First Drive: 2011 Nissan Juke nissan first drives
2011 Nissan Juke. Click image to enlarge

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Buyer’s Guide: 2011 Nissan Juke

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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

Photo Gallery:
2011 Nissan Juke

Earl’s Cove, British Columbia – During a spirited drive to Earl’s Cove on B.C.’s “Sunshine Coast” last week, public reaction to the all-new Nissan Juke was not exactly what I expected: instead of laughter and restrained guffaws, motorists and bystanders seemed intrigued, fascinated, almost mesmerized by its “crocodile eyes”, huge round headlights, busty wheel arches, L-shaped tail lights, and tall, squat stance. The Juke’s styling is so unusual that people just had to find out what it is, even if they had to stop in the middle of the road to do it!

Based on the Nissan Qazana concept vehicle first shown at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show, the Juke (apparently a Japanese term for dodging obstacles) is a compact crossover vehicle that uses Nissan’s global B-platform. Though shorter than the Nissan Versa hatchback, it’s taller and wider.

First Drive: 2011 Nissan Juke nissan first drives
2011 Nissan Juke. Click image to enlarge

“Nissan Juke is unlike any other vehicle in the hatchback/crossover market today and we know customers will sit up and take notice,” said Mark McDade, Director, Marketing, Nissan Canada. “We already count eye-catching, confident styling and a premium drive experience among its unique features – now we’re adding an exceptional and competitive price that can’t be ignored.”

Available in October, the 2011 Juke will range in price from $19,998 for the front-wheel drive, manual transmission SV model to $26,648 for the all-wheel drive, CVT SL model. There will be a few options like leather, navigation, and push-button ignition on top of that. But all in all, pricing seems reasonable for this level of equipment and performance.

Nissan says the Juke does not have any direct competitors, but will be cross-shopped with vehicles like the Toyota Matrix AWD, Mazda3 Sport, VW GTI and Mini Cooper. It’s interesting that they don’t mention any other small SUVs…

First Drive: 2011 Nissan Juke nissan first drives
2011 Nissan Juke. Click image to enlarge

Available with front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD), the Juke is the first Nissan in North America to use the company’s turbocharged 1.6-litre direct-injection, 16-valve, DOHC aluminum-alloy inline four-cylinder engine rated at 188 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. Driven sedately, this engine can offer very good fuel economy, but it also has the power to move the Juke very quickly when desired, (with the concurrent sacrifice in fuel economy). Fuel economy figures aren’t available yet, but Nissan representatives estimated it will be 20 per cent better than the slightly larger Nissan Rogue.

Two transmissions are available – a six-speed manual transmission (FWD models only), and Nissan’s “Xtronic” continuously variable transmission (CVT) with a manual shift mode feature. It’s regrettable that a manual transmission isn’t available with the AWD setup, however the manually-shiftable CVT does add some shifting excitement – more on that in a minute.

Performance can be further adjusted for sportier or more economical driving simply by pressing a button on the instrument panel. The Juke’s “Integrated Control (I-CON)” system features three driving modes – Normal for everyday driving, Sport for more performance, and Eco for maximum efficiency. The I-CON’s electronic controller alters throttle response, transmission shifting (CVT mapping) and steering feel.

First Drive: 2011 Nissan Juke nissan first drives
First Drive: 2011 Nissan Juke nissan first drives
2011 Nissan Juke. Click image to enlarge

The Juke’s “torque vectoring” AWD system is similar to Acura’s Super Handling All-wheel Drive system. It splits torque up to 50:50 between the front and rear wheels and can also can split torque from side-to-side across the rear axle. Depending on vehicle speed, wheel speed, gear position, steering angle, lateral G forces and vehicle yaw rate, torque can be increased to the outside rear wheel when cornering – up to 50 per cent of the engine’s torque can be sent to either rear wheel. The advantage of this system is a reduction in understeer and improved handling particularly in rainy, icy or snowy conditions.

The Juke also comes with standard electronic stability control, traction control, and anti-lock brakes.

Front-wheel drive Jukes have a standard independent MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear suspension, but Jukes with AWD have an independent multi-link rear suspension design due to the extra rear hardware required for the all-wheel drive system. Front and rear stabilizer bars are standard on all models.

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