Nissan Juke
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Overall

The Juke is already one of the biggest smile-inducing wagons to drive… new NISMO model gets a unique look and better performance.

Drivetrain

Nissan’s four-cylinder turbocharged engine delivers a healthy 188 horsepower and 197 in new NISMO; base six-speed manual gearbox only offered in front-wheel-drive versions; continuously variable transmission (CVT) is optional.

Despite becoming a more familiar sight on the road, Nissan’s compact tall-wagon still divides opinion. The Juke’s front end sports a pair of audaciously shaped fenders that dominate the overall look. The headlights appear countersunk into the nose between the bumper and the grille, while integrated turn-signal pods are positioned on either side of the hood. The five-passenger cabin holds more freeform sculpting, especially the center console that has been designed to resemble a motorcycle fuel tank. The primary gauges are oversized, the front seats are well bolstered and the split-folding rear bench seat can be flattened to maximize cargo space. If those already distinctive lines aren’t enough, Nissan now offers a full-on NISMO (Nissan Motorsports) model, which comes with extras such as a more aggressive front fascia/bumper, lower side sills and a faux rear diffuser. The Nismo’s interior is less shouty, but still has sportier seats and red accents sprinkled throughout. Mechanically, the NISMO also sits lower with stiffer suspension and rides on unique 18-inch wheels with performance tires, making it a real blast to drive. The music for the NISMO Juke box comes by way of a 197-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (up from 188) and — like the regular Juke — can be mated to either a six-speed manual transmission in front-drive models only, or optional continuously variable (CVT) unit. The available all-wheel-drive splits the torque up to 50 percent between the front and rear wheels when called upon and can also direct available rear-axle torque to the outside wheel in a turn for greater cornering stability. Base models are fairly basic with a six-speaker audio system with redundant steering-wheel controls, Bluetooth short-range wireless connectivity and 17-inch wheels. A wide assortment of extra-cost features — most of which are installed on up-level Jukes — include a power moonroof, keyless entry and start, leather-covered seats, navigation system with rear-view monitor and premium sound package. Nissan has also developed the Integrated Control option (cleverly called “I-CON”) — a display panel and related knobs — that runs the climate-control and adjusts the chassis settings, depending which of the two seemingly unrelated task modes you pick. For the latter, I-CON manipulates the CVT, electronic steering and throttle response to “Normal” for everyday driving, “Sport” for a bit more performance, or “Eco” for best fuel efficiency.

Base price (incl. destination): $19,900 (2013)
Type: Four-door hatchback wagon
Base engine (hp): 1.6-liter DOHC I4, turbocharged (188-197)
Layout: Front-engine, front- /all-wheel-drive
Transmissions: Six-speed manual; continuously variable (opt.)
MPG (city/highway): 27/32 (FWD, CVT)
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control
Weight (lb.): 2,970