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2013 Nissan Juke Performance

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With a single engine and a choice of manual or continuously variable (CVT) transmissions powering either the front or all four wheels, the Nissan Juke is a relatively simple vehicle to configure. But there are a few subtleties to its performance--some that might not be noticed even by a more experienced shopper.

The engine powering the 2013 Nissan Juke is a 1.6-liter turbocharged in-line four-cylinder, rated at 188 horsepower. Given the Juke's relatively compact size and light weight, the engine actually feels quite punchy, especially when paired with the six-speed manual transmission. The shifter in the manual is slick and positive, but manual-equipped Jukes are relatively rare.

Instead, the CVT-equipped Juke is the common model, and that's not a great thing for performance, as it tends to feel sluggish in the Juke, and the nature of a CVT holding the engine right around the middle of the rev range means it sounds a bit bizarre, too. Nissan has programmed some steps into the CVT's function to make it feel a bit more like a traditional automatic transmission, but the enthusiast won't like it any more for that.

More fun-to-drive and sporty than most subcompacts, the 2013 Nissan Juke lives up to its name.

Both transmission variants (in SL and SV models) come with the I-CON adjustable steering and transmission response system, which offers Eco (sluggish), Normal (well, normal), and Sport (which actually feels sporty). Sport mode raises the idle speed, reduces turbo lag, and sharpens steering, but it takes a bite out of the Juke's already somewhat lackluster fuel economy.

But what about that all-wheel drive system? It's not really meant for off-loading (or even soft-roading); in fact, it's barely suited to a steep driveway covered in snow. Instead, it's a performance option for street use, bringing with it independent rear suspension instead of the front-drive model's torsion-beam rear. That would make it the enthusiast's choice despite the added weight, complexity, and cost--except that it means you can't get the six-speed manual transmission at all, as it's only available in front-drive Jukes.

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