2011 Nissan Juke SV: A Crown Prince in Hatchback Clothing
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
It wasn’t so long ago that economy hatchback subcompacts were econoboxes – no frills, short on architecture and devoid of style and amenities. They promised low pricing and delivered with good fuel economy.
The 2011 Nissan Juke is one of the faces of the new generation of subcompact hatchbacks. Called an “urban compact” or “a sport crossover”, the Juke has unique styling that some have said resembles a frog. But make no mistake, this frog is a prince; it has curves, grooves, personality and a starting price under $20,000.
A five-door with versatility, the Juke is different, from its turbocharged direct-injection 4-cylinder engine to its sporty and bold styling, interior amenities and top safety rating.
On the outside, Juke fits the 5-door sub parameters measuring 162.4 inches long, 69.5 inches wide and 61.8 inches high on a 99.6-inch wheelbase and a step-in height of 16.7 inches in front and 17.1 in the rear. Weighing in at 3183 pounds – some trims are less than 3000 pounds -- my test AWD SV was built in Oppama, Japan with corrosion-resistant unibody construction.
Its design cues are forward sloping and muscular with a prominent curved front fender and curve after curve in a long front end, abruptly stopping at a short rear. Some people see a frog, pug and bulldog in the Juke, with a bit of Porsche 911 thrown in. Exterior accents include a black grille with chrome accent, body color front door handles, black side sills, “hidden” black rear door handles, body color front and rear bumpers, power sliding glass moonroof, body color power outside door mirrors, rear liftgate with fixed glass, fog lights (in front fascia), 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels covered in P215/55R17 Goodyear Eagle RS-A all-season tires and Center High Mount stop light.
Looking like a fun drive, it is one, thanks to a 1.6-liter inline 4-cylinder engine that produces 188hp and 177 lbs-ft of torque. Accompanied by a turbocharger with intercooler and sequential direct injection, Juke prefers premium unleaded gasoline and is EPA estimated at 25/30, though some trim versions go as high as 27/32. A week of mixed-use testing garnered an average of 24.9.
On the highway, Juke felt like it had a larger engine as quick acceleration was the norm. Surprisingly for this segment, Juke felt at home on autocross courses as well as on twisty roads, with responsive electric power-assisted, vehicle speed-sensitive steering, stable cornering, solid tracking and very little top wobble. The independent strut front suspension with stabilizer bar and AWD multi-link rear with stabilizer bar was pampering on flat highways and road-smoothing on rougher pavement.
Solid stopping capabilities were apparent with its vented disc front brakes and solid disk rears with an anti-lock 4-wheel, 4-channel, 4-sensor set-up, Brake assist and Electronic Brake Force distribution.
At speed, Juke is confident and reliable, though engine, road and wind noise are conspicuous but not overly annoying.
For simple acceleration Juke provides enough fun with a sprint effort of 7.3 seconds from zero to 60mph and a quarter-mile jaunt of 15.5.
Inside, my Chrome Silver Juke was mated to a Premium Gray cloth interior with silver trim. The cabin provides seating for five with headroom of 38.6 inches in front and a crunched 36.7 in row two with a sunroof, leg room of 42.1 inches in front and a tight 32.1 in the second row, and shoulder room of 53.6 and 51.4.
While hard plastic seems to be the most prevalent material used inside, tech abounds with such standard items as Nissan Intelligent Key with Push Button Start, Integrated Control (I-CON) system with automatic air conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel, computer with outside temperature display, AM/FM/CD with 6 speakers, MP3/WMA CD playback capability, and auxiliary audio input jack. iPod® connectivity, Radio Data System, speed-sensitive volume control, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, XM® Satellite Radio, Bluetooth® Hands-free Phone System, cruise control, power driver/passenger windows with front one-touch auto up/down, power door locks with auto door lock speed-sensing function, tilt steering column, variable intermittent windshield wipers with mist cycle and privacy glass.
Judged a “Top Safety Pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for its highest rating of “Good” in front, rear and side impact protection as well as being equipped with electronic stability control and for earning a good rating in roof strength, Juke is also outfitted with zone body construction with front and rear crushable zones, energy-absorbing steering column, shift interlock system, Vehicle Dynamic Control, Traction Control System, air bags for driver and passenger – with the Advanced Air Bag System, driver and passenger front seat-mounted side-impact air bags, roof-mounted curtain side-impact, supplemental air bags for front and rear-seat outboard occupant head protection, Front seat Active Head Restraints, child safety rear door locks, immobilizer and Vehicle Security System.
The Juke starts at $19,570 for the basic S trim; the SL starts at $23,200 and my test SV had a base price of $20,880. That came with a 6-speed manual transmission, but my vehicle was upgraded to AWD with an Xtronic CVT® (Continuously Variable Transmission) with Sport mode for $500. Destination and handling charges were $760 for a drive-off sticker of $22,140.
> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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