2011 Nissan Juke Expert Review
Funky Hatch Is The Perfect Nissan Middle Child
We wouldn't blame you for thinking we're one stud short of a lug pattern on this one, but point your peepers to a few specs and you'll see what we mean. The Juke weighs in at less than 3,000 pounds in front-wheel-drive guise and packs a turbocharged, direct-injection 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that's good for 188 horsepower. For reference, the company's own Sentra SE-R hits the scales with an extra 88 pounds on its waist and 11 fewer ponies at its command. Opt for the manual gearbox in the Juke, and things get even lighter. Intrigued? We were too.
Photos copyright ©2011 Zach Bowman / AOL
Perhaps the biggest compliment that we can pay the design of the 2011 Juke is to say there's nothing to compare it to in the automotive food chain. Sure, there are borrowed elements from the 370Z in the taillamps and there's more than a little Kia Soul in the roof line, but by and large, the Juke is its own machine. That's no small praise considering manufacturers have been cranking out vehicle designs for well over 100 years.
Up front, the Juke serves up something of a puzzle with its lighting array. Those stylized lenses up top don't tackle main illumination duty like you'd think. Instead, they prefer to take care of both marker and turning-indicator work, leaving headlight detail to the pie plate-sized lenses set low in the front fascia. If that's not confusing enough for you, higher trim levels also get fog lights placed even closer to the ground.
From the side, the Juke boasts seriously bulging fenders front and rear as well as a short wheelbase of just 99.6 inches. In fact, from stem to stern, the crossover measures a mere 162.4 inches, or shorter than even the admittedly small Versa hatchback. Fortunately, the Juke comes from the factory wearing stylish 17-inch alloy wheels even in base configuration. Those sizeable rollers give the Juke a little extra attitude and serve to help avoid the pitfall of looking like an econobox... er, trapezoid. Throw in a set of rear door handles hidden in the C-pillar and the Juke comes off as a three-door hatchback from a distance.
The rear of the Juke shows more of a traditional CUV or crossover look with a rounded hatch, sculpted taillamps and a small roof spoiler. Despite its abbreviated package, it uses a fairly tall rear deck for loading groceries and the like, and we expect the painted bumper cover to suffer more than a little abuse at the hands of careless owners.
Jump indoors and the Juke delivers an interior with a greater attention to detail than we're typically accustomed to from Nissan. The driver is treated to a sport steering wheel with contours in all the right places and quality texturing that feels a galaxy or two ahead of the tiller in the Rogue. Large, easy to use buttons make short work of cruise control, audio settings and handling calls from the Bluetooth system. Door panels are decorated with painted plastic bits color-matched to the unique "motorcycle tank" center console, and large, rounded chrome handles add a little bit of brightwork to an otherwise dark cockpit. Our tester came in S trim, which means that it sacrifices the trick I-CON center stack of the SV model for more pedestrian dials and buttons. Base guise does net buyers an iPod interface, though navigating the menu structure via the controls on the dash and steering wheel is nothing short of confounding.
Otherwise, the Juke serves up a surprising amount of room given its tiny stature. There's enough space to comfortably ferry four adults around town without having to accordion anyone's knees, and there's a deceptively large area behind the rear seats for stacking up luggage or groceries. We have it on good authority that several propane tanks and multiple bags of groceries can fit back there at the same time, though a lack of tie downs or hooks makes for plenty of racket once the going gets twisty.
The eggs never made it home.
One of the best things about the trim structure with the Juke is that no matter what configuration you choose, you're guaranteed to find one very capable four-cylinder engine under hood. Our bare-bones tester made use of the same direct-injection, turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder as the rest of the lineup. That means we had the good fortune of getting to play with a full 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. While we were itching to get a full week's worth of time with the six-speed manual transmission, our tester came lugging the Nissan CVT gearbox in front-wheel-drive configuration.
But that's not as bad as you'd think. Nissan has cleverly graced the Juke with the same "shiftable" CVT programming as found in the likes of the Maxima. Nudge the gear lever up and the transmission will happily provide you with a quick jump in ratios that's good for darting along your favorite mountain road. Speaking of darting, front-wheel drive will net drivers a torsion-beam suspension out back, though like many inexpensive small cars these days, the rear bar doesn't seem to hold the Juke back when it comes time to tango.
