Mini leaves all of the power transfer to the discretion of the car's computers while Nissan gives drivers a three-position switch to choose from front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive with torque vectoring. In either four-wheel setting, though, the Juke will still send 100 percent of the torque to the front wheels when cruising straight.
Having found the snowy, slide-happy roads we were looking for, we settle on a single spot to make back-and-forth passes. The Countryman's Blizzaks and well-weighted steering faithfully relay our every intention. A controlled, low-speed drift comes naturally: turn the wheel to get the car changing directions, jab the throttle to break the rear end loose, and stay on it while dialing in countersteer and waiting for the front wheels to bring things back in line.
Unfortunately, the Juke isn't quite as willing to play with its compromised all-season tires. All-wheel drive, in both standard and torque-vectoring modes, can't offer much help when the tires don't have any traction. Accordingly, the Nissan was a fine demonstration of Newton's first law -- an object in motion stays in motion in the same direction. Which explains how the Juke repeatedly nosed into the three-foot-high snowbanks. Drive like a cautious, normal human on snow and the Juke gets by just fine. Slap some winter tires on it, and it would probably be brilliant. But we don't know that for sure.
On dry pavement, the playing field levels, and yet the Mini still pulls ahead. Nissan may have the trick differential, but the Countryman has agility and a more neutral behavior baked into its bones. It also keeps the wheels against the pavement better and yet still dampens bumps -- both mid-corner and in a straight line -- with less severity. That's not to say the Nissan is a slouch, because it isn't. The Juke handles impressively for its crossover height and is far more engaging than anything in the larger compact crossover class. Cornering is on par with nimble small cars like the Ford Fiesta and Mazda 2, with nicely managed body roll and predictable behavior at the limit of grip. It's impressive, but it doesn't have quite the taut, responsive, and inviting feel of the Countryman.