Translogic episode 7.4 profiles two affordable cars that offer high-tech features despite their modest prices: The Nissan Juke and the Ford Fiesta.
Nissan's Integrated Controller, or "I-Con" for short, is nominally the interface for the vehicle's climate control system. But it's small screen and buttons also double as the controls for the drive mode selector that noticeably changes the car's demeanor. It allows the driver to choose one of three driving modes, which changes the sensitivity of steering input, the transmission calibration (for the continuously variable transmission), and the throttle response. The display screen changes depending on the mode, to help you keep tabs on whatever kind of driving you're doing. There's a slightly cartoonish boost gauge for sport mode and an efficiency record while in Eco mode.
Normal is for everyday driving, but Sport is where the real fun lies, making the Juke feel noticeably tighter, with slightly quicker steering and a livelier throttle response. The overall effect is that even the smallest inputs get an immediate reaction, making the Juke feel focused, sharp and very sports car-like. If you're not in the mood for twisty back roads, you can also select eco mode, where the Juke's responses are dulled, allowing the vehicle to achieve higher mileage.
That Nissan has included this cool technology in a vehicle with such a modest price is really remarkable, but that's not all. The Juke's engine bay is also packed full of high tech bits. The small engine's output is boosted by a turbocharger, but it also has direct injection, a feature generally found in more expensive performance cars, like the Cadillac CTS and Audi A6. By injecting the fuel right into the combustion chambers, both performance and efficiency are improved. The result here is a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine that delivers 188 hp and can still manage 31 mpg on the highway.
While the Juke's tech focuses on making the vehicle fun to drive, the Ford Fiesta is designed more to keep you connected. While nobody is going to text their friends about the Fiesta's 120-hp, 1.6-liter engine, it does provide adequate power. No, the stuff worth getting geeked-out about is inside the car.
Everyone knows that Ford's Sync system lets you control a portable music player and/or phone by just speaking commands, but the Sync Services feature available on the Fiesta takes it to a whole new level. After creating a free account on Ford's Sync My Ride website and entering your mobile phone number, you gain access to weather reports, traffic information, sports scores, news, movie listings and turn-by-turn directions, all read aloud to you through your car's speakers.
Here's how it works: You press a button and say "Sync Services," then the car dials through your Bluetooth-connected phone. Depending on what you ask for, the system collects info from various third party data providers like Inrix and Telenav, which are then sent to a Ford server, then back to your car all through a voice connection to your phone, meaning you don't even need one of those expensive data plans. Once the flash memory in your Fiesta has the info, it tells you audibly where to turn and backs that up with an arrow and simple instructions on the Fiesta's center information display. Sync can also stream Bluetooth audio, text you a vehicle health report, and call 911 if your airbags deploy. Soon, Sync will support third-party apps like Pandora so you can verbally "thumbs up" every Arcade Fire song that comes up on your custom station.
The Fiesta SES also has a few other high-end features, like LED parking lights and a dual-clutch transmission, not unlike the one on the Audi R8 or Nissan GT-R. The Fiesta's transmission is, sadly, not manually shiftable, but its lighter weight helps with fuel economy and the quick shifts make the most of the normally aspirated four-cylinder engine.
Both Nissan and Ford clearly know their audience. Putting compelling technology only on the priciest cars leaves out the buyers who are really into these features. There are other affordable cars with cool gadgets, but the Nissan Juke and Ford Fiesta are at the head of the class.
Watch Bradley check out the amazing tech available on two amazingly affordable rides: the 2011 Nissan Juke and Ford Fiesta.