5th Place: 2013 Nissan Juke, by Lesley Wimbush

The Juke is one of those polarizing vehicles that divide people into camps. While some immediately embrace this amphibious little cute-ute, others find it thoroughly repulsive.  In a segment that leans towards bland conformity, the Juke makes a bold statement of individuality.

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2013 Nissan Juke. Click image to enlarge

Count me as one of those who think this odd little vehicle “grows on you.” While my first impressions were “Ugh – it’s a frog on wheels!” , the Juke compensates for its odd appearance with perky responsiveness and tight handling.  It’s an odd little package – oversized hatchback meets small SUV, with a high-tech interior geared towards the youthful buyer.

That interestingly sloped roofline greatly compromises its usability however. The Juke had the worst rear headroom of the group, and seating three across was an exercise in discomfort – attempt it only with those whose elbows you’d like to become intimately acquainted with.

Although the Juke had decent fuel economy in 2WD mode (10.6), it rises to 11.4 L/100 km with AWD engaged. And it does require premium fuel.

While the driver can choose Eco Mode to save on fuel costs, selecting Sport Mode really wakes up this odd little ute. Under the bulbous hood is a 1.6L, turbocharged four that puts out 188 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque that’s available from 2,000 through 5,000 rpm.  That low-end torque and broad powerband result in a joyful responsiveness and the Juke fairly begs to be pushed.

Most enthusiasts will be less than thrilled with the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), which is a big factor in the Juke’s decent fuel consumption, but like most of its ilk, does tend to drone.

The tiny, perfect little steering wheel features thumb notches for correct driving position and steering is quick and nicely weighted.  The Juke drives far more like an oversized hatchback than a small crossover, and is extremely nimble when cornering.  The thick pillars and rakish roofline result in numerous blind spots, so the backup camera is a welcome addition. It also creates a rather small hatch opening – cargo space was the worst in the group, proven by the fact that we could not close the hatch on our ‘test box’.

Some will embrace the funky interior, others will find it a bit contrived. It features a driver-centric cockpit that carries over the bulbous theme with a curved binnacle hood and round knobs and gauges. Air vents feature little touch pads for ease of use  – a simple but thoughtful idea.

The centre console interface, or “Integrated Control System”, is a bit gimmicky but sure to delight gadget-heads.

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2013 Nissan Juke. Click image to enlarge

Select the “Climate” button, and the info display relays all the temperature info, with button controls down the side. Hit “D-Mode” and the display switches to dynamic vehicle information, and the buttons transform into three drive modes “Normal”, “Sport” or “Eco” down one side, and “Eco Levels”, “Torque” and “G-Forces” down the other.  Cute.

Seating is comfortable, but manually adjusted for both driver and passenger.

There’s a fairly decent Rockford Fosgate sound system bundled with the backup camera, although the display screen is rather miniscule.

Overall, the Juke is a lighthearted, playful vehicle aimed at those who value style and fun over utility and practicality.

Pricing: 2013 Nissan Juke SL AWD
Base price: $27,078
Options: $2,600 (Leather Navi Package)
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,695
Price as tested: $31,473

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