2011 Nissan Juke vs. 2011 Mini Countryman

A. J. Mueller

Mini leaves all of the power transfer to the discretion of the car's computers while Nissan gives drivers a three-position switch to choose from front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive with torque vectoring. In either four-wheel setting, though, the Juke will still send 100 percent of the torque to the front wheels when cruising straight.

Having found the snowy, slide-happy roads we were looking for, we settle on a single spot to make back-and-forth passes. The Countryman's Blizzaks and well-weighted steering faithfully relay our every intention. A controlled, low-speed drift comes naturally: turn the wheel to get the car changing directions, jab the throttle to break the rear end loose, and stay on it while dialing in countersteer and waiting for the front wheels to bring things back in line.

Unfortunately, the Juke isn't quite as willing to play with its compromised all-season tires. All-wheel drive, in both standard and torque-vectoring modes, can't offer much help when the tires don't have any traction. Accordingly, the Nissan was a fine demonstration of Newton's first law -- an object in motion stays in motion in the same direction. Which explains how the Juke repeatedly nosed into the three-foot-high snowbanks. Drive like a cautious, normal human on snow and the Juke gets by just fine. Slap some winter tires on it, and it would probably be brilliant. But we don't know that for sure.

On dry pavement, the playing field levels, and yet the Mini still pulls ahead. Nissan may have the trick differential, but the Countryman has agility and a more neutral behavior baked into its bones. It also keeps the wheels against the pavement better and yet still dampens bumps -- both mid-corner and in a straight line -- with less severity. That's not to say the Nissan is a slouch, because it isn't. The Juke handles impressively for its crossover height and is far more engaging than anything in the larger compact crossover class. Cornering is on par with nimble small cars like the Ford Fiesta and Mazda 2, with nicely managed body roll and predictable behavior at the limit of grip. It's impressive, but it doesn't have quite the taut, responsive, and inviting feel of the Countryman.

kgelner
I was considering one of the newer crossovers - I ended up buying the Countryman.The thing is, I even like how the Juke looks. But inside all that body rounding means the rear seats have way less room than the Countryman, and even the front seemed to have less headroom (I'm 6' 2"). The real deal killer for me though, was the CVT. I had tried a CVT before, in a MINI in fact when I test drove a cooper that had it. So I was interested to try it again as I figured that was just a bad implementation.Nope. The trouble with CVT is it delivers none of the technical promises. Here is the exact experience I had: The car salesman instructs me to stop at the bottom of a long hill. "Floor it!" he says. I do.Well after a LONG LONG TIME, the engine gets the command that I would like to move. It gradually does so. Eventually it picks up speed, but too late, too late! The Countryman I test drove by contrast (also automatic) lept forward on command. Also the Juke's steering was too mushy for me.
balton777
Jukerson, CVT's suck. Period.Just my opinion.
Jim.Kanna
The Nissan Juke is cruelly misnomered - the obvious name for this car is clearly a Joke.It combines every bad aspect of design into one ugly piece of Tofu - a virtual nitemare of visual clues that have been avoided throughout automotive history because they - well they just don't go together. Just plain ugly. As for the Mini, it's the winner here - but by default. The Countryman is another answer to a question nobody asked. Mini SUV for $300 please..."It's a little better than a Juke..." (buzzer) "What's a Countryman?"
jabrother
So Nissan didn't install snow tires for you. Poor babies!! How hard would it have been slap some on yourself???
AMXLNT
You're right about that, gybognarjr. Not just ugly, but $35,000 ugly. Apparently the Aztek was just waaaay ahead of its time.
gybognarjr
The cars are just getting uglier every day. These two are on top of the list. The AMC Pacer looked better.
AMXLNT
Could someone explain the difference between leatherette and vinyl? The owner's manual doesn't mention which I have on my Craftsman riding mower. Is it possible it could actually have been leatherette all this time?
Jukerson
I would argue that the CVT is superior to a stepped transmission in nearly every way. I know, 0-60 times say different, but that's where you'd be wrong. Most driving isn't 0-60. In real world driving, most often it's 25 to 35, 25 to 45, 45 to 65, etc. What kills the stepped system is the power delivery. Time is wasted in downshifting to build the revs and torque for more speed and the eventual next shift. A CVT car is in the perfect gear as soon as the driver puts his foot down, and the engine revs are held in the powerband while the CVT puts down the toque for a nice smooth acceleration curve, unlike the the wavy-gravy acceleration curve a stepped system offers. When I drive a stepped system now it seems crude and harsh, and overtaking other vehicles seems like a chore instead of a joy. Just my opinion.

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