Reviews

2011 Nissan Juke Walk Around

The Juke is certainly eye-catching. Nissan isn't afraid to go out there with quirky styling, not even after the failure of the asymmetrical Cube, too quirky for its own good.

The Juke has features that shout originality. Hyper-aggressive edged fender flares outline big arches and suggest room for monster tires, making even the large 17-inch wheels look small. The 12-spoke wheels (six twin-spokes) on our fully equipped Juke SL CVT AWD test model were fancy (not a bad thing) for a little car, but still lost in the cavern. The conspicuously high ground clearance adds to that effect. It's 3 inches wider than a Nissan Versa five-door, and it shows.

The hood and nose of the Juke are loaded with things that shout for attention, namely the big round headlights inspired by rally lights, and amber running lights with turn signals that seem slapped onto the tops of the fenders like barnacles. Nissan says integrated but we'd argue that definition. Add foglamps in the air dam and the nose is full of circles. Our co-driving automotive journalist at the launch said the Juke looked angry, and furthermore was butt ugly, but we think she might have been a bit harsh. Many people will find it cute. On the ferry from Vancouver, B.C. over to the peninsula, our Jukes drew crowds of admirers, led by women. The Juke might turn out to be a chick car, if not a rock star.

The Juke looks great in metallic charcoal brown, with gold specs in the paint catching the sun; we like that color best by far. There's also a nice metallic blue, but after that there are too many shades of gray: four of the eight colors, in fact.

From the side, especially the window outlines, the Juke appears to have borrowed from the Kia Soul with its reverse wedge. From some angles you can also see Infiniti G. With invisible rear door handles, which we like, you can be fooled into thinking it's a two-door. There's a raked windshield, high beltline and broad shoulders.

The roof slopes down and the hips climb up, or at least they lend that illusion, thanks again to the arches and flares. There's a family resemblance to the Infiniti FX. There's a radio antenna in the middle of the roof that would be cool if it were a shark fin like on the Honda CR-Z. At the rear gate, the taillights borrow the boomerang shape from the Nissan 370Z.

So you've got bits of Soul, G, FX and 370Z. Still, the Juke comes across as original.

Interior

The seats are comfortable in the standard quality fabric, or superb optional leather. The fabric looks best in dark charcoal, and the leather in a rich brown. There's good bolstering that does its best to keep the driver's body in place, but the suspension allows a lot of upper body sway, or head toss, as it used to be called in the older Jeep Cherokees.

The seating position is high, and that affords good forward visibility. There's also a good view in the mirror through the rear glass; it looks like it should be pinched, but there's no problem.

Overall, the Juke offers more comfort and room inside than the compact outside suggests. There's tons of cargo space, 35.9 cubic feet, when the 60/40 rear seat is folded flat, which it does with one touch. However, not surprisingly, there isn't much legroom in the rear seat, only 32.1 inches. The Juke is a 5-seater, but three people in the back seat will be squeezed in every direction but up, and maybe that too.

Nissan says the center console was inspired by a motorcycle gas tank. Hmm. Fair enough. It's awfully pretty, and a great idea to add shape and contour to a car's interior. It's not just a long box with levers and crannies on it, which might describe the current state of center consoles. It's a long shapely tube, hard plastic with glossy paint, for example a rich and deep candy apple red that looks terrific. It begins at the bottom of the wide center stack, where the shift lever rises out the top, flows down and back and narrows, with a long black E-brake lever on the left and two cupholders and a coin holder on the right, before ending with an open bin between the seatbacks.

The gauges behind the steering wheel are good: black faces, white lettering, red needles, brushed aluminum-like rings around the speedo and tach. Digital information is displayed in a little window between them, but there's a problem: in order to scroll for info, you have to reach a button that's nearby, meaning either stick your right arm between the steering wheel spokes or wrap it around the wheel, while you're driving. The Juke isn't the only car with this poor design. We wonder how it gets by.

The center stack is nice and big and wide, more like a square with rounded corners. Our Juke SL included the navigation package with the 5-inch screen that's at the top of the stack. All the buttons, knobs and dials allowed easy function. There's a small screen near the bottom that displays some graphics relating to your driving mode: it indicates turbo boost in Sport mode, torque in Normal mode, and we're not sure what in Eco mode. After we watched it and thought about it for a while, we realized it's useless. Basically all it tells you is how far your foot is down on the gas pedal. You don't need to take your eyes off the road and refocus them on a small screen down at the bottom of the center stack to know that.

We played with the navigation a bit, and we liked the way it gave you ample notice before a turn. However it wasn't challenged much because our route on the launch kept us on one highway. Also a waterway, which the navigation lady who lives in the center stack couldn't see. Stay on the road for 28 miles, she said, as the ferry pulled away from the dock and headed 28 miles across the water.

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