2011 Nissan Juke Review

2011 Nissan Juke - No Juke in a box here.


PLUSES: All wheel drive security. Good size front and rear cabin, adequate, though not ample space to store gear or groceries, good mileage, bold styling, energetic and fun to drive.
MINUSES: Generous mileage rating. Ride can get bumpy at times over rough roads.
Considering it already has a vehicle named Cube, and another called Leaf, it shouldn't be unexpected that Nissan would come up with yet another out of the ordinary moniker---Juke.
Not juke as in box, but juke as in dodging obstacles and slipping past them.
Can't say I'd want anybody at Nissan to pick the names for my kids or grandkids, but have to admit the engineers and stylists who created the compact hatchback crossover adhered strictly to the golden rule of autos that not all of its rivals have followed in recent years---have fun.  
Mission accomplished.
Fun with a capital "F."
There's S, SV, and SL versions offering front or all wheel drive and 6-speed manual (FWD SV and SL only) or continuously variable CVT automatic transmissions. Prices range from $18,960 for the base S to $24,550 for the SL.
We tested the AWD SV with automatic.
Juke is a blast to drive, one of those machines you just want to slip into and not return until the tank approaches the "E" mark and then turn over to the next person in line. The Scion tC and MINI Cooper are rivals, which makes it easy to understand why the focus on fun since booth the tC and MINI share the same philosophy.
Juke is built off the compact Nissan Versa sedan platform, but is decked out in big, bold, curvy body panels that make it look like it's dressed in armor and larger than it actually is. Nissan calls the design masculine. Actually its more like a machine with an attitude whose appearance suggests it originated by first starring in a 3D action flick before moving on to transportation.
While Nissan trained people to look hard for the rear door handles in the rear pillars of its Pathfinder and Xterra SUVs, it was even more clever in hiding the handles behind the rear door windows in Juke. Both kids and adults asked how to get in back "without any handles on the doors" and had to be coached where to find them.
The 1.6 liter four cylinder develops 107 h.p. in Versa but 188 h.p. in Juke thanks to a turbocharged boost that enables the small machine to scoot along in traffic or lead the pack, whichever it chooses. Juke has spirit and spunk.
Even though equipped with all wheel drive, Juke is rated at 25 m.p.g. city/30 m.p.g. highway (27/32 with FWD). But we'd have to say the orange bars on the fuel gauge disappeared a lot quicker than expected on any vehicle boasting a 30 m.p.g. highway rating.
Juke comes with what Nissan calls Integrated Control, or a drive mode selector with a choice of three throttle/transmission/steering response settings---normal for everyday driving, sport for more performance, and eco for optimum mileage.
The system adjusts throttle, transmission (CVT only) and steering feel. The differences are obvious. As expected, based on the name of the setting you leap from the starting blocks in sport mode and crawl in eco mode.
Juke's AWD system splits torque between the front and rear wheels as well as from side-to-side across the rear axle. By monitoring vehicle speed, wheel speed, gear position, steering angle, lateral G forces and vehicle yaw rate, torque can be increased to the outside rear wheel in corners to help reduce understeer.
Thanks to all wheel drive security, plus both stability and traction control to keep the vehicle in place and the nose where the wheel points, the Juke has very good handling and better than average road manners whether the road is straight or bends all over the place. The 17 inch wide profile radials grip tight, too.
Juke is nimble, which adds to the fun.
One drawback to very good handling, however, is that it sometimes sacrifices smooth ride. But occupants are spared harsh bumps or being tossed about.
Despite Juke's compact dimensions, the cabin fits five, though the slight front to rear coupe-like slant of the roof puts melon room at a premium for adults in the back seat.
The cargo hold will handle a reasonable amount of gear or groceries, but the slope of the hatchback window is more pronounced than the roof which limits storage room inside. The rear seat has a 60/40-split and folds to expand the cargo hold if needed, which would be often. If front seat occupants are tall, you may have to remove second row head rests first before lowering the backs flat to avoid getting caught against the front seat backs.
The AWD Juke SV tested starts at $22,260.
Among Juke's standard features are manual front seats, power windows, mirrors and locks, AM/FM/CD audio system with steering wheel controls, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, side curtain air bags, body-colored mirrors and front door handles, and dual front and rear beverage holders.
Individual options include leather heated front seats, rear view monitor, push button start, and power sliding moonroof.
Only one option package is offered, the $800 the navigation package that includes a 5-inch color touch screen display with XM satellite traffic reports, upgraded speakers and Rockford Fosgate-powered subwoofer and USB connectivity for the iPod.
When it comes time to upgrade the first generation entry, Nissan needs to barter for some added rear seat head room, redesign the hatchback lid to allow for more cargo carrying capacity inside, and squeeze some added mileage out of the turbo
4 cylinder to slow down movement of the fuel gauge.
Just don't mess with the design in attempt to make fierce look friendly, and
don't make fun secondary to function.

2011 Nissan Juke SV AWD
Wheelbase: 99.6 inches
Length: 162.4 inches
Engine: 1.6 liter, 188 h.p., four cylinder.
Transmission: Continuously variable CVT automatic.
Mileage: 25 m.p.g. city/30 m.p.g. highway.
Base price: $22,260.
Price as equipped: Add $800 navigation system with color touch screen display and satellite traffic reports, speaker upgrade with Rockford Fosgate power subwoofer, and USB connection port, plus $750 freight.

Jim Mateja

Jim Mateja enjoyed a 42 year career with the Chicago Tribune before retiring in 2007 as the newspaper's automotive columnist. He received numerous awards for his reporting and writing, including the National Automotive Journalism Association's "Moto" award for best regularly published column and automotive feature writing, and a Best in Show award for his test ride of a horse in conjunction with the Tribune's 150th anniversary. He also earned the Detroit Press Club Foundation's Gold Wheel Award for best car reviews, and a Tribune Professional Performance Award for his column and regular reporting. He still writes occasional car reviews for the Tribune, is one of the nation's 50 automotive journalists who serve as members of the North American Car of the Year judging panel, and is a panel member who helps select Best Buys for "Consumers Digest" magazine. Mateja also is the founding President of the Midwest Automotive Media Association.