The Juke, due out this month, debuts a number of new technologies the Japanese… (Nissan )
Many a time, we've woken up to the sound of squealing tires. So it was difficult not to feel like a jerk as I cranked hard on the wheel for a tight left turn one evening, careening around my neighborhood traffic circle doing donuts in a new Nissan Juke.
The Juke responded with compliance, hugging the curb with little effort. There's nothing like an adrenaline appetizer before dinner.
With the Juke, Nissan Motor Co. is introducing a new concept: a "sport cross," or small, SUV-style alternative to the many compact hatchbacks that are coming on the market to lure tight-fisted, forcibly downsizing consumers.
With an exterior style cribbed from off-road rally racing and interior features revved up to mimic sport bikes, the Juke is a quirky five-door, five-seater for individualists who don't want to sacrifice fun just because they're pinching pennies.
Starting at $18,960, the car due out this month debuts a number of new technologies the Japanese manufacturer is bringing to the compact car segment, such as advanced torque vectoring on the all-wheel-drive version I was testing.
In addition to a computer that senses wheel slip and accordingly splits the torque front and rear, the Juke's AWD also splits torque to the left and right sides of the rear axle, thus my traffic circle spin-arounds.
Powered with an all-new 1.6-liter turbocharged inline four that adds some go with the show of this sporty-looking ride — while also delivering decent fuel economy — the Juke cranks a respectable 188 horsepower.
Off the line, torque varies, depending on the setting of the drive mode selector, which adjusts the car's throttle and steering responses, as well as the test car's continuously variable transmission.
At the press of a button, drivers can choose between normal, sport and eco, which you might characterize as omnivore, carnivore and vegan, respectively. Although none of the modes is extreme, they are, at least, sufficiently different, unlike many cars that offer similar systems.
Sport mode is, of course, "Glee"-fully peppy and obviously the most fun, but this mode is most susceptible to torque steer and makes the steering wheel feel less controllable under hard acceleration.
If the trio of options provided by the multiple drive mode system is good, its configuration is even better. Thanks to the wizardry of modern-day electronics, Nissan negated the need for an extra six buttons on the center stack by making the drive mode panel do double duty as the climate control settings, so drivers can easily switch displays between the two.
Tricking out the Juke while also keeping the price down means Nissan has skimped on some things. The seats, for instance, need to be adjusted the old-fashioned way, with levers rather than motorized buttons. The rear-view mirror also quivers to the beat of the stereo, blurring the view in tempo to whatever pop tart singers the kids are listening to these days even when the volume is moderately low.
Unlike most modern cars, the antenna for that radio doesn't look like a fin. Instead, it protrudes from the roof like a joystick, which in an odd way seems appropriate for a car that looks as if it could be operated by remote control. There's a playful, toylike quality to the Juke's profile that hints at capabilities this car doesn't actually have.
The up-sloped front end doesn't provide clearance for rock climbing. It might do for fire trails, but buyer beware should he heed the call of the wild and head into the brush. The Juke may look like a Shrinky Dink-ed sport-utility vehicle, but it's best for urban driving.
Nissan should be applauded for coming up with a car that opts against the cookie cutter and cuts its own shape, though I've gotta say, there's a little too much going on with the Juke's style.
A few carefully crafted swoops and curves are voluptuous; too many makes this car look lumpy and in need of some Spanx. And the side mirrors? They're oversized and obstructionist; I had to reposition myself in the driver's seat to look over and around them.
The interior is great. Designed to mimic a motorcycle gas tank, the glossy red center console is slightly elevated and rounded. Complementing this striking feature, the woven red-and-black textile accents the doors and ties together the color scheme from tip to tail.
There's enough space in the rear cargo hold for a few cases of beer or bales of dirty laundry but not much else. That said, I managed to carry a small pinball machine and two kids in the car by folding down 40% of the rear seat, so the Juke provides some workable space.
It isn't quite as versatile as a full-size SUV, but there are a good number of selections on this Juke box.