KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
Intent on expanding its presence in the increasingly popular compact crossover market with a vehicle that stands out from an admittedly formidable pack, Nissan created the new 2011 Juke. While over-the-top exterior styling is the most blatant tipoff to its unconventional approach, this versatile five-door hauler also packs a potent turbocharged engine and enthusiast-oriented suspension that are impressively complemented by a megaload of primo features. As its final ace in the hole, Nissan's bold attempt to win the hearts – and wallets – of young and primarily male active lifestylers, opens at a sub-$20,000 price point. In the case of the entry-level front-drive Juke S, that figure includes a standard Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Even the range-topping leather-lined and fully loaded all-wheel-drive Juke SL barely cracks the $25K mark.
You'll Like This Car If...
Love being the center of attention and hate misplacing your ride in a crowded parking lot? The 2011 Nissan Juke could well be your personal dream machine. It's also destined to score big with anyone seeking a high-content transport module that delivers a world-class combination of fun and affordability.
You May Not Like This Car If...
Those who lean towards more traditional styling or would prefer to sacrifice a bit of performance for an added measure of economy could well find a more compatible runningmate in Juke alternatives like the Kia Soul, Mazda3, Scion xB, Suzuki SX4 and Toyota Matrix. The upcoming MINI Cooper Countryman also figures to be a prime potential rival.
What's Significant About This Car?
The 2011 Nissan Juke's in-your-face combination of avant-garde styling, high-intensity powertrain and a sport-tuned suspension coupled with its very attractive price-to-packaging ratio add unexpected dimension – and desirability – to what, at its core, remains an extremely practical compact crossover.
Based on a modified version of Nissan's highly-respected B-platform that also underpins the Cube and LEAF models, the 2011 Nissan Juke is an exercise in confident control. Although some may rightfully ding the ride for being a tad harsh over rough pavement, body roll is impressively curtailed and its decently-sorted electric power steering, wider front/rear track dimensions and healthy wheel/tire fitment help ensure the Juke feel equally at home whether zipping through the twisties or cruising down a freeway. Opting for the sophisticated "intelligent" all-wheel drive package that includes class-exclusive rear torque-vectoring capability also trades the base torsion-beam rear axle for a multi-link design that further enhances the Juke's already impressive cornering prowess. However, stability/traction control and antilock disc brakes are standard across the lineup. Finally, its slightly elevated driving position, generously proportioned side mirrors and good driver sightlines make the Juke easy to maneuver in all but the tightest confines.
I-CON (Advanced-Integrated Control) system interface
Standard on the Juke SV and SL, Nissan's slick I-CON interface/display toggles between "Climate" and "D-mode," each with its own specific graphics. In the former, I-CON commands all heat/air functions while the latter features Normal/Sport/Eco settings that appropriately revise the electronic mapping for throttle response, transmission shifts and steering feel.
Intelligent AWD with Torque Vectoring
Available on all three Juke trim levels, Nissan's Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system can create up to a 50/50 front/rear power split and also distribute torque from side to side on the rear axle to improve handling and reduce understeer when cornering.
Despite a dearth of soft-touch secondary surfaces, the 2011 Nissan Juke's relatively spacious and well-finished cabin is loaded with visual flair and welcome functionality. A thick-rimmed three-spoke multifunction steering wheel and well-bolstered front buckets team well with its driver-friendly dash layout and legible main gauge cluster. The high-rise center console design ideally positions the Juke's shift lever and is contoured like a motorcycle gas tank to serve as an effective leg support. Scaled to accommodate average-sized adults, the 60/40 rear seat folds flat to bump cargo space from 10.5 to 35.9 cubic feet. Front-drive models also offer a hidden stow space under the cargo floor.
A blatant love-it-or-hate-it proposition, the Juke's sheetmetal defiantly blazes a visual trail where other competitors arguably – and perhaps prudently – fear to tread. Up front, prominent low-mount headlamps and bulgy running/marker units that sit atop boldly arched fenders give it a decidedly not-of-this-world face. In profile, the Juke's muscular side contouring, fall-away roofline and wedge-shaped greenhouse create a genuinely interesting look that resolves into a Murano-meets-Volvo C30 tail treatment capped with a decently sized single-piece hatch. Rounding out the mix on all three Juke trim levels (S/SL/SV) are 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 215/55 V-rated all-season tires.
Notable Standard Equipment
Every 2011 Nissan Juke variant comes packed with desirable features. Beyond first-rate powertrain/suspension/vehicle dynamics elements shared with its SV/SL kin, even the base "S-spec" nets Nissan's Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) plus power windows/lock/mirrors, air conditioning, six-speaker audio, iPod connectivity, Bluetooth, cruise control, keyless remote entry, a multifunction steering wheel, trip computer, vehicle security/immobilizer systems and front/front-side/side-curtain airbags. The SV adds premium upholstery cloth, a power moonroof, automatic climate control, I-CON multifunction controller, subscription-based XM Satellite Radio, a USB port and privacy glass, while SL trim includes the Navigation Package, leather upholstery, heated front seats, the RearView Monitor system, fog lamps, and auto on/off headlights.
Notable Optional Equipment
Nissan's decision to develop three definitive variations on the Juke theme keeps the formal extras list on each to a minimum. The sole choice for Juke S buyers consists of front-drive or all-wheel drive. At SV level, that list expands to include swapping its standard six-speed manual transmission for the CVT and adding the Navigation Package that brings an SD card-based navigation system with 5.0-inch color LCD screen, a speaker upgrade with Rockford Fosgate subwoofers and USB connectivity. The fully-loaded SL limits its configuration alternatives to front/AWD and/or 6M/CVT transmissions.
Under the Hood
All versions of the 2011 Nissan Juke are fitted with the automaker's new 1.6-liter "DIG" (Direct Injection Gasoline) in-line four-cylinder that boasts the holy trinity of modern engine tech – direct fuel injection, turbocharging/intercooling and variable camshaft timing (here on both the intake and exhaust side) to deliver an impressive mix of performance and economy. Generating a stout 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque from 2,000-5,200 revs, it matches well with the CVT (which includes S-mode that serves up six "virtual" gears) and the six-speed manual gearbox, and can comfortably handle the added weight of the all-wheel-drive system. A manual-equipped front-drive Juke can sprint to 60 mph in around seven seconds, while the CVT and AWD each add about a half tick each to that baseline figure.
1.6-liter turbocharged/intercooled in-line four
188 horsepower @ 5600 rpm
177 lb-ft of torque @ 2000-5200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/31 mpg (FWD manual), 27/32 mpg (FWD CVT), 25/30 mpg (AWD CVT)
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) on the 2011 Nissan Juke starts just under $20,000 for an entry-level "S" model with the SV beginning slightly below $21,000, and the top-line Juke SL opening just over $23,200. While more conventional, but less-powerful and in many cases less well-equipped rivals like the Kia Soul Sport, Scion xB, Suzuki SX4 Sportback, Toyota Matrix XRS Sport and Mazda3 – or even Nissan's own Cube – can be had for less, only the pricier MazdaSpeed3 comes close to rivaling the performance of any Juke variant. The Juke's distinctive exterior styling remains a bit of a long-term wildcard here, but historically Nissan vehicles have done a reasonable job of holding their comparative value over time. We suspect the SV will fare best in that particular arena.