2011 Nissan Juke Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on October 27, 2010

A unique, muscular look, the Juke commands attention. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on October 27, 2010

If you're a sport bike fan, you'll love the gas tank style centre console. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on October 27, 2010

Sport seats are extremely comfortable and supportive. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on October 27, 2010

Select the drive mode to suit your mood. (Photo:

Published on October 27, 2010

Graphics to entice a new gen-Y customer. (Photo:

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Plenty of room in back. (Photo:

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Good storage for a subcompact. (Photo:

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

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Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

Published on October 27, 2010

"And now for something completely different," or so a classic Monty Python's Flying Circus segue goes. But looking at the new 2011 Juke, maybe "something completely different" is an understatement? Something radically different is more like it!

Nissan is certainly forging new ground with its Juke, in the same way that it did with the sporty EX35 when its luxury brand Infiniti took on BMW's X3 et al in the premium segment. Nissan aptly names the Juke's all-new segment Urban Sport Cross, and when put up against other compact crossovers it's understandable why the Japanese brand felt it needed its own classification.

First and foremost it's a lot smaller. At 4,125 mm (162.4 inches) long, the Juke is about 50 cm (20 inches) shorter than its own Rogue, which is already classified as a compact crossover. It's even shorter than the Versa hatchback by 18 cm (7 inches), but it's 10 cm (4 inches) longer than the cube. To put it into perspective outside of the Nissan family, the Juke is about 35 cm (14 inches) shorter than a Mazda3 and 25 cm (10 inches) shy of a Toyota Matrix, and about 14 cm (5 and a half inches) longer than the upcoming Mini Crossman. That's small, but it's accommodating inside thanks to a 2,530-mm (99.6-inch) wheelbase, 1,765-mm (69.5-inch) girth and tall 1,570-mm (61.8-inch) roofline.

It makes sense that it's accommodating, as it rides on Nissan's global B-platform architecture that also underpins the Versa and cube models. While the cube is stubby from front to tail, it's nevertheless roomy, while the Versa is the largest "subcompact" on the market. Juke occupants will find good headroom all-round and decent rear seat room for two larger adults or three smaller ones, or for that matter, children. Child safety seats will reduce rear-seat occupancy and may limit capacity to two abreast due to their varying widths.

Unlike its platform-mates, the new Juke is a seriously sporty ride. Under its sculpted hood is the first application of Nissan's new 1.6-litre Direct Injection Gasoline (DIG) Turbo 16-valve DOHC aluminum-alloy four-cylinder engine, rated at 188 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 177 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 to 5,200 rpm. Compare those numbers to a Mini Cooper S, with identical torque but 16 fewer ponies, and you'll get a good idea how the Juke stacks up. DIG optimizes performance and fuel economy for a best of both worlds scenario. Enhancing efficiencies is a standard 6-speed manual transmission in FWD models only, and Nissan's Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). I tried both, and surprised myself to being partial to the CVT. The manual is very good, offering a sporty driving experience, but the CVT is engaging as well thanks to simulated shift points and a manual mode via its console mounted lever, plus it's thriftier on fuel.

The AWD system, which incidentally adds an independent rear suspension for improved ride and handling, features a sophisticated torque vectoring system that splits power between front and rear wheels, 50:50. The system improves handling by additionally splitting rear torque from side to side, allowing greater power to the tire with optimal grip. Believe me when I say that the tiny Juke in all-wheel drive trim can mix it up with premium players when carving the corners. Meaty P215/55R17 all-season rubber is standard, circling a set of attractive 17-inch alloy rims, combining with standard traction and stability control to further enhance performance and safety, as do standard four-wheel disc brakes with ABS.

Additionally, the Juke can be had with an optional "Integrated Control" system that pre-sets throttle, transmission and steering response parameters to Normal, Sport or Eco mode to enhance driving enjoyment or efficiency. This system really works well, and the fact that it's available at all shows just how much Nissan wants to challenge the status quo by offering a premium experience in a small, fuel-efficient package.

To add fuel to fire, consider what else the Juke has in store. Two trim levels are offered, SV and SL, both of which can be had in either front- or all-wheel drive. Standard features include power windows and door locks with keyless entry, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with an auxiliary input plus an iPod interface and Bluetooth phone connectivity, and these over and above the standard items already mentioned. The Juke also gets standard front, side-thorax and side-curtain airbags plus active front head restraints.

Nissan offers some additional premium-level options that you might be surprised to see available in such a small, entry-level model, including heated leather seats, proximity sensing Intelligent Key with push-button start, a navigation system with real-time traffic updates, a rearview monitor to aid in backing up, a Rockford-Fosgate stereo upgrade that includes a powerful subwoofer as well as USB and an iPod connectivity, power sliding glass sunroof, and more.

Pricing starts at under $20,000, which makes the new Juke an extremely cost effective option for those looking to improve life behind the wheel. Expected reliability of this Japanese-made runabout is good, being that Nissan always rates highly amongst competitive brands, although for those problems that fall between the cracks a basic warranty of three years or 60,000 kilometers will cover the majority of problems, while a five-year or 100,000 km powertrain warranty will keep it running.

What is Juke up against? Kia's Soul immediately comes to mind, but then you'd have to lump Nissan's own cube in with its targeted rivals, and the Japanese brand is hardly trying to outwit itself by creating its own direct competition. The Juke not only outmuscles the cube, as it does to most anything else it's up against, but it's an entirely different kind of vehicle despite riding on the same platform. It falls into the compact crossover class out of default, although it carves its own niche that can only be shared with vehicles like the upcoming Mini Crossman, a slightly raised, crossover-style Mini Cooper.

Like the Mini, the Juke is a car that gets noticed. Everywhere we went during the launch program that took us from Vancouver's fabulous Shangri-La Hotel to West Van's Horseshoe Bay for a ferry ride north to the gorgeous Sunshine Coast, people dropped their jaws and stared. They swarmed a row of Jukes at the ferry lineup, asking questions while poking and prodding, while a particularly uppity German tourist didn't appreciate my claim that the tiny Asian tot his three teenage sons were so intrigued by would likely clean his Audi quattro's clock.

The Juke I was referring to wasn't the aforementioned front-wheel drive base model, but rather the more agile all-wheel drive version. In total, Nissan will offer six models designed to appeal to a full spectrum of potential Juke owners. The base version gets dubbed Juke SV 1.6 M/T (manual transmission) FWD for $19,998, followed by the SV CVT FWD for $21,298. The SV CVT AWD is next at $23,098, with the more upscale SL M/T FWD starting at $23,548, SL CVT FWD extending the price to $24,848, and finally the SL CVT AWD topping off the range at $26,648. Interestingly, the Juke is about $8,000 less expensive than any other vehicle in the "100 horsepower per litre club."

You certainly get a lot of style for the money, too. It's front-end design features "turn signals integrated into the front fenders, a high beltline and coupe-like falling roofline," says Nissan. The "hidden" rear door handles add to the look and hark back to the original Pathfinder. The compact crossover's waist line is ultra-curvy with animal-like haunches that wrap over the wheel cutouts in a positively aggressive manner, while it's stylish rear taillight clusters crawl up each D-pillar a la Volvo C30, giving the Juke an upscale appearance that doesn't stop there. The aforementioned 17-inch wheels are bright aluminum finish and feature a sporty 10-spoke design that would easily look at home on a premium Infiniti crossover.

Inside, driver and passengers won't be disappointed with the styling or appointments either. With respect to the former, a wide motorcycle-type gauge package sits under a floating shroud, while the centre console is also inspired by the motorcycle industry, only it pulls cues from a sport bike's fuel tank and, likewise is finished in high-gloss paint. The shift lever sits where the fuel cap would go if the creative console were actually formed from a bike, with dual cupholders integrated into the design between each front seat. Above the "tank" is a large, wide stack of ancillary controls including an optional infotainment system with a full-colour screen that should appeal to the 20-something crowd expected to buy into the trendy do-all model.

Another leading-edge feature is a "new-to-Nissan technology" making its first appearance on Juke. The brand's Integrated Control (I-CON) system combines "control of the automatic A/C and the three-mode drive selector – Normal for everyday driving, Sport for a more intense performance feel and Eco for maximum efficiency, adjusting throttle response, transmission (CVT mapping) and steering feel for the precise ride the driver desires," says Nissan. A convenient solution designed to simplify operation.

While the Juke might be a stylistic stretch for some peoples' more conservative tastes, like Nissan's cube it will be ideal for those that dare to express themselves more creatively. The very premise of cars like these is what makes today's auto industry so exciting. Yes, the "something completely different" era is alive and well, therefore if you're looking for a vehicle that stretches so far beyond previous conceptions of what a car should look like and how it should be configured that it needs its own Urban Sport Cross segment, while leaving behind bygone limitations of entry-level performance and equipment, the new Juke is for you.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, Nissan, 2011, Juke, $20,000 - $29,999, Subcompact,

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