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2011 Nissan Juke First Drive

I’m starting with a list of the Jukes negative aspects.  For all of you Juke haters it will be annoying, because it’s very short.  To all those who are excited about the Juke, don’t worry.  It’s kind of like pulling off a band-aid.  It’s over before you know it and you can get on with more important things.

First off let’s just state the obvious; it does have a face only a mother could love.  And the rear end is the same way.  No one can argue that.  But for some reason I really like the looks of the Juke, the same way that I love looking at Tilda Swinton…don’t judge.  There’s just something about them both that I find really attractive.

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Second of all, it’s just downright small.  One of the first things I did was jump in the passenger seat.  Not many reviewers think about that side of the car for some reason but I’ve had many opportunities to be in a passenger seat for extended periods so maybe it just stands out to me.  In order for me, a 5’10” AVERAGE SIZED guy…to be comfortable, I had to pull the seat all the way back.  Next stop was the rear seat behind it.  Like Vegas, it’s a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.  Spending any amount of time behind someone in the passenger seat of the Juke won’t endear you to this car at all.  Kind of makes the 6 large sized cup holders a little pointless.  Now here is why I don’t care about any of that.

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Many reviewers are talking about how the Juke will shake up the Crossover “Segment” when the truth of the matter is that The Juke really isn’t for the long family haul, or even for grocery getting.  In fact Nissan is in effect creating a new segment of Sports Cross.  Think Compact Utility Vehicle.  Throw in the obviously sporty influence added by the turbo and you have yourself a bonafied sports car. Here are the factors to consider.

When you sit in the Juke, regardless of what seat you’re in including the back, the first thing you notice is how firm yet comfortable they are.  Most cars are one or the other, super stiff because there maid of cardboard and fabric or ultra soft like sofa seats for a luxury ride.  The Juke brings a mix of both and support you with side bolsters meant to keep you centered in the seat.  Hmm…why would you need something to keep you in the middle of your seat?

After asking if there were any really nice country roads near my drive location I came across Ball Rd. which I believe was named after the set of equipment you need to drive on it.  In that environment the Juke lets you know exactly why Nissan built it.

In any one of the corners that day all you had to do was feed in just a little bit of the accelerator and the car actually hunkers a bit closer to the road and turns into the corner confidently.  A bit too confidently.  Also, because of how quickly the turbo spools you can easily find yourself going a lot faster than you want or intend to.  Any decent application of break actually starts to cause the Juke to very slowly yet very deliberately over-steer.  Normally any over-steer in passenger cars us tuned out by a manufacturer but for the Juke to be allowed this characteristic and for it to be as predictable as it was is superb.

This is all thanks to Nissans Torque Vectoring AWD or AWD-V.  Thru use of Wheel Speed sensors, Steering Angle sensors, Accelerator sensors, Yaw Rate sensor, a 4WD Controller and Compact Read Drive unit that acts as a differential the AWD-V is capable of going from a 50/0 front rear torque split to an almost infinite number of combinations between all wheels.  In a corner the outside rear wheel gets more torque to keep it planted which is what causes the car to hunker down and pull strongly thru a corner.

Add this technology to a turbo inline 4-cylinder that produces 188 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque and you have a very fun car indeed.  All while getting 27 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.  Unfortunately I was having way too much fun with the Juke to realize those figures.

While back roads are fun, you aren’t really going to be on them all day.  Most of us have to put up with other drivers making a nasty thing called traffic.  And I have to admit, me and the Juke both share something in common when it comes to traffic.  We both hate it.  I dislike most drivers because most are pretty clueless about how to do it.  The Juke can’t stand it because it wants to start developing boost at 2,000 RPM.  It delivers full boost around 3,300k.  While in traffic you actually have to remind yourself to let off the gas pedal while driving the Juke.  It has more than enough juice on tap to get you moving but wants to keep it flowing well past when you no longer need it.  Great for passing and clearing intersections, not so much in light to light or stop and go traffic.

Then there are typical Nissan electronics to consider.  For whatever reason, it’s actually possible to turn off the car while it’s “in gear”.  I inadvertently did so when I finished my drive.  Please don’t do this and leave the car free to move about.

However I was impressed with one electrical feature.

It’s the silliest thing, but I can’t get over the way the words that tell you what button is what on the climate control actually changes to other words when switching from Climate Display to “D-Mode”.  They look like little tinted LCD screens that go from deep and rich amber to a glowing frosty white…in a button.  Nothing more than a flourish or a trinket, but one that I simply couldn’t get enough of.  I must have pressed those buttons some 20 times.

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There was one button though that I got absolutely annoyed with pushing over and over and over again.

In today’s “connected” world, hands-free technology is becoming more and more important.  So the Bluetooth connectivity in the Juke is especially important to take a look at.  Now I must say that when I got my phone paired up and established on a call me and my caller had nothing but praise for the experience.  Voices did not have to be raised to hear each other and the Juke gives almost no road noise to speak of.  On the other hand, you have to get to that point before you can enjoy it.

After pressing the hands-free activation button you are presented with menu options that help you get familiar with the system.  Then you press the activation button again and speak your command.  Then sit thru another list, press the activation button again and speak another command.  This repeats every time you decide to use the system.  Quite frankly if IM going to have to speak all of my commands anyway I would much rather avoid having to press a button every time I do it.  Much like the hands-free system I enjoyed in the Mitsubishi Outlander I enjoyed in November.

All in all the all new 2011 Nissan Juke is a joy to drive, screams individuality and surprises you at every turn…depending on how deep your foot is in the accelerator.  I have to be honest when I say that I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

My love of cars over the years has been greatly refined and there are a few essentials I need in order to enjoy my driving experience.  Because of that I am a very picky person that is really hard to please when it comes to cars.  To be honest, with the Juke, I had to use two hands to count how many times I thought about sitting down at a table with a sales rep when I got back.

So do yourself a favor.  Go drive the Nissan Juke yesterday.  But please leave your checkbook as this is a very hard one to resist.

Visit the guys at for more information on how you can test drive the Nissan Juke and enjoy pictures from our test drive below.

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