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2011 Nissan Juke (Nissan)
2011 Nissan Juke (Nissan)

2011 Nissan Juke

Nice drive, shame about the look Add to ...

Typical Juke buyers will be "urban adventurers" who are directly wired into pop culture, know a trend the moment it appears on their iPod, and are "hyper-connected."

They seek out experiences for their own sake but don't have a lot of money to spend on them. They buy an automobile for the statement it makes as much as anything else, and are aged between 28 and 35 - somewhere between "echo boomers" and Gen-Xers. They primarily live in the city.

And for the typical Juke buyer, how a vehicle looks is less important than what it says about the person driving it, according to Hugh Wickham, Nissan Canada's senior manager of product planning.

Nissan Juke: Hit or Miss?

Nissan Juke
Vote Now: What do you think of this car?

Good thing, because Nissan's new Juke may be one of the homeliest cars to ever come down the pike, at least as far as this aging baby boomer is concerned. It's a seriously ugly little spud; the front-end treatment in particular is completely out of whack, and looks like it was styled by '50s customizer "Big Daddy" Ed Roth on a bad day. The headlights appears to have been on the wrong end of a run-in with bulldozer and the "crocodile eye" front combination lamps must have been conceived by someone on drugs.

Interestingly, there was significant design input from Renault on the Juke's styling and from some angles - the back end especially - it kind of resembles the Megane, surely one of the weirdest-looking vehicles made. Anyway, I think you get the picture. Pretty, the Juke ain't.

But it doesn't matter. Those clever Trevors at Nissan know full well that their target market for this vehicle will buy it specifically because it looks so wonky, and what I - or anyone older than 40 for that matter - thinks about it is pretty irrelevant.

Compact SUVs and CUVs are exploding in popularity in Canada and Nissan is simply availing itself of opportunities within one of the fastest-growing segments in the country. "This market has grown by 62 per cent between 2005 and 2010," adds Wickham, "and sales of 265,000 units are projected for all of 2010 in Canada."

Built on Nissan's B platform, which includes the Versa, the Juke comes with one engine choice: a turbocharged/intercooled, direct-injection four-cylinder that displaces 1.6 litres and develops 188 horsepower. It's mated to either a six-speed manual or CVT transmission and will be available with or without all-wheel-drive. The AWD system splits engine torque between the front and rear driving wheels - 50/50 - when it's in play, as well as sending it side-to-side across the rear axle. According to Nissan, this drivetrain will offer fuel economy similar to that of its Sentra 2.0-litre econo-box with the performance of a much larger engine.

One interesting highlight here is the "D- mode" performance setting available to the driver. Located to the left of the steering wheel on the dash, three buttons allow you to choose from Normal, Sport, or Eco and the engine throttle settings, suspension and transmission shift points are changed accordingly. If you want to sip fuel, stab Eco - if you're feeling frisky, choose Sport. The differences are obvious and immediate.

And here's another slick idea: variable "icon display modes" that let you, again, at the push of a button, change the instrumentation monitor instantly; you can keep an eye on the turbo boost, fuel consumption, and even G-forces as you drive. This nifty little setup doesn't just change the display, it also changes the control buttons. Cool. Nissan's explanation? It's all meant to appeal to the "info-oriented" echo boomer buyers in this market.

I also thought the motorcycle-inspired centre console was an interesting touch. Apparently, designers took a long, hard look at various sport bikes and decided the profile of the fuel tank and rear fender would lend itself nicely to a centre console treatment and they highlighted it in bright red paint, although grey is also available.

2011 Nissan Juke

Homely though it may be, the Juke is immensely driveable.

The turbocharger gives it an additional dimension when it comes to reserve power and it's lively and well-behaved. I had some minor issues with the shift gate linkage on the six-speed manual during the launch, but, otherwise, absolutely no complaints in the performance and handling departments. One note here; Nissan recommends premium gasoline, although it will behave itself on regular, apparently.

In terms of storage and cargo capacity, there is less room in the back than you'll find in the Juke's stable-mate, the Rogue, but more than, oh, the VW Golf or Mazda3, both of which are considered to be direct rivals. You can also toss the Toyota Matrix and Scion tB into the mix, as far as Nissan is concerned. "This is the baby of the SUV/CUV market," adds High Wickham. As for the name, apparently it means "to defeat or outwit an opponent or obstacle through cleverness" and is common parlance in the world of sport. It is? Okay then.

Two trim levels of the Juke will be offered: SV and SL, and a wide range of standard features and extras will be available, including leather interior, heated outside mirrors, heated front seats, ABS, power moon roof, push button start and a navi system. Prices will start at just less than $20,000, going up to just under $30,000 fully loaded. Look for it this October.

Nissan Juke: Hit or Miss?

Nissan Juke
Vote Now: What do you think of this car?



globedrive@globeandmail.com

2011 Nissan Juke

Type: Compact CUV

Price Range: $19,998-$29,248

Engine: 1.6-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder

Horsepower/Torque: 188 hp/177 lb-ft

Transmissions: Six-speed manual/CVT

Drive: Front-wheel and all-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/ 100 km): N/A; premium or regular gas

Alternatives: Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda3, VW Golf GTI, Toyota Matrix, Scion tB.

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