Five months into its one-year test, our Four Seasons Nissan Juke has racked up fewer than 9000 miles, which is a very slow pace for the road-hungry folks at Automobile Magazine. Still, that's enough usage that our funky-looking Nissan recently visited the dealer for routine maintenance for the second time. (Nissan recommends service every 3750 miles.)
The first time around, we spent $33.42 for an oil change and a (free) multipoint inspection -- not too bad. The second visit to the shop, however, cost a notably steeper $189.72. We came away not only with fresh oil and filter but also rotated tires and new windshield wipers (the old ones wore more quickly than we're accustomed to). More than half that bill went toward the hour of labor required to remove debris -- leaves and twigs -- that was caught in the HVAC system's blower motor and had been causing fairly quiet but annoying clicking noises that couldn't be completely drowned out even by cranking up the stereo.
With the ductwork clear, we've been able to turn our attention to other aspects of the Juke's behavior. The car's steering and driving demeanor have been getting some criticism in recent weeks. "I really wish Nissan could learn to properly tune electrically assisted power steering," wrote senior editor Joe Lorio. "The Juke is as bad as the Versa in this regard, with feather-light steering that feels utterly disconnected from anything going on with the front wheels."
Associate web editor Donny Nordlicht agreed, adding: "The Michelin Pilot Alpin winter tires have diminished any steering feel that there may have been. They also make for a really choppy ride over harsh roads, helping to remind you just how short the Juke's wheelbase is."
"Likely due to its short wheelbase," said managing editor Amy Skogstrom, "the Juke reacts badly to uneven road surfaces and has a bouncy ride that borders on frenetic."
For his part, senior editor Eric Tingwall faulted the car's throttle modulation. "The Juke's turbocharged four-cylinder is a frisky thing, with grin-inducing low-end squirt and satisfying top-end pull. Why, then, did Nissan ruin it with such horrible artificial throttle progression? It takes too much focus to leave a stop sign without rocketing away faster than you wanted, and many times the Juke's quick launch puts the front tires on the verge of giving up grip. And this is all with the I-CON system set to normal mode."
Assistant editor David Zenlea piled on, saying, "I find the Juke enjoyable and interesting in small doses, but the truth is I could never imagine living with one. It's simply too harsh and too sloppy. A similarly priced Mazda 3 hatchback offers similar utility and gets better gas mileage but, more important to me, has its dynamic act together."
Not everyone's feelings toward the Juke have turned as cold as the weather, however. Unlike Zenlea, road test editor Christopher Nelson would like to own a Juke. "The steering is light, I admit," he said. "But I wouldn't say it's utterly disconnected from anything going on with the front wheels. In fact, I'm having a hard time thinking of a better crossover, and it's possible that's because there's not one--at least one I'd rather own."
It's probably no coincidence then that Nelson plans to put some major miles on the Juke in the next week. We'll see whether his enthusiasm for the little 'ute is enhanced or diminished after the two spend some quality time together.