Quick first impressions: Much more fun to drive than the usual crossover, thanks to the compact size and responsive chassis. I can’t say that the CVT adds to the driving pleasure, though. I understand that they’re efficient, but I think this car would be better served by a manual gearbox — it’s a shame Nissan doesn’t see fit to offer the manual in conjunction with all-wheel-drive.
I love the red trim inside, which is a really simple and honest (no faux anything) way to liven up the interior. Speaking of the interior, the back seat is a little tight — you’re passengers had better be under six-feet — but not horrible. The same holds true with the cargo hold; with the rear seats up it’s pretty modest, but at least it’s easily expandable.
Overall, an intriguing addition to the seemingly saturated crossover market. It will be interesting to see how the public accepts it.
Joe Lorio, Senior Editor
Prior to this car, I drove a FWD Juke with the six-speed manual transmission, which I thoroughly enjoyed. My biggest complaint was that the vehicle had difficulty putting down the power from the 1.6-liter turbo I-4.
This AWD, CVT-equipped Juke was even more fun. The AWD system (which requires a CVT) is the torque-vectoring type; additionally, all-wheel-drive models get a different rear suspension, dropping the basic beam axle for a more sophisticated multi-link design. As a result, the Juke rides better, handles much better, and gets a lot more grip with AWD, plus you have the option of leaving the system in FWD mode to save fuel when the road isn’t slippery. The season’s biggest snow storm happened to take place the night I had the Juke and I had a blast sliding around in parking lots. Unfortunately the winds caused some drifts that were too high for the Juke’s seven inches of ground clearance. The only vehicles that were able to push through the drifts were full-size pickup trucks and SUVs though, so I can’t imagine any other vehicle in this class would have done better in the extreme conditions.
In my mind, the Nissan Juke has replaced the Volkswagen GTI as the enthusiast’s bargain hatchback. I know it’s a little smaller, a little taller, and generally weirder, but the AWD system and low, low sticker prices put the Juke ahead in my book. Oh, and Nissan doesn’t force Juke buyers to get 18-inch wheels with stupidly low profile tires like VW does with the 2011 GTI, so it is much better suited to the beat-up roads around here.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
I am an unabashed fan of the Juke. I liked it and its funky looks from the start when I first saw photos and I think it looks even better in person. This car is right up my alley as a small hatch/wagon/SUV-type vehicle. The back seat might be a bit too cramped for realistic duty in my family with two kids in car seats, but I could see this as a second car to use in a pinch as long as we keep a bigger car like our Honda Odyssey around.
The biggest obstacle would be the car’s polarizing looks — inside and out. I love it. My wife? Not so much. Even my older daughter took issue with the painted center console, “What’s with the red, Dad? Mom will NOT like that…”
I think it’s great, and while I liked the contrasting candy apple red inside our charcoal gray Juke, I think the black leather and gray console/trim of our previous Juke SL test car was preferable. The instrument cluster looks sharp with its little visor and the climate controls are highly styled but clear, easy to use, and easier to reach than in the Cube.
Outside, I love the front end and the view over the hood with the bulging lenses, and the rear hatch and taillights are reminiscent of a Volvo C30 — which is a compliment. Entry and egress into the back seat through the narrow doors is a bit of a challenge with that tiny door sill, but I suspect for most buyers this is a front-seats-only vehicle 90 percent of the time.
I found myself longing for a stick shift in this car only because I enjoyed the 6-speed of the front-wheel-drive model, but Phil is probably correct that the CVT is a better fit, and to get all-wheel-drive you don’t have a choice.
I’d opt out of the $800 navigation system in this car, with its tiny screen, and go for an aftermarket unit for a fraction of the cost. Much as I think the car could use the stainless exhaust tips, $1300 for a sport package to get them seems like a waste. These wheels are plenty sporty and I wouldn’t miss the spoiler that rounds out the package.
As an aside, when I left the garage yesterday I was face-to-face with a Pontiac Aztek, and I had to laugh at the similar — yet completely unsuccessful — styling of the heavily-ringed headlights and “up-top” turn signals of that car versus the Juke. I suppose Pontiac should be given credit for the attempt…
Matt Tierney, Art Director
2011 Nissan Juke SV AWD
Base price (with destination): $23,020
Price as tested: $23,820
1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine
Xtronic CVT transmission
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Torque vectoring all-wheel drive
Vehicle dynamic control
Tire pressure monitoring system
Power sliding glass moonroof
Premium cloth seating
Leather-wrapped steering wheel
60/40 2nd row folding seats
Automatic climate control
Nissan intelligent key with push button start
Tilt steering column
XM satellite radio
Auxiliary audio input and iPod interface
AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with 6 speakers
Steering wheel audio controls
Options on this vehicle:
Navigation package — $800
Key options not on vehicle:
Sport accessory package — $1310
17-inch gunmetal wheels
Rear roof spoiler
Stainless exhaust tips
25 / 30 / 27 mpg
Size: 1.6L turbocharged DOHC I-4
Horsepower: 188 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 177 lb-ft @ 2000-5200 rpm
Curb weight: 3172 lb
Wheels/tires: 17 x 7.0-inch aluminum-alloy wheels
215/55R17 all-season tires