The Truth About Cars » Juke The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 25 Jul 2014 15:48:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Juke Review: 2013 Juke Nismo (Video) Fri, 14 Jun 2013 23:24:30 +0000 2013 Nissan Juke Nismo Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Let’s get one thing sorted. The picture above is not, I repeat not, the wasabi-snorting-485-horsepower-3.7-second-to-60 Juke that Nissan has been teasing. Instead, this is the Nismo treated Juke we saw at the Chicago Auto Show in February. If you’re disappointed, or if the unusual confluence of shapes that is the Juke has made you throw up a little in your mouth, don’t click past the jump. We warned you.

Click here to view the embedded video.


Calling the Juke’s styling “not everyone’s cup of tea” (as one person I met put it) or even “polarizing” hardly begins to describe what’s going on here. My week with Nissan’s smallest crossover in America was filled with awkward stares, gaping mouths and looks of revulsion. But that’s not the whole story. For every 10 people that wanted to run the Juke out-of-town like villagers wielding pitchforks, there were two or three that thought it was fantastic looking. No, cross that, they wanted to bear the Juke’s children. That’s how far they went. This makes the Juke the most polarizing car design I have seen. Yes, I’m including the unholy Aztec and Rendezvous. However you feel about the Juke’s design, you have to admit it took some brass balls to design it, produce it, and then keep selling it.

Let’s toss in another photo:

2013 Nissan Juke Nismo Exterior

Our own Sajeev Mehta performed one of his excellent “Vellum Venom” critiques of the Juke in March, so be sure you check that out. My personal reaction is mixed. I appreciate the overall dimensions of the Juke as most crossovers on the road are ridiculously over-sized, but I think that the design team got just a bit carried away. Especially with the front end. I don’t mind the round headlamps, the round proboscis doesn’t bother me at all, but those turn signal pods that rise from the hood reminded me of a frog. Frogs are tasty, but I don’t find them cute. Making them stand out even more is the fact that they can be seen inside by the driver and front passenger. That said, I appreciate polarizing designs because of the passion they inspire. If you’re one of those people who want to interbreed with a Juke, more power to you. One thing is for sure, you get an enormous heaping of style for Nismo’s $22,990 starting price.

2013 Nissan Juke Nismo Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


Because the base Juke wears a starting MSRP of $18,990, my expectations were low. If you keep your expectations at a similarly realistic level, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. For $22,990 the Nismo version adds heavily bolstered Alcantara sport seats, a leather and Alcantara wrapped steering wheel, center arm rest, red tachometer, plenty of Nismo badges and red-stitching galore. Unfortunately, the standard hard plastic dashboard and the world’s least attractive headliner remain. Seriously, this has to be the same material the trunk liner in a Versa is crafted from, how much would it have cost for something out of the Altima? On the flip side, you have to keep reminding yourself that 27-large is as expensive as any Juke gets and the Nismo tops out at $26,460 with navigation, the CVT and AWD. That’s well below the average new car transaction price in America.

The Alcantara thrones are some of the most attractive (and best bolstered) seats you can find for under $30,000, but they still ride on the same 6-way manual driver’s and 4-way passenger’s seat frames as the regular Juke. This means the range of motion is limited and lumbar support is non-existent. Still, one must have perspective and you’ll find the same situation in most cars this price. I was disappointed to find that the Juke’s steering wheel doesn’t telescope making it hard for me to find an idea driving position.

2013 Nissan Juke Nismo Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Thanks to the  hatchback-like profile, the rear seats offer more room than you’d think by looking at the outside with enough head and legroom for a quartet of adult men. More surprising, those four guy’s bags will fit in the Juke’s surprisingly large and deep trunk. The reason for that large cargo area (with more under the load floor) is the Juke’s fairly tall profile and low ride height which allows for a deep (if strangely shaped) cargo hold. (Check out the video to see under the load floor.)

2013 Nissan Juke Nismo Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


Nismoing your Juke doesn’t improve the way your tunes sound, you get the same base AM/FM/XM/CD/iPod/USB head unit as the base Juke, with the same six unbranded speakers. For $1,150 you can add what Nissan used to call their “low-cost navigation unit” bundled with a Rockford Fosgate speaker system and 8-inch subwoofer. I was a bit skeptical about this combination, but the tuning of the RF system was surprisingly well-balanced for a factory up-sell. The big draw for me is the nav unit.

The nav system by itself seems to go for about $750 in other Nissan models and is one of the best navs on the market in my opinion. It’s not that it offers a huge feature set or slick graphics, what appeals to me is the low-cost and simple, straight-forward interface. The system has the basics covered from XM traffic and fuel prices to on-screen USB/iDevice integration and Bluetooth speakerphone integration. The one strange omission from the system is Bluetooth audio streaming which isn’t supported.

2013 Nissan Juke Nismo Interior, Shifter, 6-Speed Manual, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain & Drive

Despite being the antithesis of square, the Cube and the Juke ride on the same Nissan Versa underpinnings. Thankfully the underpinnings are all they share. Instead of the wheezy 1.8L mill, Nissan cooked up an all-new 1.6L direct-injection four-cylinder for the Juke (they have since jammed it in foreign market Versas as well). The small engine is good for a [comparatively] large 197 horsepower (9 more than the regular Juke) and 184 lb-ft from 2,000 to 5,200 rpm (7 more). That’s a reasonable amount of power for something that could be seen as an upgrade from a loaded Sentra SR.