Keep the tach pointed above 2,000 rpm and the Juke will gladly dispatch any amount of tarmac with little argument. The hatchback kicks out very little understeer if you manage to keep out of the throttle. Really mash the skinny pedal, though, and the sizable pack of horses will do their best to torque-steer you away from your intended path of flight. The result is a small car that begs you to keep hammering, despite its tall ride height. The brakes are properly firm and though the electric power steering is a characteristically light, it's not enough to dampen the giggle factor.
It's worth noting that our particular tester was a pre-production unit with plenty of hard-won miles on the clock at the hands of sinister auto journos. That said, we did notice a fairly rough idle, especially when the engine wasn't up to operating temperature. At highway speeds, the cabin suffers from road and engine noise, though not enough to worry us. This is a vehicle with an MSRP lighter than its curb weight, after all.
The EPA says you should be able to net 27 mpg city and 32 mpg highway from a CVT-equipped, front-driver like our tester, though after a full week of darting around the countryside, we saw a measly 22 mpg combined. Just remember, kids: Small turbo engines drink fuel just like their larger, normally aspirated counterparts when you have your foot burried in the carpet. In this case, Nissan's little alien sucks down premium juice, so it would pay to go a little lighter on the fun pedal should you decide to park a 2011 Juke in your driveway.
And how much will Nissan ask for the pleasure of Juke ownership? Prices start with the S Trim at $18,960, and buyers can expect power doors, locks, iPod connectivity, a six-speaker sound system and Bluetooth hands-free calling for that stack of cash. That sticker price snugs the Juke smack dab between the Nissan Rogue at $20,810 and the Nissan Sentra at $15,520. With decent (if a bit theoretical) fuel economy and a fun factor that's well above either of those options, the Juke represents the perfect middle child in Nissan's lineup. While it may not be as functional as the Rogue, we'll take that sacrifice for the bump in power and the handling hijinks.
The Juke is as close to a modern hot hatch from Nissan as we're likely to get anytime soon, and were it ours, we'd immediately begin looking into ways to get the vehicle a little closer to the ground. If ever there were a car that begged for the aftermarket to right its wrongs, the Juke is it. The styling may not be for everyone, but after a week with the five-door, we grew warm to its funky face. Hey, if people can welcome pug dogs into their homes, they should have no problem opening up the garage door for the 2011 Juke.
Photos copyright ©2011 Zach Bowman / AOL
Remember the Nissan NX of the mid-'90s? The tiny, econobox-based sportster was as cute as a bug and spent its brief lifespan mixing it up with other long-gone, sporty front-wheel drive affordables like the Mazda MX-3, Honda Civic CRX, Toyota Paseo and even the Hyundai Scoupe. While there were a lot of inexpensive, racy looking coupes back then, most automakers just don't see any money in that segment anymore. Instead, when they look to spin something off of their entry-level B-class chassis, most veer toward the white-hot crossover segment.
Consider the latest example, Nissan's 2011 Juke. Come to think of it, this in-your-face city slicker has some startling similarities to the NX. For one, at 162.8 inches long, it's deceptively small – just 0.4 inches longer than the '90s coupe. Further, both the Juke and the NX1600 rely on 1.6-liter four-cylinder power. And like the Sentra-based NX, the more emotional Juke is based on the same humble underpinnings that give structure to Nissan's workaday offerings, in this case, the Versa and Cube. And while the Juke may not be cute as a bug, there's something downright insectian about its Predator-like mug.
Despite not being a traditional sporty car, Nissan has been talking up its controversially styled mini-ute with many of the same descriptors, so we hopped a plane to Vancouver to see if the Juke could bob and weave its way into our hearts. Follow the jump to find out how it fared.
Photos copyright ©2010 Chris Paukert / AOL
We would love to just dive into a discussion of the Juke's performance – especially considering it offers such goodies as a new turbocharged, direct-injected powerplant and torque-vectoring all-wheel drive. Thing is, we can't. Like you, we're still puzzling over its appearance. So before we go any further, yes, the Juke's face is sure to be its biggest bone of contention – but among the young buyers that Nissan is seeking, it's also just as likely to be among its chief selling points.
