Prior to this car, I drove a FWD Juke with the six-speed manual transmission, which I thoroughly enjoyed. My biggest complaint was that the vehicle had difficulty putting down the power from the 1.6-liter turbo I-4.
This AWD, CVT-equipped Juke was even more fun. The AWD system (which requires a CVT) is the torque-vectoring type; additionally, all-wheel-drive models get a different rear suspension, dropping the basic beam axle for a more sophisticated multi-link design. As a result, the Juke rides better, handles much better, and gets a lot more grip with AWD, plus you have the option of leaving the system in FWD mode to save fuel when the road isn’t slippery. The season’s biggest snow storm happened to take place the night I had the Juke and I had a blast sliding around in parking lots. Unfortunately the winds caused some drifts that were too high for the Juke’s seven inches of ground clearance. The only vehicles that were able to push through the drifts were full-size pickup trucks and SUVs though, so I can’t imagine any other vehicle in this class would have done better in the extreme conditions.
In my mind, the Nissan Juke has replaced the Volkswagen GTI as the enthusiast’s bargain hatchback. I know it’s a little smaller, a little taller, and generally weirder, but the AWD system and low, low sticker prices put the Juke ahead in my book. Oh, and Nissan doesn’t force Juke buyers to get 18-inch wheels with stupidly low profile tires like VW does with the 2011 GTI, so it is much better suited to the beat-up roads around here.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor