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The Nissan Juke has only been around for two years, but it has become one of the easiest cars on the road to identify. It's one of those cars that looks like it managed to emerge from the design studio intact, as if it escaped the factory as a concept instead of waiting around to be watered down.
It's futuristic, it's definitely quirky--and it's sometimes hard to quantify. Is it a hot hatchback with some extra ground clearance? Or a crossover permanently hamstrung by a teensy cockpit and a stiff, almost sportscar ride?
It's both, and the oxymorons keep coming from all directions, even from the Juke's petite engine bay. The Juke comes with just one engine, a 188-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, and offers either front- or all-wheel drive, and a choice of manual or continuously variable (CVT) transmissions. The powertrain lends itself to city and commuter duties, but with gas mileage of, at best, up to 27 mpg city and 32 mpg highway, it's easily outpaced by the extra-large Nissan Altima sedan. The relatively light weight, rapid steering, and firm suspension combine with the advanced engine to give the Juke a sporty feel--but if you're looking for more crossover-like compliance in its ride, you're just out of luck.
In the cabin, an LCD screen houses the I-CON control system, which remaps throttle and transmission controls to improve fuel economy or sharpen handling; the climate controls are also found on-screen. Overall materials and design are sharp and modern, with price-appropriate finishes. Optional navigation and other features can push the price toward the $25,000 mark, however.
Crossover features in subcompact proportions lend the Juke to urban uses and sensibilities, but interior room is tight for any more than two adults. With a four-passenger capacity (five can fit in a pinch), 35.9 cubic feet of cargo space (with the seats folded down), and a relatively high driving position, the Juke doesn't feel as small as it is--or as it parks--until you try to wedge in a maximum passenger count.
Updates for the 2013 model year add a new Midnight Edition accessory package, a rearview monitor on navigation-equipped vehicles, revised Rockford Fosgate ecoPUNCH sound system on SV and SL models, and a trio of new color choices. A new model, the Juke Nismo, is also due for release later this year, bringing with it more dramatic sport-themed looks and improved performance.
While the Juke certainly isn't for everyone, its unique look, compact dimensions, and sporty feel may make it just the ticket to challenge more mainstream offerings from other brands. Is this the future of the crossover? Perhaps.
- Styling that parts the seas
- Tech-intensive turbo four's a blast
- Aggressively tuned
- High seating position
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- Gas mileage is low, for its size
- Small cargo area
- All-wheel-drive is mostly for show, not traction
- Potential risk for resale--funky can become junky
- Rides harshly