So what gives with the Juke's look? It's as if someone took a Mr. Potato Head automotive design kit and handed the pieces to a Red Bull-addled toddler. Some lights here, a few grille bits over there, turn signal repeaters someplace... it's design anarchy. We can't remember ever being at a press introduction where company officials actually felt the need to explain where the headlights are (they're situated in those large bumper-level nacelles – the bubble-like protuberances up top house the running lamps and turn signals). The thing is, in person, we like the Juke's appearance considerably more than we thought we would.
For one thing, there's the scale. As we've alluded to before, the Juke is much smaller than a typical B-segment CUV – it's shorter than a Suzuki SX4, yet it has far more presence than anything that might reasonably be considered a rival. Its pocket-sized dimensions serve to reduce the intimidation factor and amp up its amusement. When viewed in-the-metal, the Juke's persona is more like that of a pug dog dressed in an oversized studded collar than a slobbering pit bull wearing the same. We're not ready to call it cute or sexy – not by a long shot – but it's properly unique and offbeat.
And there are plenty of eye-catching elements elsewhere. The Juke's profile is dominated by its balloon fenders, a design choice that mandated larger-than-normal 17-inch wheels. But there are also scads of interesting details, including the rear door handles hidden in the C-pillar, the aggressively tapered greenhouse and the unusual visibility of the front running lamps, which can still be seen peeking out even when checking out the Juke's rear three-quarter view. A pair of large, high-set boomerang taillights that remind greatly of the Volvo C30 dominates the rear. Thanks in part to its raked backlight, the Juke has a bit of the Nissan bubble-butt employed on the Versa hatchback (and before that, the Megane of Nissan's French partner, Renault). One thing that's not immediately noticeable unless viewed from directly behind is the subtle tapering of the rear glass – it's almost teardrop in form.
A pair of large, high-set boomerang taillights that remind greatly of the Volvo C30 dominates the rear. Thanks in part to its raked backlight, the Juke has a bit of the Nissan bubble-butt employed on the Versa hatchback (and before that, the Megane of Nissan's French partner, Renault). One thing that's not immediately noticeable unless viewed from directly behind is the subtle tapering of the rear glass – it's almost teardrop in form.
We've already told you how we think the Juke looks much better in person than it does in photographs, but we were curious as to how the public would react when they saw it on the street. Fortunately, waiting in line for a ferry to Vancouver's Sunshine Coast presented the opportunity for an impromptu focus group, as plenty of onlookers were openly curious as to what the funny-looking Juke was getting on about. Reactions were all over the map, from "That there's the ugliest thing I have ever seen." (fifty-something man in a white cowboy hat) to "I like the way it looks – I genuinely do!" (athletic forty-something woman who wondered if a mountain bike would fit in the back). We didn't conduct a poll, but we heard more positive comments than negative, so it appears Nissan might just be on to something. We were able to get seat time in a pair of Jukes: a Cayenne Red front-wheel-drive model and the Electric Blue all-wheel drive variant seen here – both in mid-range SV trim paired with Nissan's continuously variable transmission. A six-speed manual gearbox with surprisingly short throws is available in front-wheel drive models, but we didn't get sufficient time in one to pass judgment on its merits.
We were able to get seat time in a pair of Jukes: a Cayenne Red front-wheel-drive model and the Electric Blue all-wheel drive variant seen here – both in mid-range SV trim paired with Nissan's continuously variable transmission. A six-speed manual gearbox with surprisingly short throws is available in front-wheel drive models, but we didn't get sufficient time in one to pass judgment on its merits.
The Juke is powered by Nissan's first North American application of its new 1.6-liter direct-injected turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and in this state-of-tune, it provides a healthy 188 horsepower (at 5,600 rpm) and 177 pound-feet of torque (from 2,000-5,200 rpm). That's quite a bit of scoot for a vehicle that's about the size of a Ford Fiesta hatchback. In fact, it's more powerful than the 170-hp 2.5-liter four found in Nissan's Rogue, which weighs hundreds of pounds more and is longer by over 20 inches.
While continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) are hugely efficient and deliver excellent fuel economy, we've long excoriated this type of gearbox for their fun-sapping, rubber-band-like power delivery. Simultaneously, we've come to respect Nissan's take on the genre, as its XTronic family of CVT transmissions tends to behave more like traditional torque-converter automatics (at least in later variations), with the included six driver-selectable 'speeds' furthering the illusion. As we've seen in the past with the Murano and Maxima, it's possible to deliver a sportier-than-average driving experience in a CVT-equipped vehicle, and that's exactly the case here. There's good power on tap at all times, and calling for 'shifts' via the manual gearlever detent results in swift action. Use of the CVT also enables front-wheel drive models to return 27 miles per gallon in the city and 32 on the highway. While Nissan didn't offer any acceleration times, we suspect the Juke will hit 60 miles per hour in the low seven-second range. Sadly, there are no paddle-shifters available, which strikes us as an odd, low-cost oversight on a vehicle billed as a sporty drive.
Helping our Juke's CVT perform more like an enthusiast's friend, however, was Nissan's new Integrated Control (I-CON) system, a bit of silicon whiz-bangery that allows the driver to tune the transmission, steering effort, and throttle to one of three modes – Sport, Normal or Eco. After briefly sampling the other modes, we left it in Sport, which programs in more aggressive throttle tip-in, cuts back on the electric power steering assist and institutes faux 'shift' points by making quicker-than-normal ratio shifts, alleviating the high-rpm audio torpor that many CVTs deliver. Even though the included g-meter is rather gimmicky, the I-CON system is a surprising feature at such a modest price-point, and we dig both its availability and execution.
Whether you're running in the front-wheel drive Juke or the torque-vectoring all-wheel drive model with its upgraded multi-link rear suspension (FWD models use a torsion beam and stabilizer bar setup), you'll find that the 1.6-liter kicks out sufficient power to engender a fair bit of torque steer. It's not the sort of thing that threatens to yank arms from sockets like an old Saab turbo (or a new Mazdaspeed3), but the forced induction comes on hard and quick north of 2,000 rpm. And even though the all-wheel drive system can gerrymander the power split between the front and rear axles 50-50 as well as slosh torque side-to-side between the rear axles to curb understeer (which it does), you'll never mistake the Juke for a rear-driver. There's no axle tramp, however, and the light, accurate steering and gobs of grip from its wide Goodyear Eagle RS-A rubber means that you always feel in control, so much so that the nibbling torque steer is actually quite entertaining. There's very little body roll and the disc brakes are pleasingly firm as well, both of which help to reinforce the feeling that the Juke's dynamics skew firmly toward hot hatchdom.
We're glad Nissan has chosen to imbue the Juke's interior with the same sporty and spunky spirit as its sheetmetal, as porting over the Versa's sober interior would've been a disappointment. On the contrary, the cabin is a lively place, beginning with the bulbous painted transmission tunnel that's available in either silver or red. Said to be inspired by the gas tank on a motorcycle, we just think it's cool and appreciate that the gearshift is located high and within easy reach. Also welcoming are the easy-to-read analog gauges, small-diameter three-spoke wheel swiped from the 370Z and surprisingly supportive cloth seats (leather is standard on the range-topping SL), though the gray fabric on our tester seemed like a dirt magnet. Standard features are generous and there's even a low-priced navigation option that does the job nicely.
Going back to the aforementioned I-CON system for a moment, the drive mode functionality is only half the story – the same set of buttons and screen also supervise the HVAC controls. What's so interesting about some air-conditioning and defrost buttons? It's the display technology. By using multiple layers of Mylar filters, the labels on the switchgear changes almost as if by magic from heating and ventilation functions to the drive mode selector settings. It's seamless "well, would you look at that!" technology, and paired with a screen that's easy-to-see in all lights – even with polarized sunglasses on – it's exceedingly trick stuff that we expect to infiltrate Nissan's lineup in short order.
In fact, there's little we don't like about the Juke's interior. True, it lacks a telescoping wheel. And yes, the dashboard cap and door sills are made of unyielding plastic and the headliner is coarse enough to qualify for a grit rating, but the controls are all well-placed and visibility is surprisingly good. We particularly like how the tops of the turn signals are visible through the upright windscreen, as they allowed us to better place the corners of the Juke in an apex – not unlike an old Porsche 911. There's even a useful amount of cargo space without the seat folded (and a surprisingly generous storage bin lurks under the floor of front-drive models just above the donut spare). What there isn't a lot of, however, is rear-seat space – legroom in particular. But no matter, Nissan says the Juke is targeted at Maxim-reading frat boys and twenty-somethings, and it's not really reasonable to expect something with a titchy 99.6-inch wheelbase to be a family hauler anyhow.
When pressed for a list of competitors, Nissan officials told us that they expect cross-shops as varied as the Scion tC, Mini Cooper, and Suzuki SX4. We can see some of that, as we tend to think that many of these buyers ask: "What's fun, funky and cheap enough that I can afford it?" Starting at just $18,960, the Juke definitely fits this category, but we can also see people stepping over from box cars like the Kia Soul, along with more traditional economy cars like the Honda Fit and the company's own Versa and Sentra. Nissan says it also expects car-conscious young people who might otherwise consider modding a used BMW 3 Series or Nissan 240SX to consider a Juke, which might be a tougher sell.Then again, it might not. With engaging and cheap coupes like the NX and MX-3 long gone and modern entry-level two-doors almost completely absent from our shores (Hyundai's Veloster isn't here yet and the Honda CR-Z doesn't deliver the goods), segment-crossing mash-ups like the Juke might just be the future of affordable entertainment. Make what you will of the way this Nissan looks, because in our book, that'd be no bad thing.
Photos copyright ©2010 Chris Paukert / AOL
New Car Test Drive
All-new all-wheel-drive sporty compact crossover.
Nissan calls the Juke a Sport Cross, which ties in with its claim that it's a crossover between a sports car and an SUV. In that respect it's like the Suzuki SX4 that's been around for two years with the so-called sportcross field to itself, and the new Mitsubishi Outlander Sport with its launch just two months behind the Juke.
Small crossovers are the fourth largest and fastest growing segment, so watch for more vehicles like this, many with all-wheel drive like these three.
The Nissan Juke is built on Nissan's global B platform, that's been around long enough to be well proven. Its 1.6-liter turbocharged intercooled direct-injection engine is being seen for the first time in the U.S., but it too has been used by Nissan in Europe and Japan for some time now.
The name Juke is meant to suggest flitting around town, or as a boxer might juke around the ring, and the vehicle does just that. It's got a short 96-inch wheelbase, and a stance and style that looks rather jukey. Its styling is aggressively quirky, as Nissan likes to take chances. It's 7 inches shorter and 3 inches wider than a Nissan Versa hatchback, so you might get the picture.
It's a 5-seater, but naturally this size doesn't leave much legroom in the rear. The standard rear seat is a fold-flat 60/40, however, so there is good cargo space behind the front seat.
The seats are comfortable and the fabric sporty in the Juke SV, while the leather in the Juke SL is lovely. The center console design is inspired by a motorcycle gas tank, and its hard plastic is painted a glossy color, deep metallic red in our test model SL. It's distinctive, and cool.
The 188 horsepower with 177 pound-feet of torque provides brisk acceleration. The CVT transmission with its manual shifting is quick and sharp, however we found the 6-speed manual transmission detracts from some good qualities in the car, including the quietness and steering. The fuel mileage with all-wheel drive is an EPA-estimated 25 City and 30 Highway, and we're surprised that it's not more, given the modern 1.6-liter direct-injection engine.
The all-wheel-drive system divides the torque 50-50, with the capability to move all the torque between left and right wheels, to meet traction demands.
The suspension is fairly standard, MacPherson struts in front and multi-link rear, and combined with the short wheelbase and relatively big 17-inch wheels and tires, the ride catches every undulation. It's not sharp or harsh, but when you're driving the Juke over bumps you're fully aware you're in a tight little car.
The 2011 Nissan Juke uses a 1.6-liter direct-injection turbocharged intercooled 16-valve engine making 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque with a choice of 6-speed manual transmission or CVT continuously variable transmission.
Juke S ($18,960) comes with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, power windows, power locks and mirrors, 17-inch wheels, 6-way driver's and 4-way passenger's manual seats, AM/FM/CD sound system with steering wheel controls, Bluetooth, speed-sensing electric power steering, and 60/40 fold-flat rear seat. Juke S comes with the CVT and front-wheel drive, and is available with all-wheel drive ($20,460).
