2011 Nissan Juke Review

2011 Nissan Juke - All the right moves?


No American automaker would have the nerve to style anything like the controversial-looking, oddly named Nissan Juke.

Based on the proven Nissan Versa platform, the new four-door hatchback crossover has a slightly raised body with "hidden" rear door handles," bulging fenders over big 17-inch wheels, high beltline, pinched tail and a coupe-like "falling" roofline.

But most will notice the Juke's front end, which looks as if it came from four people who never saw what each other was doing.

Cars with controversial styling aren't new-just look at the 1948-50 Gatso from the Netherlands with it transparent "bubble" roof and a central headlight in the radiator grille. Never heard of it? Just as well.  How about the far more widely known 1965 British Jensen, which had offbeat front styling, to say the least. And don't forget those limited-production fiberglass sports and race cars from "designers" who found that the then-new fiberglass material could be used to make all sorts of body shapes.

But the funky Juke's appearance grew on me. For one thing, it doesn't look like anything on the road. It's definitely a younger person's car, certainly not one for introverts. Rivals include the Mazda3, Scion tC and Mini Cooper.

The Juke is a blast to drive. Credit much of the car's fun factor to its generally smooth, fairly quiet 1.6-liter direct injection turbocharged 16-valve engine. It has nearly imperceptible turbo lag and generates 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque.

Available are a six-speed manual transmission  sold only with front-drive or a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). A sophisticated all-wheel drive (AWD) system is on most of the eight versions of the car.
The 0-60 mph time is 7 to 8 seconds, and the 65-80 mph passing time is brisk, despite the fact that the Juke isn't especially light for its engine size at approximately 2,900- to 3,200 pounds.

Estimated fuel economy tops out at 27 mpg in the city and 32 on highways with front-drive CVT versions and dips to 24 and 31 with the six-speed manual. Premium fuel is called for.

Also salute the Integrated Control system,which lets a driver select Normal mode for everyday driving, Sport for a more intense performance feel and Eco for maximum efficiency. The system adjusts throttle response, transmission mapping and power steering boost. The AWD versions have a switch by the driver's left knee to select among the three modes.

The ride is firm, but fairly supple. The best selection is Normal mode for most driving, although Sport mode brings quicker throttle response and higher-effort steering. The Juke has quick steering, agile handling and good-feeling anti-lock brakes. The responsive CVT  has an easily used manual-shift feature.

The Juke lists from $18,960 for the front-drive S model with the CVT to $24,550 for the SL AWD version with the CVT. I drove the near-top-line $22,260 SV with AWD and the CVT.

The AWD system consumes some trunk space but splits torque up to 50:50 between front and rear wheels and also can split torque from side-to-side across the rear axle. When cornering, the system helps reduce understeer and enhances the Juke's cornering feel.

Options include leather-appointed seats,  rearview monitor, push-button ignition and a navigation system.

Standard safety features include six air bags and vehicle dynamic control.

Visibility is good from the driver's seat, and outside mirrors are commendably large. The Juke has easily read major gauges, but smaller digital displays for such things as the fuel level are hard to read in sunlight. The console is inspired by a motorcycle fuel tank and cupholders are well-placed. Doors have storage areas for items and bottles, and the glove compartment is roomy. However, there's a lot of  hard interior plastic.

It's roomy up front, but a 6-footer with long legs will find himself cramped behind the driver. A tall rear outboard passenger has a little more space, but the center of the rear seat is too stiff for comfort.

The cargo opening is low and wide, and split rear seatbacks fold flat to make room for more items.

Yank the hood release and you hear a tinny sound and then must use a prop rod to hold open the hood. But fluid  filler areas can be easily reached.

The Juke was mainly designed for the European market, where all sorts of small cars are bought, but I can see a fair number of Americans falling for this little charmer.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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