First Drive: 2011 Nissan Juke

Despite its raked roofline, the Juke is both spacious and comfortable (if a little narrow) in back, and those rear seats fold completely flat for additional cargo room. At no time does the Juke's cabin seem like a stripper subcompact - and especially not in our mule, which was outfitted with red-stitched black leather wrapped around the heated seats. The deep, glossy painted center console is a really neat styling element. Outward visibility is great (once you get used to looking past those alligator eyes sticking up out of the hood), but a rear-view camera is available.

Dynamically, the Juke is a big step ahead of its platform mates. It seems to suffer from none of the sensitivity to crosswinds that plagues the Cube, and the huge boost in torque helps keep the revs down, adding to refinement. In fact, the only other gripe we have about the Juke is turbo lag.

The CVT, which admittedly will be the transmission most Jukes will come with, does a brilliant job of masking the lag in normal driving. In fact, if it didn't have a manual mode, we might have not noticed it on our drive. It won't be concealed in manual-transmission cars, though, and drivers will need to learn to keep the revs up. The single-scroll turbo takes its sweet time generating boost, especially under 3000 rpm, where pressure is almost completely elusive.

Attempting to get off the line quickly means having patience for a second or so until the boost builds. And at more typical city driving rates of acceleration, the Juke pulls off the line smoothly, but then boost comes on strong around 3000 rpm, tossing your head back just as you'd think the power should start tapering off.

It's only a minor annoyance with the CVT, and it's something the engineers can probably fix before the Juke goes into production. We imagine, however, that the front-wheel drive versions will suffer the most - by leaving the line slowly and then spinning the front wheels unexpectedly when the boost comes on.

Which brings us back to the Juke's stated mission. Despite its playful handling, supportive seats, and Turbo/DI horsepower credentials, we don't see the Juke as a car for performance-minded enthusiasts. Or "aggressive attention seekers," for that matter. Especially since the drivetrain configuration that would appeal to that sort of guy - the manual with torque-vectoring all-wheel drive - won't be available. We see it as a distinctively styled, quick, fun-to-drive alternative to the Suzuki SX4. It might even step in for a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV-4 when it goes on sale this November. But we definitely won't be recommending it to any twentysomething young dudes who are considering a used sports coupe.

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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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