2011 Nissan Juke – Performance and Distinctive Styling Under $20K

Nissan Motor Company describes the front end of its new 2011 Juke as having an “urban buggy look.” Others have likened it to “an alligator coming out of the water.” The odd appearance is the result of Nissan’s designers attempting to merge the semi-rugged, SUV-like bottom half with a sporty upper half. Their success or failure in that endeavor is debatable, but one thing is for certain: the Juke is definitely an attention grabber.

The Juke is based on Nissan’s Versa 5-door platform and features an all-new direct-injected, 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that delivers an estimated 170 pound feet of torque and 180 bhp. Nissan is scheduled to release its official power ratings in August.

Although the engine produces a noticeable lag in lower gears, its performance is impressive once the turbo kicks in, especially in the 4,000 – 6,000 rpm range. AWD versions of the Juke offer a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Front-wheel-drive models will also be available with a six-speed manual transmission.

The Juke was designed to compete against the Mini Cooper and Nissan said potential customers could also include “a guy who would be considering a used BMW 3 Series.” Although the comparison to a 3 Series may be something of a stretch, the Juke does offer impressive handling characteristics, even on bumpy, winding back roads.

The all-wheel-drive model benefits from a multilink rear suspension system, and front-wheel-drive models feature a torsion-beam system. The AWD version is the first B-segment model to use rear torque vectoring to transfer power between the left and right rear wheels. According to one reviewer, the CVT had a tendency to get “confused” about which gear he wanted to be in when manually shifting under aggressive driving conditions.

Measuring a mere 162.4 inches stem to stern, the Juke is small but has a surprisingly roomy passenger cabin. The interior is nicely appointed and features Nissan’s I-CON vehicle information interface. The center stack features push button switching between Climate and D-Mode. In D-Mode, the driver can monitor and modify a number of driving parameters including steering, throttle and CVT between Eco, Normal and Sport modes.

When it goes on sale in the U.S. this October, the front-wheel-drive 2011 Juke will have a base sticker price of under $20,000. The fully loaded AWD model will be priced at about $25,000.

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