You just can't be in a bad mood when you're in the cheerful Mini Cooper. And now that it comes in a ragtop, there's even more reason to smile. The convertible's top is brilliantly designed. Push the button once and the top slides halfway, like a sunroof. Push it again and the entire roof folds down in just 15 seconds. I also love the car's mod industrial-design interior, with exaggerated tubing for door handles and chromed switches that look as if they came from an expensive airplane cockpit. Though clown-car size on the outside, there's actually room for four adults inside.

As for performance, the Mini Cooper S, which is the sporty model, has a stiff chassis and handles beautifully, perfectly balanced with sharply honed steering. But the S lacks power on takeoff. Acceleration picks up once the car gets going, but I would have liked more zip lower on the RPM ladder. And yet all is forgiven when I look at the Mini. I just want to pinch its fenders.

Tip: Opt for the non-S model and save $3,450.