CHICAGO—When you come across a vehicle like the all-new 2011 Nissan Juke, it doesn’t quite fit in a particular segmented slot.
It’s too small to be a crossover. Too big to be a sports car. Too quirky to be called sedan. It has 5 doors, but I wouldn’t call it a hatchback. It’s utilitarian but not large enough to be an SUV. The number of doors negates coupe status, and while it’s inexpensive, I wouldn’t call it entry-level.
Yet it has elements from all of the above.
Before taking the Juke on a 4-hour scavenger hunt throughout Chicago, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Maybe a bit of clunk. Definitely a lot of quirk. With perhaps a little underwhelming performance thrown in to complete the picture.
Boy, was I surprised. I guess you could say I got completely juked. In a good way.
First, the Juke looks much better in person than it does in the pictures. It’s more sport and less dune buggy. While the exterior facade definitely has some Murano in it, you can also see some Maxima and Z as well. I’m a huge fan of the boomerang taillights and the funky headlights that look more like fog lights. The unusual shape is definitely a head turner, and I saw several people do the double take during our jaunt through the Windy City.
The inside is just as much of a surprise.
At its most basic, the interior is clean and simple with black glossy inserts. But as you upgrade it gets downright cool. The SV model comes standard with changeable buttons included in the Integrated Control (I-CON) system that are so chic and logical, it’s a wonder that no one has done this before. Tap the "Climate" button and you get your standard HVAC controls. Tap "D-Mode," and you’re looking at the same buttons, but they now operate driving modes. I have to say it’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in a car.
The standard seating surfaces are the basic velour-like seats you see in the Versa. They’re soft, squishy and comfortable. The center console comes in a sparkling hard-surface silver, but it also comes in a shocking red shade.
The best part about the Juke, however, is the powertrain. It comes equipped with a standard 4-cylinder turbocharged engine that delivers 188 horsepower. And, all I have to say is: Wow! Quick off the start, fun to drive, easy to maneuver through traffic. The only downer? Torque steer. Drivetrain is standard at front-wheel drive (FWD), but comes optional with all-wheel drive (AWD).
At the base S model ($18,960), the CVT transmission is standard. But starting at the SV level ($20,260), the 6-speed manual is standard with the CVT demanding a $500 premium. All models can be had with AWD for an additional $1,500, but those models are only mated to the CVT.
Fuel economy is really good in any combination. For FWD with the CVT, EPA estimates city/highway mileage of 27/32 mpg. For FWD with the manual: 24/31 mpg. And for the AWD with the CVT: 25/30 mpg.
The only itty bitty thing that bothered me about the Juke is the fact that there is no power door lock switch on the passenger side of the vehicle. I don’t know about you, but if i’m going to sit outside in a car and wait for the driver to run a quick errand, I want to lock the doors. I find it odd that there’s no way to do this from the passenger side.
Overall, first impressions of Nissan’s newest quirk-mobile are favorable. It’s great for urban and suburban environments, but I have to say it seems more like a single person’s car than a family vehicle.
– Jill Ciminillo
Drive She Said