2012 Nissan Juke SL AWD CVT Ride and Review By Steve Purdy
SEE ALSO: Compare 2012 Nissan Juke AWD Models
NISSAN JUKE SL AWD CVT
Is it a Ca-ute or What?
By Steve Purdy
It is ever more difficult to classify all the new cars coming into the market, putting them into pat categories. Since the advent of sport-utility vehicles and shortly thereafter crossover-utility vehicles, segments have continued to morph, split and evolve into urban-activity vehicles, and every other moniker the marketing gurus can create. Here’s another one - the Nissan Juke.
What is it exactly? Well, Nissan says this car is designed for “aggressive attention seekers,” or “urban experience seekers.” That’s all superfluous market-speak to me. It’s a bit more avant-garde than the usual small crossover. So, I’ll just not categorize it. OK?
Juke is a nice little front-wheel drive (all-wheel drive optional) car with quirky styling, sporty feel, fine performance and just few niggles. Our week with the Juke coincided with a long weekend spent with my pretty wife’s college chums - four other couples of them - sharing a big vacation house on the shore of Lake Huron. We’re not youngsters anymore and they all drive cars appropriate for the 60-somethings we have all become. Our Juke stood out among the other cars like big grin on a teenager’s face.
By quirky styling we mean both the overall profile of the car and its details. Rear wheels drastically extended outward, bulging fenders and an almost comical rear hatch design makes this one of the cars that draw our attention with the question, “What’s that?” Even a month after our test drive my pretty wife saw one and asked that question again. The headlight/foglight assembly also has an oversized cartoonesque quality. The upper light sticks up so drastically that it looks like frogeyes, particularly from within the car while looking over the hood. With rear door handles hidden in the black trim of the c-pillar the Juke has the look of a coupe rather than a sedan or wagon. The integration of the large, free form taillights into the swoopy, vertical rear is graceful and pleasing.
This bunch of college pals usually splits up by gender in a traditional way with the guys playing golf all day and the women either hanging around the house and beach or going shopping. It amazes us golfers that they never run out of things to talk about for four days, though if I were truthful, we never run out of chatter on the golf course either. We gather for the evening meal and to watch ball games on TV.
We had lots of cargo with golf clubs and eats. We filled the Juke with all our weekend necessities – suitcases, golf clubs, coolers and bags full of food and drink. A remarkable amount of cargo space for such a small car accommodated us with 10.5 cubic feet behind the rear seat. We folded the seatbacks forward giving us 35.9 cubic feet. The seat backs don’t go all the way flat but wasn’t awkward.
Out on the road to Port Sanilac the first thing I notice is the jiggle in the hood. This was common back in the 1960s when structural support for the hood did not keep up with wide expanses of sheet metal resulting in vibration and flexing of the metal. Amazingly, the Juke exhibits that odd niggle too. Otherwise we found nothing to criticize in quality, fit and finish, inside our out. Materials were nice and the design was functional and attractive.
Performance in terms of both acceleration and handling are excellent. This car, of course, is focused on the youth market, most of whom would not be satisfied with the tepid performance of many small cars designed for them.
This new 1.6-liter, direct-injected, single-scroll-turbo engine, making 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, feels strong with turbo lag only noticeable on a quick, hard punch of the go pedal. This is the only engine available in the Juke and the engine’s first application for Nissan. That is plenty of power for this 3,000-pound little car, though I’m sure some will try to augment that. We expect to see it in many more cars from Nissan. That sweet little engine is mated to an adequate, though not exciting, CVT (continuously variable transmission) with a sport mode that seems a bit less whinny than most. For the same price you can have a manual, much preferable in this humble reviewer’s view.
With a 13.2-gallon gas tank the comfortable cruising range is not much over 300 miles. You can expect about 30-mpg on the highway and 25 in the city with the all-wheel drive model and a couple mpg more on each end for the front-wheel drive version.
Juke shares a global platform with Nissan’s Versa and Cube as well as the Renault Clio in France. Juke, though, has a personality all its own. The common strut front and rear torsion beam suspension designs are nothing special but the tuning feels just right for this car. Our tester has torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system that will be appreciated by those northern customers who must deal with winter roads.
Juke does not come cheap, although it’s priced about a grand less than Nissan’s small soccer-mom van, Rogue, a car with a substantially feminine buyer demographic. Our Juke SL, AWD with CVT shows a base price of $24,570 with the only option being a $170 floor and cargo mat package. With $760 destination charge we’re looking at $25,500 on the sticker. The base S version starts at $19,770 and the mid-range SV starts at $21,080.
By the way, at the Tokyo Motor Show last week, Nissan announced a Nismo (high-performance) version of the Juke. Now that will be something special.
© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved