First Look: 2011 Nissan Juke U.S.-Spec

Nissan's Juke crossover certainly caught our eye at last month's Geneva motor show, though not necessarily for all the right reasons. There's no doubt the Juke will turn heads and split public opinion at both the New York auto show and when it reaches American roads later this year -- and that's just what Nissan wants.

If you followed our Geneva coverage, you already know that the Juke is a uniquely styled vehicle, to say the least. Nissan deliberately went funky with the styling to make it a standout in the ever-crowding compact crossover market, drawing cues from rally cars to emphasize the Juke's sporting pretentions. If you were hoping the Juke would look different by the time it showed up at your local dealer, we're sorry to disappoint. The U.S.-spec vehicle will be virtually identical to its Euro-spec twin.

Lending the most credence to the Juke's sportiness is its drivetrain. A new 1.6-liter direct-injected and turbocharged four-cylinder makes its North American debut in the Juke producing "180-plus horsepower and 170-plus pound-feet of torque," according to the automaker. We hope to have exact numbers closer to the Juke's on-sale date. Regardless, the engine is mounted to Nissan's Continuously Variable Transmission as standard equipment, though if you skip the S trim level and move up to the SV or SL trims, you can get a six-speed manual.

Unfortunately, the manual transmission is only offered with front-wheel drive. If you want Nissan's impressive torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system, it's CVT only. Despite that, Nissan's AWD system is an impressive piece. Using technology developed on the previous-generation GT-R, the system can send up to 50 percent of the power to the rear wheels and can distribute power from side to side on the rear axle as the computer sees fit to maximize stability and handling.

Opting for the impressive AWD system means you get a multi-link suspension setup in the rear. Stick with FWD, though, and you get a torsion beam, though you do pick up some under-floor storage in the cargo area. Either way you slice it, you get a MacPherson Strut front suspension and 17-inch wheels with all-season tires all the way around.

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I wish this would have been Nissan's first electric car... So much more fun than a below average hatch.

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