First Drive 2011 Nissan Juke: Wa’sup-Wid-Dat!?

Nissan Juke TFL 1

I have absolutely no idea what Nissan was thinking about when they penned the 2011 Juke. It looks like a frog had an injudicious tryst with a dune buggy and the Juke was the offspring. That’s no major criticism as I am fond of frogs and dune buggies. Unfortunately, I was less than taken on first impressions and didn’t think the Juke would ever befriend me.

At the very least, I tilted my head to one side in deep contemplation over the Nissan Juke’s unique looks.

The interior is unique too. Nissan finally built an interior that feels fresh. Everything is typical Nissan in build quality (read: mid-pack) but fresh in its design. The center climate control/entertainment pod is well designed with an odd addition. You see, this Nissan is boosted. Yup, it’s turbocharged and the boost gage is located low in the digital display – not exactly logical placement, but fun for passengers to behold.

Nissan Juke TFL 3

Speaking of that engine; it’s a gem. Nissan placed an all new, 180 horsepower, direct injection, turbocharged 1.6-liter, four-cylinder that puts 170 pound-feet of torque on to the ground. I can say, with no fear of admonishment, that this new engine is one of the best four-cylinder units Nissan has built. I didn’t get a reliable 0 to 60 mph time, but I was told it’s under eight-seconds and I concur.

The seats are comfortable and the rear seating area is about as useable as the Nissan Rogue’s minus the cargo capacity. The Juke has utility – but not quite as much as the Rogue or Nissan Versa hatchback. It was supposedly styled for guys… believe it or not. First impressions were mediocre at best for me.

So, while I was driving – still vacillating over the exterior looks, something extraordinary happened to me. I began to have fun. At first, in the AWD Nissan Juke with its mandatory continuously variable transmission (CVT) I had a little bit of fun. It is a responsive and corner happy vehicle despite the slightly higher than normal seating position. I normally dislike CVTs, but with the turbo’s quick revving – it was not that much of an irritation.

Nissan Juke TFL 2

THEN I drove the crap out of the FWD model with the optional six-speed manual.

Everything began to make sense, even the funky styling. From the driver’s seat, as I set forth challenging traffic laws, I could see the swoopy hood leading to the tops of the front fenders. It was a cool effect and helped me place the wheels in corners rather accurately. Slam the long-ish stick into the next gear and an immediate surge tugs at the wheel.

Turn hard and drive stupidly and the Nissan Juke with FWD and the six-speed manual rewards with better than expected performance. It’s a blast! I attempted a few E-brake slides, a few burnouts and some quick slalom maneuvers and giggled like JLo cashing the “American Idol” check. Hell – I even began to find some visual stimulation in the Juke. By the time I finished, I had made a new friend.

For around 20K, I think the 2011 Nissan Juke will make a lot of friends…once they go for a ride.

Editor’s Note: Nathan Adlen filed this first drive review from Fontana, California at the annual automotive journalist MPG event. Nathan says he gave up on driving the Merc SLS since all of the other car reporters were fighting to drive it like dogs in heat.

Follow on twitter @TFLcar or watch latest car
review videos on YouTube.