Little? Yes. The Juke doesn't look small - neither in photos nor in person - but it is. It rides on a version of the same global B-segment platform that underpins the Versa and the Cube, and the Juke shares the Cube's 99.6-inch wheelbase.
It's within about a half inch of the Suzuki SX4 in every measure, in fact. If it's one thing the Juke does extremely well, it's mask its humble subcompact roots by looking dramatically more, um, special.
It's dramatically more powerful, too. At least compared to Nissan's other small cars, which use 1.6 and 1.8-liter normally aspirated fours. Making its debut is Nissan's all-new 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Final power ratings aren't in, but Nissan is saying that this direct-injection engine, which features variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust cams, produces in excess of 180 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque.
It doesn't, thankfully, produce an excess of NVH. Our Juke's CVT did a commendable job of keeping the Hoover noises to a minimum by favoring high-boost, lower-rpm gear ratio selection.
In addition to direct injection and turbocharging, the Juke features one other thing that's not seen in this class of cars: torque-vectoring all-wheel drive. (Wow, but the strange-looking X6 and ZDX both do! Perhaps this is the future of cars? Weird, tall shapes with torque vectoring rear diffs?)
Available solely with the CVT, the Juke's AWD system can send up to 50 percent of engine torque to the rear - and all of that torque can, at the system's command, be sent to one rear wheel. The benefit is, as usual, far better cornering behavior and less apparent understeer.
The Juke will come standard with front wheel drive, and in that configuration, either with the aforementioned CVT or a six-speed manual, which we didn't have the opportunity to sample. Front-drivers also lose the AWD's multi-link rear suspension in favor of a torsion beam setup.
Even sending half the torque to the rear wheels, the Juke suffers from considerable torque steer, especially at low speeds and over broken pavement. In its defense, the 1.6 does produce a considerable amount of torque - the Juke feels much quicker than 180 hp suggests. However, that wheel-tug warfare doesn't bode well for the front-wheel drive version.
In fact, the AWD system features a switch that can lock the system in FWD mode - and doing so changes the Juke's handling dramatically. Wheelspin is a constant struggle on wet pavement, and in the dry, the Juke's front wheels scramble for traction any time you're hustling.