Nissan Juke
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Nissan
Overall: Fewer cars in the compact tall wagon class are as funky or fun to drive as this little Nissan.

Drivetrain: A turbo 1.6-liter four-cylinder delivers a healthy 188 horsepower, 197 in the NISMO and 215 in the NISMO RS; a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is standard in all but front-wheel-drive NISMO model that has a six-speed manual.

What was once considered unconventional, over time has joined the ranks of the conventional. After six model years, the Juke’s shock value has diminished, replaced by acceptance and genuine admiration from most anyone who has ever piloted one. The compact tall wagon has a pair of audaciously shaped front fenders that dominate the overall look. The headlights appear countersunk into the nose between the aggressive bumper and the grille, while integrated arrow-shaped turn-signal pods rest on either side of the hood. The five-passenger cabin holds plenty of freeform sculpting, especially the floor console that apparently was 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. Regular Jukes come with a turbocharged 188-horsepower four-cylinder engine that connects to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Move up to the NISMO (short for Nissan Motorsports) version and you get a 197-horsepower version of the turbo, while the top-line NISMO RS takes turbo up another notch to 215 horses. The NISMO connects to a six-speed manual transmission, while the NISMO RS can be had with the six-speed or the CVT. The available all-wheel-drive system 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. Mechanically, the NISMO sits lower with a stiffer suspension and rides on unique 18-inch wheels with performance tires. Most Jukes arrive well equipped, but a wide assortment of extra-cost items includes a power moonroof, keyless entry and start, leather-covered seats, navigation system with rear-view monitor and a premium sound package.

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