You could argue that Nissan appears to be one of the biggest risk taking auto manufacturers around today. But generally speaking, I’d argue against that, and tell you that Nissan offers one of the most diversified product lines out there. And now, we have the offbeat, funky Juke. Others would rephrase that as ugly, but more on that in a moment. You could say that Nissan already has a small crossover, the Rogue. They do, but that’s missing the point. With the Juke, Nissan is zeroing in on a highly desirable but often elusive market-the young working professional with a penchant for the unusual and unafraid to stand out.
You don’t buy that? The first commercial to air with the Juke feature a young, male office worker shredding the streets of downtown in his Juke on a donut run for a business meeting. Said worker launches into the conference room, box of donuts sliding across the table, as you see him put his feet, clad in red leather shoes on the table (no socks). ‘Nuff said.
Well, the Juke is not for everyone, and the styling is polarizing. I was expecting all sorts of reactions during my week with the Juke, but instead got nothing. Our test car was finished in a conservative Gun Metallic, which went a long way in subduing the wild looks of the Juke. The most controversial end of the Juke is from the front, with parking lights and turn signals housed in a narrow cluster lining the outer edges where the top of the fenders meet the hood, with a pair of large, deep set headlights placed under a grill spanning the entire length of the front end. Well, you won’t mistake a Juke for anything else when it’s coming at you. It’s brash and distinctive, but neither fun or slick from this point of view. The rest of the Juke does much better. The exaggerated, bulging fenders hint at the fun side of the Juke, as do the taillight clusters that recall the 370Z. From afar, with its hidden rear door handles, you could mistake the Juke as a two door hatch.
Inside, the fun theme continues, but is more restrained than the exterior. Our black and red interior was perfectly comfortable as well as eye-catching. Note the red center console, which is meant to mimic a motorcycle’s gas tank with matching red trim on the doors, which added serious styling flair and sportiness to boot. A nice, meaty steering well was a bonus, as were easy to read gauges and nice touches like chrome door handles which show a high attention to detail that made for a fun, but never overpowering driving environment. Driver’s will appreciate the well bolstered seats and the grippy cloth will keep you in place when you crank up the wick.
All Juke’s share one engine, a very peppy 1.6L turbocharged, direct injected four good for 188hp. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual or a CVT. You also have the option of front or all-wheel drive, but if you want power hitting all four wheels, the CVT is your only choice. While I’m the first to declare the continuously variable transmission the enemy of the enthusiast, I’ll give Nissan points for making the best CVTs in the business, and you do have the option of opting for ‘stepped’ gears. Our Juke featured I-CON (integrated control system), with settings for Normal, Sport, and Econ. Each setting adjusts throttle, steering, and tranny response. Sport definitely livened things up, and made the Juke an enjoyable and surprisingly engaging car to drive. The turbo four was lag free and offered plenty of thrust in all situations. I wouldn’t go GTI hunting, but the Juke ranks as one of the more enjoyable small CUV’s available.
Our Juke was a mid-level SV model with all-wheel drive. Standard equipment included 17″ wheels, Bluetooth, XM satellite radio, auto climate control, iPod interface, push button start and a power moonroof. Options including floor mats, slick illuminated kick plates and Navigation Package (adds Nav, XM Traffic, upgraded speakers, Rockford Fosgate subwoofer and amp, and USB port) brought the tally, including delivery to $27,250USD.
Which brings me to my next point that you might take up with me-the Juke, when trimmed right, is about the same money as the larger Nissan Rogue. Totally different buyers here. Yes, the Juke is considered a small CUV (or Urban Sport Cross, according to Nissan). The Rogue is by far the superior family conveyance, but the Juke delivers a far more engaging experience on every possible level. If you’re young, or simply feel young, and seek small CUV utility in an unmistakable package with driving fun to boot, the Juke should be on your shopping list.