First Drive: 2011 Nissan Juke

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.

kgelner
I just recently tried test driving a MINI Countryman, and the Juke - both automatic transmission (I love manual my but wife needs to be able to drive the car).I just don't understand the conclusion of this article. They may have similar power, but the CVT transmission in the Juke is not nearly as direct when you step on it. And while the Juke corners OK, as the article states the actual steering just doesn't give you any feeling for the road. The Juke also while OK in the back (the seats folding down more was nice) felt more cramped, I think in a crossover like this that you are trading off a more sporty car for things like more space, but with the Juke you aren't getting that much more space in return.I actually like the exterior styling of the Juke quite a bit, and some of the features they have... but for me between the CVT and the handling I just felt like the Countryman was a lot nicer car.
vegasstyleguy
I thought I would HATE this car, but, I just got back from the Nissan dealer and it is really cool. I don't know why, but, it's way better looking in person. The interior is very well put together and, overall, it seems like a great little unique car.
thejukeclub
If you happen to like the car make sure to google thejukeclub. An ever expanding knowledge base on the car, and will eventually become and owners club and forum.
rackstar
OMGoodness!"If you've ever complained about all cars looking alike, here's your big, Nissan-badged can of shutyourmouth."Hahahaha... a can of shutyourmouth.That's pure gold, from the front-lines journalism!
tscurt
I can't seem to help myself: Could we see a picture of the design team?
tscurt
Upon further reflection, the front reminds me of pictures National Geographic shows when they discover previously unknown species of fish living in dark ocean recesses.
tscurt
Is this the same kind of compromise you'd be forced to make with an odd looking "other" who's really good in bed????
cpr74
LOL on the frog comparison. Seems like it would cannibalize Rogue and Cube sales.
btc909
Oh OH it's coming up, I think i'm gonna PUKE!Introducing the 2011 Nissan Aztek.

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