This is the Nissan Juke.
I only got to drive it for a couple of days before departing on my sojourn to South Carolina late last month, which was bad timing for me.
Of all the cars I put in the “funky” design class -- the Scion xB, Kia Soul, and the Nissan Cube -- I’d have to say I like this Juke the best.
Maybe it was because I hadn’t driving a straight stick in a while, but I really loved the way this car behaved on the road. Of course, I think you can pretty much always get more performance out of a stick than an automatic, especially in this class, but I’m thinking it simply is a fun vehicle to drive.
The Juke is new for 2011. It went on sale last September, but I hadn’t seen one until it was delivered to my driveway.
Nissan says the Juke “fuses the best qualities of a sports car, including a sporty driving position, dynamic handling and powerful turbo engine, with the best aspects of an SUV – such as a robust lower body, raised ground height, improved visibility, confident stance and available all-wheel drive.”
That is to say, it has a utility function as well as a performance one.
The reason for the performance is under the hood. There rests a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that is rated at 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. With only around 3,000 pounds to negotiate (depending on which of the three trim levels you choose), that’s a pretty good punch.
As noted, the one I was driving came with a six-speed manual transmission. A CVT (continuously variable transmission) also is available, but why in hell you would choose that is beyond me. That would take all the fun out of the driving experience.
Mileage figures depend not only on what transmission you select but also whether you opt for all-wheel drive. They range from 24 mpg city, 31 highway with the manual to 25/30 with the CVT with AWD and 27/32 with the CVT and front-wheel drive. That mitigates somewhat the factory recommendation to fill the 13.2 gallon tank with premium fuel.
The Juke also offers a modicum of cargo space with the second-row seat in position, but the 10.5 cubic feet expands to over 35 when the rear seat is folded.
As noted earlier, I put the Juke in the “funky” class when it comes to design, mostly because of the turn signal- headlight-fog light arrangement. They are stacked in that order, top to bottom, with the turn signals in bubbles at the top of the fenders.
Another distinctive styling cue is the sloped roof, which does impinge somewhat on the rear seat headroom. And it has four doors with the rear door handles blended into the body at window level -- a nice touch.
Nissan has priced the Juke to start at just under $20,000, though the six-speed starts at just under $21,000. The AWD top-of-the-line SL model starts at just over $25,000.
That’s a bit more than what you’ll pay for the Soul, xB, and Cube, of course, but not bad when you compare it to some other models that don’t offer as much.