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Is Medium the New Small?

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author photo by Autotrader June 2008

A few years ago, the MINI Cooper rocked the automotive world with its definition of the word "small." In a sea of large SUVs, the MINI company launched a vehicle that, by American standards, was downright tiny. From setting it up in malls as if it were a quarter toy ride to strapping it on top of larger vehicles with the sign "What are you doing this weekend?" they creatively made small cool again.

Now, with the introduction of MINI's new, larger Clubman vehicle, one has to wonder: When it comes to car sizes, is medium the new small? Good question. Here are a few new vehicles that are neither large nor small, but might be just right:

The Nissan Rogue
At first glance, the Rogue appears to be the Nissan Murano's younger cousin. The lines are similar, the body style is evocative of the Murano, and they both seat up to five people. But the biggest difference between the two vehicles, aside from the price tag, is gas mileage. Although not as staggering as, say, the Versa at 33 mpg, the Rogue offers an impressive 27 mpg performance. And with space comparable to that of a mid-sized SUV, it offers the fuel efficiency and cargo room that a lot of drivers want.

The MINI Cooper Clubman
The new Clubman is ten inches longer than the MINI Cooper hardtop. That's the largest difference you'll notice. But upon closer inspection, you'll find a lot of unique features. Take the club door, for instance. MINI calls it a "secret VIP entrance to the Motoring Party for all your friends," but it's actually a small, reverse-hinged third door that makes it easy to get in and out of the backseat. And the split rear barn doors are sure to attract attention. These left- and right-hinged swinging doors offer access to more than 32 cubic feet of cargo space. The result? MINI Cooper fun in a slightly bigger car.

The Infiniti EX
Recently, Infiniti introduced the EX to its collection of SUVs. Styled after the FX, this vehicle is only a few inches smaller than its larger counterpart. In fact, the EX is less than seven inches shorter and only four inches narrower. What are the trade-offs? Well, with the EX, you get a lot less cargo space, so long trips with camping gear might not work the same way with this medium-sized vehicle. But Infiniti didn't cut corners when it came to power. The EX actually has more horsepower than the FX35, which proves that even small can drive big.

The American Models
The Europeans and Japanese are not the only manufacturers jumping into the medium market. New American makes and models seem to be rolling off the assembly lines every day. From Dodge, we get the Nitro and the Caliber, two smaller SUVs that still pack a lot of fun. The Compass and Patriot bring a more compact adventure from the folks at Jeep. And from Ford, we see the Edge, an SUV that appears to compete with vehicles like the Nissan Rogue and Infiniti EX. All together, there are close to a dozen American models that fit well within the trendy category of "medium."

Will medium catch on as a hot new size? Will all our cell phones and PDAs get a little bit bigger? Will our large televisions shrink a tad to fit within this automobile trend? Doubtful, but for the foreseeable future, you'll have no problem finding a vehicle for all your automotive needs, no matter what size they are.

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Is Medium the New Small? - Autotrader