Relax: just because experts predict the price of gasoline to eclipse $5 a gallon in the next few years doesn’t mean you can’t have some enjoyment behind the wheel. In fact, there are a number of vehicles already on the market that offer some fuel-efficient fun. We’ve selected a few of our favorites for your consideration.
2011 Nissan Juke
Nissan's Juke will inevitably invoke countless arguments over its exterior styling, but there's no debating that it is one of the most enjoyable compact crossovers ever offered to North American consumers.
Despite its psychotropic exterior, the Juke is built upon Nissan's ubiquitous B-segment platform (also found beneath the Cube and Versa), which gives it a solid foundation. Things improve from there, however -- suspension tuning delivers crisp steering and fairly quick turn-in, while body roll is kept in check despite its elevated stance.
Admittedly, we're most impressed with the oomph Nissan managed to pack underhood. A 1.6-liter four-banger doesn't exactly sound like the most enjoyable motive source, but the MR16DDT engine found in all Jukes, regardless of transmission, trim level, or drive configuration, is turbocharged. As a result, it throws down a hearty 188 horsepower at 5600 rpm, and 177 pound-feet of torque from 2000-5200 rpm. If that doesn't sound like a pocket rocket, we don't know what does.
Although a six-speed manual is available on front-wheel-drive models, there is some rationale for opting for the CVT. Doing so allows you to add all-wheel-drive, which in turn replaces the beam axle in back with a multi-link setup. Better yet, the rear differential included in the mix is a torque-vectoring unit. That's pretty heady equipment for a vehicle starting below the $24,000 price point.
Thankfully, the Juke is just as enticing at the fuel pump. Front-wheel-drive models with the CVT are rated at 27/32 mpg (city/highway), while those fitted with the manual transmission come in at 24/31 mpg. Add all-wheel-drive, and the Juke brings home an EPA label reading 25/30 mpg. Respectable figures, but do keep in mind one fact -- Nissan prescribes premium unleaded swill for the forced-induction four-banger.
MSRP: $19,710 (base FWD model, destination included)
Engine: 188-horsepower, turbocharged 1.6-liter I-4
EPA Rating: 27/32 mpg (FWD, CVT); 24/31 mpg (FWD, 6-speed manual); 25/30 (AWD, CVT)
More of our five fun fuel-efficient picks: