2012 Nissan Juke SV
The heterodox Nissan Juke is a unique and bold demonstration that when paired with its brothers and sisters (Cube, GT-R, 370Z) contrasts quite sharply with Honda and Toyota, who glorify complete, numb boredom. The Juke is, in Nissan’s words, a “bold urban sport cross.” I’m not entirely sure what all that means, but I’d call it loud, determined, fun, eager and maybe a tad bit uncoordinated.
The Juke seems to be primarily aimed at European and Asian markets, unsurprising given its un-American proportions — it’s full 20 inches shorter overall (162.4 inches in total) than Nissan’s Rogue. Although small, the Juke finds room for 17-inch alloy rims, optional torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, an available six-speed manual transmission (or a continuously variable transmission like our tester), and a 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder good for 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque at 2,000 to 5,200 rpm.
Out on the road, the Juke is more than eager to get going, but — given that baby-size wheelbase and stiff antiroll bars — also a bit uncoordinated. Car and Driver pushed the Juke to 60 mph in just 7.5 seconds which means you could actually blow the doors off a few Ferrari’s if the opportunity presented itself.
The Juke has a three-mode dynamic driving system, unusual for the price point. Eco mode dulls the throttle response a bit and adjust the CVT to maximize efficiency at the expense of acceleration (an EPA – estimated 25/30 mpg is possible in this mode). Normal mode is about what you’d expect — it’s pretty normal. Sport mode is where the Juke really shines. The turbo boost jumps, the CVT maintains a much higher RPM and the steering sharpens. The Juke is surprisingly fast and twitchy. Throw it into a corner and it’s just outright fun, there’s even a damn g-meter to tell you how hard you’re hitting it. Some of that fun is thanks to my AWD version coming paired to a sexy torque-vectoring system on the rear axle, which uses twin clutches to direct more torque to the outside rear wheel, giving the car more lateral edge and out-of-corner acceleration.
How about the ride? It’ll toss you about and it’s noisy as hell, but it’s a riot to drive and for the price point the ride ain’t that shabby.
The Juke’s in-dash display is one of the strangest I’ve seen. It toggles between perfectly reasonable climate-controls and less-reasonable vehicle dynamics readouts (turbo boost gauge, lateral torque distribution, g-meter). It’s weird, but it works. The rear seating, however, does not work unless you’re about four and a half feet tall. Though tight in the rear, the Juke does manage to combine high-grade printer fabrics with the plastics I’m used to seeing in the price range to create a well appointed and comfortable interior.
The exterior styling is, well, it’s not beautiful. But, it’s not what I’d call ugly either. With its oversize fenders, alien-eyed headlamps and tapering roofline the Juke looks a bit like a Nissan Murano that never exited the larval stage. It almost looks a bit amphibian. And that’s the odd thing about it. Think about almost any other car out there today, they all have one thing in common. Their anatomy looks a bit like us. It’s why car reviewers like me use human words to describe them, it’s why their front grills seem to smile, snare or growl at you, it’s why their headlamps look like beady human eyes staring you down. The Juke, however, does not look human. It’s an amphibious, alien creature that violates every principle in car design.
The Juke is not meant to be tidy, clean, beautiful or really anything we expect of a car. The Juke is a not-so-beautiful mess and I love it. Nissan threw caution to the wind with this one, and I dig it. It’s a concept car I can drive and drive it does.
The Nissan Juke is fun, lighthearted and fast.
The Juke’s price is right, my Juke SV with a CVT and AWD came in at $24,165, delivered. The base S starts at $17,730. The only car that comes close to the Juke is the new Mini Countryman, and you’ll pay thousands more for the name.
The Nissan Juke is an AWD fun machine that’ll whip you through the turn and help you enjoy your time on the road.