2011 Nissan Juke Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
February 14, 2011

The 2011 Nissan Juke is fun to drive, pleasant, and well-equipped. You’ll buy it despite the lousy gas mileage and because of—or despite—its unique looks.

Picture the future--no, not the near future, not the long-term future, but the grey area in between tomorrow's headlines and science fiction.

There, crossovers dominate the face of the earth. In that dystopia, an army of all-wheel-drivers will uniformly obliterate any exciting new vehicles in their path, turning the roads into one gray stream of bloated suburban carryalls. In that world, the 2011 Nissan Juke is the rebel force that campaigns against conformity.

Back in the world of today, though, we're still not sure if it's a somewhat sporty ute or an apple-bottomed re-imagining of the AMC Pacer.

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The 2011 Juke has Nissan's most technically sophisticated engine--a 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 188 horsepower--in a lightweight body with an independent suspension for zippy handling.

What it doesn't have: many straight lines or pretty viewing angles. You'll grin from the driving feel, but as the frat-boy mantra goes, it's only fun until someone sees you doing it. The Juke is a one-of-a-kind vehicle. Its extroverted styling, turbocharged engine, and comfortable interior take it way beyond its subcompact economy car roots.

Once you're past the styling, it's full of clever details. We especially liked the I-CON control system, for example, which remaps several of the center-stack control buttons and the full-color secondary display screen that shows vehicle operating data. The default is to use them for Climate control, but push the "D-Mode" button and the orange buttons change to white, offering a new set of options: Normal, Sport, and Eco modes.

The Juke handles well, but ride quality can sharply divide road testers. Some of us thought it was terribly rough; others thought it made for a comfortable medium-distance car for two people (and a tolerable one for four), and its high seating position makes it feel larger inside than it actually is. The main drawback, in our view, is abysmal gas mileage for such a small car. We didn't even see 23 mpg over a 300-mile road test that included substantial Interstate mileage.

All Juke models are well equipped, though adding all-wheel-drive and such options as navigation, a better stereo, and leather seats can push the price toward $25K.

The base Juke S trim level, with front-wheel-drive and a six-speed manual, starts as low as $18,980. Our 2011 Juke SV AWD CVT (that's what the sticker said) carried a bottom line of $24,260, which included the mandatory $750 destination charge.

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