Just as cool and funky as it can be!! Nissan’s nutty design team really comes into its own with the Juke. Outside, it looks the automotive equivalent of Dora the Explorer with its chunky body, bulging eyes, and sharp detail creases. The view from inside is dominated at night by the odd yellow marker light slivers atop the front lights jutting from the fenders. Kind of cool actually. Also, the cowl is extremely low. Honda Civic broke that ground in the early ’80s and it remains a very compelling feature.
Look again at the base price and then the unbelievable list of included features-very nice leather seats, funky touchscreen nav system, iPod interface, heated seats, moonroof, on and on-and then look at how beautiful everything comes together inside. Clearly these designers are firing on all cylinders.
As is the turbocharged four, which is mated to a perfectly geared six-speed manual. Love the crisp stick. And I wouldn’t bother with the CVT considering the manual’s decent 24 city/31 EPA rating. Traction control was a boon on my wintery country road, and cruising at 80 mph on the freeway feels natural.
Only the heater let me down. It took about twenty minutes to warm the cabin, which any entry-level U.S. car could have managed in about five.
Can I mention those heated seats again?
– Jean Jennings, Editor In Chief
I thought the Juke was a joke when Nissan first released information and pictures of the frog-eyed compact. Surely, no one would ever be caught dead driving this thing, much less the style-conscious young male enthusiast the Juke was supposedly targeting. In fact, the joke is on me, because I, a young male enthusiast, would certainly consider buying the Juke. For one, that goofy styling really works in person. It’s as if Nissan designers put the whimsical charm of the Cube in a petri dish and spliced in a Y-chromosome from the GT-R. Same thing on the inside, where cool LCD readouts say “sporty” but have the same overall effect as the Cube’s shag carpets and lounge chairs.
As Phil suggests, the perfect Juke would be one that offers torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive with a six-speed manual. I also spent most of my commute searching for traction, although to be fair, I was hardly going easy on the throttle. I’d also expect much better performance when slush and ice aren’t clogging up the car’s all-season tires.
– David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
Wow, the Juke is a riot. The looks are polarizing, but I got a kick out of the turn signal illuminating the top of the headlight enclosure each time I changed lanes or turned. I especially like the compact footprint of the Juke. I pulled into my garage and easily had enough room left over to keep a motorcycle, lawnmower, snowblower, or some other tool/toy in front of the Juke with lots of room left over for the door to close. As every model on sale grows a little bigger, heavier, and more vanilla, it’s refreshing to see Nissan offer a small, funky vehicle that virtually everyone can afford.
The 1.6-liter, turbo and direct injection four-banger is a spectacular engine. Perhaps it isn’t the most refined engine to come to market lately, but the main attraction is impressive power delivery at such a low price point. There’s so much power on tap (188 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque) that I’d suggest springing for AWD if you ever want to put the power to the ground. I spun the front wheels much more often that I would have expected during my time behind the wheel on wet and snowy roads. Traction control intervenes, but not very gracefully and the fancy torque-vectoring rear differential on the AWD models seems to be a better solution. Upgrading to AWD means downgrading to a CVT and adding $2000 to the sticker, but that puts the loaded Juke in about the same price range as a stripper GTI.
– Phil Floraday, Senior Web Producer
By far, the Juke is the most interesting and surprising Nissan I’ve driven in a while. The Juke made its debut last March, at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, and I found it to be a bit affected on the show stand, but in real life I find it quite enchanting. Jean mentions the Nissan designers; the Juke was designed by Matt Weaver (exterior) and Patrick Reimer (interior) at Nissan’s London studio under the direction of Alfonso Albaisa, a Miami native who has since moved back to the USA to head up Nissan’s Southern California studio. On the Geneva show stand, he described the Juke to me as directed toward “a young guy who really doesn’t want a crossover. His tastes are a little more adventurous. He didn’t consider Nissan before.”
Given that brief, I would say that the design team definitely delivered. At night, the amber-colored driving lights on top of the hood are visible from inside the car, which is cool. It’s like they are two insect eyes leading the way. The headlights are big and round and set into the front bumper. Inside, the center console is inspired by a motorcycle’s fuel tank.
Our test car’s six-speed manual provided lovely gearshift action, and the little turbo 1.6-liter four is a riot. I agree with my colleagues who say they’d like all-wheel drive, as I was spinning the front wheels a lot. Then again, AWD adds cost and weight, and the Juke is a performance bargain as it is.
The center stack features Nissan’s simplest radio faceplate, but our test car did have a rearview camera. There are normal, sport, and eco buttons on the center stack which control three parameters: engine, steering, and climate control. On Eco, there’s a definitely diminution of engine power, clearly to save fuel. Normal gives you a torque graph; sport gives you a boost graph; eco gives you an eco-level graph. Cool.
This is not a big vehicle: the rear seats are relatively cramped, and the cargo area is far from commodious. But that’s okay; people who need more room can buy a Nissan Rogue. The Juke is entertaining and cheeky and very good to drive; a very pleasant surprise from Nissan.
– Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
2011 Nissan Juke SL FWD
Base price (with destination): $23,300
Price as tested: $23,300
1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine
6-speed manual transmission
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Vehicle dynamic control
Traction control system
Tire pressure monitoring system
Power sliding-glass moonroof
Automatic on/off headlights
Heated front seats
Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
60/40-split rear seat
Automatic climate control
Nissan intelligent key with push-button start
Tilt steering column
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
Cruise control with steering wheel controls
XM satellite radio
Navigation system with color touchscreen
AM/FM/CD with MP3 and auxiliary input jacks
6 speakers with Rockford Fosgate subwoofer
Steering wheel-mounted audio controls
Options on this vehicle:
Key options not on vehicle:
Torque-vectoring all-wheel drive — $1500
Xtronic CVT transmission — $500
Fuel economy: 24/31/27 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Size: 1.6L turbocharged I-4
Horsepower: 188 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 177 lb-ft @ 2000-5200 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Curb weight: 2941 lb
Wheels/tires: 17 x 7.0-inch alloy wheels; 215/55R17 all-season tires