Volkswagen GTI vs MINI Countryman…Which One to Buy & What’s a Baja Bug? [Ask Nathan]


In this edition of Ask Nathan:

  • When will you get the Ford Fiesta EcoBoost?
  • Volkswagen GTI vs MINI Countryman
  • What is a Baja Bug?
  • Safest way to transport pooch?

2014 Ford Fiesta 1.0L EcoBoost Profile

Today’s first question comes from a young fan who wants us to review a Ford Fiesta EcoBoost – so do I.

Q: Hey Nathan, I love watching your videos on the TFLcar channel on YouTube, and I was just wondering when you guys will be testing out the Ford fiesta EcoBoost, I’m really interested in the car, and I want to learn more about it, thanks


A: Great question and I wish I had the answer. Ford has yet to equip our fleet with a Ford Fiesta EcoBoost. Unfortunately, I cannot give you much information. Still, I hear good things from other review outlets and word on the street is that the three-cylinder EcoBoost is a gem.

I promise to keep bugging Ford until they give us one.

Best of luck!


Mk1 VW Golf GTI 2015 VW Golf GTI

This next question comes from a fan in Washington D.C. who is choosing between a Volkswagen GTI and a MINI Countryman ALL4 S.

Q: Gents, I was wondering if you could help me with a decision. I’m looking at getting either a VW GTI or a Mini Countryman S All4. They are similarly priced. The VW R and the Mini Countryman JCW are out of my budget. Things I like about both: small, well handling, quick, and room for my family. The things I think might be better about the GTI are comfort and interior design? The things I think might be better about the Countryman are the double glass roof and the 4 wheel drive (I live in DC and when we do get snow, it’s not cleared very well, so I end up driving through a few inches of snow during the winter pretty regularly.). A big bonus for the Mini is that my wife likes that one WAY more than the GTI. Any help would be much appreciated. Love the reviews and articles! Keep it up!

C. in DC

A: Greetings and thanks for the email! That’s an interesting conundrum to say the least. Roman and I agree, the Volkswagen GTI is one of the best all-around vehicles on the road. It’s usually the smart bet, but you mentioned snow. The MINI Countryman ALL4 S is pretty good in snow and it is a hoot to drive.

Both cars are fairly utilitarian and both vehicles excel at being immensely fun to drive. The MINI is built to be more of a fashion statement whereas the GTI is a more sober design. I’ve driven in D.C. snow before and, no matter which car you drive, I recommend snow tires.

If you do, indeed, get proper snow tires, the Volkswagen GTI would still be our choice.

Hope that helps!

p.s. you can reach me at:



This email was sent by a viewer who wants to know what a Baja Bug actually is.

Q: Hi Nathan. I don’t know much about older Volkswagens, but I’m especially curious about the “Baja Bug.” I have seen a few and they look real cool. But can they actually go off road? What are they like to drive?

Thanks! D.S.

A: Thanks for the email! Yes, they can go off road, usually on desert sand, dunes and dirt roads. Normally they are rear-wheel drive and have very little weight to lug around. As a result, Baja Bugs are very swift on dirt. These modified Volkswagen Beetles are (usually) fitted with beefy off-road suspensions, off road tires, removal of standard small fenders and equipped with off-road lights.

The real expert is our very own Emme Hall; one of her favorite activities is racing Baja Bugs!




This last question comes from a viewer who has a question about transporting pets.

Q: Hi, I’m about to move cross country and I have a small dog and cat. My boyfriend said to just bring them with, but I don’t know if that’s legal or safe. What kind of advise can you give me? I really like your videos and I hope to hear back from you soon!

Sincerely, D.R

honda element DOG-FRIENDLY-KENNEL-KIT_midA: Great email and thanks for the compliments! ‘

I’m a huge pet lover and I must tell you: your boyfriend is dead wrong.

The best thing you can do is to place your pets in to the proper kennel. Make sure the kennel is secure and make sure your pets are in an area where they can be shaded from the sun while having enough ventilation.

Laws vary in each state. Here’s an example from your state, “Oregon law requires a dog to be protected by a carrier or other restraint if transported on “the external part of a vehicle” on a highway (Ore. Rev. Stat. § 811.200(1)). This includes carrying the dog upon the hood, fender, or running board. The statute seeks to prevent the animal from “falling from the vehicle.” A violation is a class D traffic violation punishable by a $90 fine (Ore. Rev. Stat. § 153.018(2)(d)).”

Despite not mentioning cats, I feel they need to be secured just like dogs. By the way, unless your pets get on exceptionally well, I would advise a separate kennel for each animal. Never leave them in a hot car too!

Look at it this way: you pets are like very young children. They don’t understand where they should be in a moving vehicle, nor do they comprehend what safety devices (like airbags) can do to them. I once saw the results of what an airbag, a small dog and an driver look like after they get mushed together.

I appreciate you checking about it and so will your pets.



Nathan and The Fast Lane Car team are here to answer your (reasonable) questions. Interesting and/or entertaining emails will be posted to this column. If it’s relevant in the automotive universe, there’s a chance we may know something about it. The author’s email address and name will be omitted – leaving your initials or nickname, your preference.

From day one, The Fast Lane Car has made it our policy to answer as many questions and comments as we can. We get thousands of emails and comments and feel that, as part of a tight-knit automotive community, having an open dialogue with you keeps things fresh and exciting.

Got a question for Nathan? Drop him a line at:

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nathan adlen Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism – Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. His words, good humor and videos are enjoyed worldwide.