Nissan's new five-seat Juke small crossover is about 20 inches shorter than the Rogue, the previous smallest crossover in the automaker's lineup, but it packs a more powerful engine and a sophisticated available all-wheel-drive system that together give the Juke a decidedly sporty bearing.
Offered in S, SV and SL trim levels, the Juke will also be available with a number of upscale features such as push-button start and a navigation system with real-time traffic information when it hits dealerships in fall 2010. Competitors include the Kia Soul and Scion xB.
Nissan isn't afraid to take risks with vehicle styling. The Quest minivan and Cube small car are two recent examples, and the Juke follows in that tradition. From the stacked front lights, a grille that spans the width of the vehicle and muscular fender flares, the Juke's styling is out there, but in a good way.
Even though the Juke is much shorter than the Rogue, its wheelbase is only about 6 inches less, which gives the Juke short front and rear overhangs that enhance its stance. Standard 17-inch aluminum wheels help fill out the wheel wells.
The crossover's cabin styling is more traditional than its exterior, but it does have its share of unique design elements. They include a painted center console that, according to Nissan, is styled to look like a sport bike's gas tank. The driver faces a three-spoke steering wheel and an instrument panel dominated by a large tachometer and speedometer. The Juke has a 60/40-split folding backseat that lets you dedicate more space for cargo when you need to.
Standard features include a CD stereo with steering-wheel controls and iPod connectivity, and Bluetooth connectivity. Available features include automatic air conditioning, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a backup camera, push-button start, a moonroof and a navigation system with a 5-inch touch-screen.
Power comes from a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder with direct injection and is rated at an estimated 180 horsepower and 170 pounds-feet of torque. A continuously variable automatic transmission is standard, and a six-speed manual is available, though the manual is offered only on front-wheel-drive SV and SL trims.
The Juke is also available with Nissan's Integrated Control system, which tailors the response of the gas pedal, CVT and steering based on three selectable modes: Normal, Sport and Eco.
The Juke's available performance-oriented all-wheel-drive system can evenly split engine torque between the front and rear wheels, but it can also transfer torque between the rear wheels. Sending more torque to the outside rear wheel when cornering can help reduce understeer, and the Juke's system can provide up to 50 percent of the engine's torque to this wheel if necessary. It's a strategy employed by other automakers, but one rarely seen on models at the Juke's price point, which is around $20,000 to start. All-wheel-drive models also get a multilink rear suspension in place of the front-drive models' torsion-beam design.
Standard safety features include antilock brakes, side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags for both rows, an electronic stability system and active head restraints for the front seats.