The Juke is the latest in a long line of truly distinctive cars that have helped Nissan stand out from the automotive crowd. (Besides the current Leaf, Cube, and GT-R, let's not forget about the Pulsar NX, the Japanese-market S-Cargo, and the Figaro of the late 1980s and early '90s). Already, the Juke's looks have been likened on this website to those of a frog, a deep-sea fish, and a Pontiac Aztek. This peculiar-looking, inexpensive crossover, like the Cube, is built on the underpinnings of the even-more-affordable Nissan Versa hatchback. Clearly, plenty of people are pleased with the aesthetic pizzazz offered for a starting price of just $20,330 -- Americans bought more than 29,000 Jukes in the vehicle's first ten months on sale (through July 2011).
Being fans of cars with character -- and having recently completed a one-year test of a 2009 Nissan Cube -- we were quick to order a Juke for a Four Seasons test. We enjoyed driving an all-wheel-drive Juke SV in Michigan's snowy Upper Peninsula for our May issue and for this comparison with a Mini Cooper Countryman last winter, but we opted for a front-wheel-drive Juke for the long-term test, so we could get a stick shift (all-wheel drive is available only with Nissan's continuously variable transmission). The six-speed manual should pair well with the Juke's 188-hp, 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, a direct-injected engine offered for the first time in North America in the Juke. We likely would have saved some money at the pump, however, if we had gotten the front-wheel-drive CVT. That combination is EPA-rated at 27/32 mpg city/highway, versus the stick shift's 24/31 mpg.
Our Juke is the midlevel SV edition, which -- compared with the $1310-cheaper S base model -- adds a sunroof, a pushbutton ignition, XM satellite radio, suede-trimmed seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. It also comes with Nissan's I-CON system (for Integrated Control), which offers three driving modes (Sport, Normal, and Eco) and cleverly uses the same control knobs and buttons as the climate-control system. Notable features on all Jukes include air-conditioning; power windows, mirrors, and door locks; an auxiliary input for audio toys; steering-wheel-mounted audio controls; a trip computer; and front, side, and side curtain air bags.
Our choice of a stick shift meant that we could not get the SV's sole option package -- a navigation system and a Rockford Fosgate stereo. (The top-of-the-line SL comes with navigation and the premium stereo as well as a backup camera, leather upholstery, heated front seats, and foglights, but costs $2320 more than the SV.) We added only carpeted floor and cargo mats, which cost $175, so our Juke came in at a very reasonable $21,815.
Be sure to check back with us regularly throughout the next twelve months as we keep you updated on life with our graphite blue 2011 Nissan Juke.