February 6, 2013
I won’t say I regarded the interior styling with distaste, but it was definitely a case of its outsides matching its insides. Dr. Phil would be pleased. Me – I thought it rather contrived, but not offensively so.
But I have to say that the Juke boasts quite an impressive list of technology goodies. There’s a navigation system that comes bundled with a backup camera in my tester, a fairly decent Rockford Fosgate sound system, satellite radio, iPod integration, Bluetooth, keyless start and entry… and heated leather seats.
To my great surprise, this odd little ute is an absolute joy to drive. If there’s a niche in this market for fun over function, the Juke fulfills it in leaps and bounds. There’s a frisky powertrain activated by the start button on my SL AWD tester. A 1.6L turbocharged-four lies under that bulging hood, and it’s as eager as a playful puppy. Power output is a rather modest 188 hp, but the 177 lb-ft of torque is available from 2,000 all the way up to 5,000 rpm – a broad powerband that provides instant response.
2013 Nissan Juke SL AWD. Click image to enlarge
Although there’s an available six-speed manual in FWD models, the AWD Juke comes only with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). It’s not the joy-sucking kiss of death that some of CVTs undoubtedly are, but like most of its ilk, it does tend to drone. However, it compensates by providing fairly decent fuel mileage. Over the course of a week, I observed 10.6 L/100 km, which rose to 11.4 when in AWD mode. The driver can choose between three drive modes mentioned above. Press Eco, and fuel consumption numbers may please you, but performance will be fairly lethargic. However, bear in mind that the Juke’s turbo engine does require premium fuel.
Selecting Sport really wakes up the Juke, with quicker throttle and simulated “shift-mapping”. The driver-selectable AWD system divides the torque between front and rear wheels, and can also split it between the rear wheels if it senses slippage.
While it’s hardly as athletic as a hot hatch, the Juke does handle fairly well, exhibiting none of the soft body roll expected from this segment. The AWD SL has a multi-link rear suspension instead of the torsion beam found in the front-wheel drive models. As a result, the Juke corners fairly flat, feeling stable and composed on tight on ramps, yet the ride is never harsh or punishing and bumps are well absorbed.
There’s a compact, nicely wrapped steering wheel, and while I wouldn’t call it communicative, the steering is accurate and decently weighted. As mentioned before, there’s a back-up camera that comes bundled with the touchscreen nav system – a very good thing as all those bulging curves and thick pillars do present some blind spots.
Overall, the Juke strikes me as a funny little vehicle. I liked it a lot more than I thought I would, although it would be hard to recommend to those looking for any sort of practicality.
Pricing: 2013 Nissan Juke SL AWD
Base price: $27,078
Options: $2,600 (Leather Navi Package)
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $31,473
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Crash test results
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