Driven: 2011 Nissan Juke

A. J. Mueller

"I wish someone had warned me how much time I would spend being bored in college."

It's rather downbeat, but there's truth in those words, which a friend said to me the summer before I entered college. By and large, college is a wonderful reminiscence. For many, those four (or more) years are painted with cheery images of welcome week, spring break, and three-day benders. What you don't remember is how slovenly life was between those events. Recovering from hangovers. Clicking refresh on Facebook. Microwaving things.

As gloomy as the college adage is, it relates-with a bit of modification-to my current situation: I wish someone had warned me how much time I would spend driving crossovers at this job. Don't get me wrong. Just like college, life at AUTOMOBILE MAGAZINE is fantastic when memory blurs the mundane and embellishes the exceptional. Aston Martins, Porsches, and a single Ferrari. I can die happy. But when life serves up awesome with the intensity of a habanero, you don't exactly salivate for oatmeal.

Enter the Nissan Juke, a dynamic crossover messiah prophesied by a television commercial that flaunts four-wheel drifts, a dude jumping through a plate-glass window, and a contrived, sexy engine note. The Juke's styling delivers the good word, too, with angry-eyebrow position lights, aggressively flared fenders, and taillamps that mimic the 370Z's. The Juke even pulls off the coupelike profile, with well-hidden rear door handles and a pinched back end, better than some of those swoopy-roof sedans.

Salvation from driving monotony comes in the form of a turbocharged 188-hp four-cylinder and optional torque-vectoring all-wheel drive. In length and width, the Juke is similar to the Honda Fit and the Ford Fiesta, but while the latest batch of subcompacts offers heated seats, leather, and navigation, the Juke ups the ante for premium small cars with its hearty powertrain and audacious styling.

If college is inherently boring, college in Michigan's Upper Peninsula must be really boring. This is a place so remote and so little known that, to the geographically challenged, it often secedes to Canada or disappears from the map altogether. Just three percent of the state's population lives here, and a single area code covers a land mass that's larger than Delaware, Rhode Island, and Connecticut combined. So, by U.P. standards, the town of Houghton-with both a Wal-Mart and a Holiday Inn Express-is a thriving metropolis. It is also home to Michigan Technological University, the U.P.'s second-largest college, with almost 7000 students.

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