By far, the Juke is the most interesting and surprising Nissan I've driven in a while. The Juke made its debut last March, at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, and I found it to be a bit affected on the show stand, but in real life I find it quite enchanting. Jean mentions the Nissan designers; the Juke was designed by Matt Weaver (exterior) and Patrick Reimer (interior) at Nissan's London studio under the direction of Alfonso Albaisa, a Miami native who has since moved back to the USA to head up Nissan's Southern California studio. On the Geneva show stand, he described the Juke to me as directed toward "a young guy who really doesn't want a crossover. His tastes are a little more adventurous. He didn't consider Nissan before."
Given that brief, I would say that the design team definitely delivered. At night, the amber-colored driving lights on top of the hood are visible from inside the car, which is cool. It's like they are two insect eyes leading the way. The headlights are big and round and set into the front bumper. Inside, the center console is inspired by a motorcycle's fuel tank.
Our test car's six-speed manual provided lovely gearshift action, and the little turbo 1.6-liter four is a riot. I agree with my colleagues who say they'd like all-wheel drive, as I was spinning the front wheels a lot. Then again, AWD adds cost and weight, and the Juke is a performance bargain as it is.
The center stack features Nissan's simplest radio faceplate, but our test car did have a rearview camera. There are normal, sport, and eco buttons on the center stack which control three parameters: engine, steering, and climate control. On Eco, there's a definitely diminution of engine power, clearly to save fuel. Normal gives you a torque graph; sport gives you a boost graph; eco gives you an eco-level graph. Cool.
This is not a big vehicle: the rear seats are relatively cramped, and the cargo area is far from commodious. But that's okay; people who need more room can buy a Nissan Rogue. The Juke is entertaining and cheeky and very good to drive; a very pleasant surprise from Nissan.
- Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor