps just a bit too small to present direct competition to what is in effect a very small and very fun hatch. This new version stays true to the first-gen (BMW-produced) model that premiered over a decade ago, adding power and improving fuel efficiency while remaining distinct in a range that now includes seven cars.
Nicely equipped three-door hardtops will really be found in the $24,000 range, keeping it out of Mercedes-Benz CLA price territory; there is plenty of fun to be had even if you only have around $20,000 to spend. The Cooper S model is almost too much of a good thing -- the base three-cylinder offers plenty of entertainment on short and long trips.
If you still need more room but don't want to spring for the Countryman, wait for the five-door hardtop -- that's coming later this summer.
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