Fiat 500

The 2011 Canadian International Auto Show, Part One: The Small but Mighty

Stallions and Bulls and Scorpions! Oh my! On Sunday I went to the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto. It runs from February 18th to the 27th, so if you're in town I would definitely recommend it. Also, try to buy tickets online, you'll save 10% and be able to use to fast lane instead of wasting time in a long ticket line.

The show is huge so I really only got to see a fraction of what was offered, but I had a blast. I laughed. I winced. I fell in love. I snapped some photos. And now, I share. Come. Join me.

What shall I start with first? Hmm. Maybe the Mighty Mice that caught my eye. I have a special place in my heart for the hot hatches. I would really like my next car to be one, ideally a Mini Cooper S or a Fiat 500 Abarth.

I'd gladly take one of the vintage Fiat 500s and I found this adorable, yet ferocious specimen in the Concorso Exotica:

I overheard some guy saying he wanted to use a fleet of these to deliver pizza. No.

I also got to see the legendary Cinquecento's new-to-us, sleeker little brother. I hope people in North America give it a chance. The Abarth version is supposed to be coming in 2012.

I must have taken a few of my photos too fast, please excuse the few that are a bit blurry.

What do you think of the update? People swarmed the ones you could actually sit in. We'll see how it actually does on the market. All I know is I want one.

Up next? The Minis. Another beloved tiny car with a big heart and a great history.

I loved the look of the new Mini when they first brought it out. I still do. Ever since then, however, it seems like Minis have become, well, less mini. I don't like it. The Clubman sounded like a good idea a few years ago but it became ever so slightly hearse-like with those double doors. This year we have the Countryman.

I couldn't wait to see the Countryman today. I've hoped and prayed for an AWD version of the Mini and thought this would be the answer to those prayers. It isn't really. The Countryman looks like a Mini on steroids. I think it's just too tall and wide to be called Mini. Heck, I've seen it described as a crossover. If Mini continues to go this way, they should just change their name to Medium.

That being said, this flat black one with a Toronto city scene on it was fun and The Countryman isn't ugly. It is probably more practical in a North American market for people who like Minis but need/want more space and/or AWD option.

The price is pretty steep at $30,750 to $43,000, especially when the Countryman tops out at 208 hp and 192 ft-lb of torque in its John Cooper Works option. That's nothing to sneeze at in a small car, but it's the same as the Mini JCW. I'll be curious to see its reception here.

This Mini Paceman concept car, on the other hand, is u-g-l-y. It's basically a sleeker Mini Countryman minus two doors. It reminds me of a toddler Ford Flex. My dad disagrees with me on all of the above so I'm guessing others will also disagree with me. Maybe I just don't like change very much.

The leather-wrapped handles are very practical, no?

Enough about that. What about the new Electric Mighty Mice out there? They seemed to favor function (kind of) over form.

Exhibit A: Nissan's Leaf

It's already saving the planet. It rescued this polar bear, domesticated him, and taught him how to hug and walk on his hind legs. He drives a Leaf. Amazing! If you like polar bears or want to be a polar bear, you better buy a Leaf.

Exhibit B: Mitsubishi MiEV

All snarking aside, I think the electric cars are interesting. I'm a big supporter of green technologies and reducing our environmental impact, but I have a lot of questions. Most of the electrics seem to have targeted ranges of around 160 km, which is just under 100 miles. What do people average in the real world? Traffic? Hilly commutes? What's the performance like? How long will the battery last/cost to replace? What would be the environmental impact of making and eventually disposing of these batteries? Nissan says it's working on both recycling and "second life" options for the batteries, but wouldn't people want to know more about that before they buy?

I won't babble on, but I'm really, really curious to see where this technology takes us as it matures. All in all, it was pretty neat to finally see these products in real life after hearing about them for so long. I don't find them all that visually appealing, but I'm sure others will think they're cute or fun.

So that's it for the mighty mice. I kind of hate to do this after showing off the electric cars, but tomorrow I'll post the growling, squealing, lust-inducing, gas-guzzling Supercars!