Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Nissan Juke is No Joke

The Nissan Juke is an unusual looking car--tall, big wheels, oddly shaped high-mounted headlights, rounded window line... But who cares? Aimed at the Urban Sport Compact Crossover set (read: youth), it drives tautly, gives a broad view of the road (ahead at least) and is comfortable for four for hours on the freeway for when you leave the urban scene.

The interior shares the feeling of adventure, with a central tunnel and door armrests in a metallic sparkly plastic that evokes a motorcycle. The instrument panel looks like billet, for a custom accent.

I was lucky to get my tester with a manual six-speed, adding to the feeling of sportiness. Shifts were crisp and gave more feeling of control than you get with an automatic--even the manual paddle shift type. A surprising 188 horsepower comes from a turbocharged 1.6-liter inline four, so you can move along fast--and quickly. I earned just under 26 miles per gallon (on Premium).

A dash-mounted button lets you control the Normal, Sport or Eco setting, so you can decide how environmentally responsible you feel like being from moment to moment. You also get a screen in the same panel that shows you your torque or your G Forces. During acceleration or cornering the centered square in the latter moves significantly--but hey, why aren't you watching the road?

It being a hatchback, the Juke lets you drop the back seats and stuff in plenty of gear, making it a perfect "only" car. And with prices starting under $20,000 it's definitely within reach.

The Juke is the baby of Nissan's line of six SUV/crossovers, and is directly related to the all-electric LEAF and the whimsical Cube. What a family.

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