Juke SV models add upgraded fabric upholstery, power moonroof and privacy glass, intelligent key with pushbutton ignition, leather-wrapped steering wheel, integrated control (I-CON) system having Sport, Normal and Eco modes for programming of engine, transmission and steering. Juke SV comes with a 6-speed manual transmission ($20,260), CVT ($20,760), or CVT and AWD ($22,260).
Juke SL models add a navigation package with upgraded speakers and USB connectivity, leather upholstery with heated front seats, leather-wrapped shift knob, rearview monitor, and foglamps. Juke SL is available with 6-speed manual transmission ($22,550), CVT ($23,050), or CVT and AWD ($24,550).
Safety equipment on all models includes six airbags, stability control with traction control, 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS and EBD, and tire pressure monitor. Optional all-wheel drive enhances safety in slippery conditions.
The Juke is certainly eye-catching. Nissan isn't afraid to go out there with quirky styling, not even after the failure of the asymmetrical Cube, too quirky for its own good.
The Juke has features that shout originality. Hyper-aggressive edged fender flares outline big arches and suggest room for monster tires, making even the large 17-inch wheels look small. The 12-spoke wheels (six twin-spokes) on our fully equipped Juke SL CVT AWD test model were fancy (not a bad thing) for a little car, but still lost in the cavern. The conspicuously high ground clearance adds to that effect. It's 3 inches wider than a Nissan Versa five-door, and it shows.
The hood and nose of the Juke are loaded with things that shout for attention, namely the big round headlights inspired by rally lights, and amber running lights with turn signals that seem slapped onto the tops of the fenders like barnacles. Nissan says integrated but we'd argue that definition. Add foglamps in the air dam and the nose is full of circles. Our co-driving automotive journalist at the launch said the Juke looked angry, and furthermore was butt ugly, but we think she might have been a bit harsh. Many people will find it cute. On the ferry from Vancouver, B.C. over to the peninsula, our Jukes drew crowds of admirers, led by women. The Juke might turn out to be a chick car, if not a rock star.
The Juke looks great in metallic charcoal brown, with gold specs in the paint catching the sun; we like that color best by far. There's also a nice metallic blue, but after that there are too many shades of gray: four of the eight colors, in fact.
From the side, especially the window outlines, the Juke appears to have borrowed from the Kia Soul with its reverse wedge. From some angles you can also see Infiniti G. With invisible rear door handles, which we like, you can be fooled into thinking it's a two-door. There's a raked windshield, high beltline and broad shoulders.
The roof slopes down and the hips climb up, or at least they lend that illusion, thanks again to the arches and flares. There's a family resemblance to the Infiniti FX. There's a radio antenna in the middle of the roof that would be cool if it were a shark fin like on the Honda CR-Z. At the rear gate, the taillights borrow the boomerang shape from the Nissan 370Z.
So you've got bits of Soul, G, FX and 370Z. Still, the Juke comes across as original.
The seats are comfortable in the standard quality fabric, or superb optional leather. The fabric looks best in dark charcoal, and the leather in a rich brown. There's good bolstering that does its best to keep the driver's body in place, but the suspension allows a lot of upper body sway, or head toss, as it used to be called in the older Jeep Cherokees.
The seating position is high, and that affords good forward visibility. There's also a good view in the mirror through the rear glass; it looks like it should be pinched, but there's no problem.
Overall, the Juke offers more comfort and room inside than the compact outside suggests. There's tons of cargo space, 35.9 cubic feet, when the 60/40 rear seat is folded flat, which it does with one touch. However, not surprisingly, there isn't much legroom in the rear seat, only 32.1 inches. The Juke is a 5-seater, but three people in the back seat will be squeezed in every direction but up, and maybe that too.
Nissan says the center console was inspired by a motorcycle gas tank. Hmm. Fair enough. It's awfully pretty, and a great idea to add shape and contour to a car's interior. It's not just a long box with levers and crannies on it, which might describe the current state of center consoles. It's a long shapely tube, hard plastic with glossy paint, for example a rich and deep candy apple red that looks terrific. It begins at the bottom of the wide center stack, where the shift lever rises out the top, flows down and back and narrows, with a long black E-brake lever on the left and two cupholders and a coin holder on the right, before ending with an open bin between the seatbacks.
The gauges behind the steering wheel are good: black faces, white lettering, red needles, brushed aluminum-like rings around the speedo and tach. Digital information is displayed in a little window between them, but there's a problem: in order to scroll for info, you have to reach a button that's nearby, meaning either stick your right arm between the steering wheel spokes or wrap it around the wheel, while you're driving. The Juke isn't the only car with this poor design. We wonder how it gets by.
The center stack is nice and big and wide, more like a square with rounded corners. Our Juke SL included the navigation package with the 5-inch screen that's at the top of the stack. All the buttons, knobs and dials allowed easy function. There's a small screen near the bottom that displays some graphics relating to your driving mode: it indicates turbo boost in Sport mode, torque in Normal mode, and we're not sure what in Eco mode. After we watched it and thought about it for a while, we realized it's useless. Basically all it tells you is how far your foot is down on the gas pedal. You don't need to take your eyes off the road and refocus them on a small screen down at the bottom of the center stack to know that.
We played with the navigation a bit, and we liked the way it gave you ample notice before a turn. However it wasn't challenged much because our route on the launch kept us on one highway. Also a waterway, which the navigation lady who lives in the center stack couldn't see. Stay on the road for 28 miles, she said, as the ferry pulled away from the dock and headed 28 miles across the water.
So you've got those three modes, Sport, Normal and Eco. There's a distinct performance difference between them, and not just horsepower. For example, Sport mode tightens the transmission shifting and steering, as well; in Eco mode, shifts are slower and sharp cornering doesn't exist.
The 1.6-liter turbocharged engine isn't new, but this is its first use in the U.S. The power is good in Sport, and the acceleration sprightly up to 6400 rpm where the rev limiter gently chokes the engine. Don't expect much freeway performance in Eco mode, although you could hum along at 60 mph with the cruise control set, no worries. And if you're lightfooting it around town, Eco mode is great.
We didn't have a chance to test the traction in ice and snow, in August, but we like the way the all-wheel-drive works. Nissan calls it torque vectoring. It's a 50-50 split from front to rear, but the torque can shift fully to the left or right wheels, as needed.
Nissan claims that the full 177 pounds of torque is available at 2000 rpm, and we trust they have charts from an engine dynamometer that say so. But there's a lot lost in the translation to the seat of a driver's pants, for example through the transmission. All we know is that when you floor it and watch the tach climb, you feel a nice surge at about 3500 rpm. And when you floor it in a high gear at 2000 rpm, it feels like the torque stayed back there on the dyno bench.
We were impressed by the responsiveness of the CVT, in its manual mode with six ranges like speeds. That means a lot to a car like this.
As with any car having a short wheelbase, the cabin is going to feel the bumps more. In the Juke, you maybe feel them a little bit more than that. They're not sharp or harsh, but they are plentiful. It hugs every bit of the road. The big 17-inch tires, on 215/55 tires, likely have something to do with that.
We also got seat time in a Juke with the 6-speed manual transmission, and we say: forget it. For one thing, there's torque steer that doesn't exist with the CVT model. For another, the NVH is significantly higher. For a third, it just makes the whole car feel bigger, with the loss of its sharpness.
Finally, the fuel mileage. The AWD CVT Juke is government-rated at 25 mpg City and 30 Highway, which is about what we got; closer to 25, actually, in the real world. We think a 2011 compact car with a 1.6-liter direct-injection engine ought to do better than that. Juke AWD has an 11.8-gallon fuel tank, smaller due to packaging than the front-drive model's 13.2-gallon tank, thus the all-wheel-drive version has a shorter range.
The all-new Nissan Juke is an all-wheel-drive (or fwd) compact crossover with distinctive fun styling, sharp sporty performance, and good cargo space. A well-equipped model will cost nearly $25,000 and get 25-30 miles per gallon.
Sam Moses filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after his test drive of the Juke near Vancouver, British Columbia.
Nissan Juke S CVT FWD ($18,960), Juke S CVT AWD ($20,460); Juke SV 6MT FWD ($20,260), Juke SV CVT FWD ($20,760), Juke SV CVT AWD ($22,260); Juke SL 6MT FWD ($22,550), Juke SL CVT FWD ($23,050), Juke SL CVT AWD ($24,550).
Options As Tested
Nissan Juke SL CVT AWD ($24,550).
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