We’re really starting to feel the groove of our Four Seasons Nissan Juke. Sure, its styling isn’t universally loved, but many staff members love the driving experience.
Assistant editor David Zenlea complained about the turbocharged front-wheel-driver’s torque steer a few months back, but he’s changing his tune a bit. “The Juke’s manual transmission is one of the best I’ve used in a while, thanks to its slick mechanical action, the progressiveness of the clutch, and the placement of the pedals,” he noted. “The transmission serves as the perfect foil for the punchy turbo engine. Work pedals and shifter deftly enough, and the Juke feels powerful and well balanced. Get it wrong, and you wind up with a torque-steering, wheel-spinning mess. I’m sure the all-wheel-drive Juke, which I’ve not driven, is both easier to manage and more capable, but I’m having plenty of fun with this little rascal.” Other staff members aren’t worried about matters such as torque steer and are happily enjoying the manual transmission, in spite of its short gear ratios. Associate web editor Ben Timmins called the Juke “a ball of fun” and went on to say that “its revvy engine and slick transmission, not to mention its excellent steering, give it a sporty character.” Fellow associate web editor Jake Holmes added, “Nobody has yet pointed out just how easy it is to drive the Juke. The clutch is superlight and forgiving, and the gearbox slides easily from gear to gear, precisely but with very little effort. It would be a great car on which to learn the intricacies of using a stick shift. As to David’s comment about driving the Juke smoothly, I find that for maximum smoothness, it’s best to use Eco mode and upshift at about 2700 rpm.”
The smoothest Jukes, though, are those fitted with a continuously variable transmission and all-wheel drive. “The best way to alleviate torque steer would be to select an AWD Juke,” senior web editor Phil Floraday pointed out. “I’m a fan of the six-speed manual transmission, but it’s incompatible with AWD, and the benefits of a multilink rear suspension far outweigh the downside of the CVT in terms of ride quality. Since the AWD system is of the torque-vectoring variety, the $2500 upcharge seems reasonable.”
We can’t magically make our Juke all-wheel drive (and most of us wouldn’t want it to have a CVT), but we were able to reduce the car’s tendency to squeal the front tires off the line by swapping its stock Goodyear RS-A tires for a set of Kumho Ecsta 4X high-performance all-season rubber, which came highly recommended by our friends at Tire Rack. As we reported in the December 2011 issue of the print magazine, the Juke “now has more stick in the corners and is more controlled at the limit of adhesion.” However, associate web editor Donny Nordlicht is one of multiple test drivers who have observed that the tires aren’t the best on wet roads. “The littlest bit of steering lock plus a slick surface instigates torque steer much sooner than before,” he reported.
Winter is quickly approaching, though, so the Kumhos will soon give way to a set of Michelin Pilot Alpin PA3 winter tires, also from Tire Rack. We’ll tell you about that transition and more next month.