2011 Nissan Juke Performance

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Performance
All models of Juke are fitted with a 188-horsepower, 1.6-liter direct-injected and turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It's peppy, although it has to be revved to get the best performance out of it. And while it's the most sophisticated engine Nissan makes, it's far from quiet. The turbo whistles and the engine howls.

A six-speed manual gearbox is available only on the SV trim level. Yes, the manual is now an extra-cost option on higher trim levels. But most Jukes, including ours, will come with Nissan's continuously variable transmission (CVT), which varies engine revs and an infinite number of gear ratios for the best tradeoff between performance and fuel economy.

Of the three driving modes, Normal moves the car along smartly, Eco is sluggish, and the Sport mode is the most fun for drivers who want to make their Juke hustle along seriously.

From the inside, the 2011 Nissan Juke is simply quicker, better handling, and more fun to drive than most subcompact hatchbacks.

Sport mode raises the idle speed so the engine is close to bringing on the turbo boost, which reduces turbo lag and gives a discernible thrust in the small of your back. It also remaps the throttle to feed gasoline in more quickly, and shows a boost gauge on the secondary center-stack display.

The net effect is that the engine gets much louder and howls appreciably while booting the little crossover along quite impressively. The only thing missing is paddles to shift the artificially simulated "gears" programmed into the CVT.

Handling is remarkable for what looks like a tall car. The Juke corners flat, hangs on tenaciously, and can be hustled quickly through twisting curves. The straightforward torsion-beam rear suspension on front-wheel-drive cars is replaced by a more sophisticated multi-link setup if you order the all-wheel drive, but even the simpler design offers excellent roadholding.

While the all-wheel-drive includes torque vectoring from front to rear, and between the rear wheels (but not the fronts), it is solely for street use. We found it almost no help on a steep driveway with only 6 inches of snow.

Ride quality is one area where reviewers are all over the map. Some felt it was harsh and thumpy, others found it smooth for a car with such a short wheelbase. The 17-inch wheels probably help with smooth-road ride quality, though their low-profile tires may make coarser surfaces far rougher than they should be.

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