The Juke may be a funny looking creature with some cheap plastics inside, but even in base form it has road manners that impress. To create the Nismo, Nissan bumped up the tires to 224/45R18, stiffened the springs by 10%, tweaked the dampers, fiddled with the steering and bumped the final drive ratio. They then made the 6-speed manual transmission the standard cog-swapper rather than the CVT (standard in the regular Juke), added red mirror caps and called it a day.

2013 Nissan Juke Nismo Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

A trick that is sometimes used to make the sporty version of a car more dynamic on the road is to swap out the electric power steering for a traditional hydraulic unit. When I first hit the curves in the Juke I assumed Nissan had employed this trick. Much to my surprise, Nissan didn’t do that. Instead they tweaked the EPAS (Electric Power Assist Steering) system for improved feedback and a different level of assist. The result is impressive but made me ask: why don’t all EPAS equipped Nissans feel like this? In truth, the feel is still lacking compared to the “good old days,” but the steering is notably more direct and linear with just a hint of feedback from the wide front rubber. This is as good as it gets with EPAS.

Before the Juke arrived I had spent a week in the 2013 BMW X6M (our reviews are obviously out of order). Having the Nismo and an X6M back to back may sound like a real let down, but there’s another side. Obviously the Juke doesn’t handle or accelerate like an M, but there is something of the personality that struck me. No, I’m not just talking about the X6 being similarly polarizing in the style department, I’m talking on the road personality. They are similarly “eager.”  In this way, the Juke reminded me of a small dog that thinks it’s a big dog. It even has a chihuahua’s eyes. Is that good or bad? Good seeing as the Juke costs about 1/4th the price. I managed a 7.45 second 0-60 dash in the 6-speed manual model, let’s just say the X6M didn’t get there in 1/4th the time.

It gets a bit more complicated. You see, the Juke is two kinds of animal. If you get the 6-speed manual transmission you get plenty of torque steer, slick shifts and a more engaging ride. (And for some reason torque steer makes me smile when it’s on a small-scale like this.) If you get the AWD Nismo, you’re stuck with Nissan’s CVT. I’m no CVT hater but even I have to admit the CVT dulls the Juke’s personality. On the flip side, the torque vectoring AWD system makes the CVT/AWD Nismo the faster car on the track by a reasonable margin. If you have an oddly shaped place in your heart for Nissan’s over-styled crossover, you have a difficult decision on your hands. Either way the Juke is destined to be one of the rarer vehicles on American roads and I get the impression that’s just how lovers and haters of the Juke like it.


Hit it or Quit it?

Hit it

  • The best handling chihuahua on the road.
  • Nissan’s torque vectoring AWD system is a hoot and a half.

Quit it

  • Saying the Juke’s looks aren’t for everyone is being polite.
  • What’s up with that headliner anyway?


Nissan provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.8 Seconds

0-60: 7.45 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.8 Seconds @ 90.5 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 27.8 MPG over 589 miles

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Vellum Venom: 2012 Nissan Juke Mon, 11 Mar 2013 07:12:00 +0000 I was in a bad place about a year ago: fighting problems that resurfaced 10+ years of (secret) regret that my life at the College for Creative Studies shoulda ended differently.  But then a few silver linings showed up, motivating me to write the first installment of this series.  While I still am in (occasionally) bad places a year later, designs like the Nissan Juke keep me motivated, excited.

So, to celebrate this series’ First Anniversary: THANK YOU for letting me share my Venom. And know how much I appreciate it when you click that link:

The Nissan Juke is one of those concepts-come-to-life that did the original proud.  If the concept’s truly bizarre styling offended you, well, that’s understandable.  But remember it’s still a well sorted piece of Transportation Design kit.  The six eyes (on the hood, in the bumper, in the lower plastic valence) do offend me…in a good way.

Even though I hate the lighting pods, the multiple grille textures, and the emblem’s “U” chrome surround…I can’t help but admire it. The Juke is just so fantastically well executed.


But still, I could do without the oval grilles on the side.  The Juke is more logical and cohesive with the same “slats” of the grille’s center portion.  Plus, the oval grille casting looks cheaper than the vents in the center.


Much like the curiously placed headlights of the Rolls-Royce Phantom, the Juke uses what would make a fantastic Rally Car fog light for a head light.  Unlike the Roller, the headlight is made to dominate the bumper and grille.  It’s vulgar and beautiful at the same time.

If only the grille had the same texture: the strong linear elements of a “non-ovoid” grill would let you enjoy both the grille and the headlight far easier, with less distraction.


The swept back, lumpy and bumpy signal/marker light?  Pretty insect-like hideous, though I suspect (much like the LEAF) its shape is dictated by the wind tunnel for less wind noise around the A-pillar.  I’d prefer if this lamp assembly was flush-mounted above the grille, matching the linear tone of the center portion of the grille.  Then the Juke would look like a tall (yet right sized) Chevy Camaro. Distraction: gone!

But again, I hate yet wholly admire this element at the same time.  Argh, nothing is ever easy!


Present in the original concept, these round forms made production.  They work, unlike the ovals that dominate the grille.  And looky here: those be the real fog lights, too!


Perhaps if these were the only set of “eyes” on the front end, but since there’s another set of headlights and foglights…no. Too polarizing.

Except polarizing is often a good thing.  Especially when it comes to the Juke.


The windshield/cowl/wiper trim is very well executed: clean and elegantly tucked under the painted hood.  That’s the perk of a vehicle with a retro-sized windscreen, I suppose.


What did I say about a retro-sized windscreen?  Apparently the people who made the roof expected it to go up further: the glass’ natural end point is where the A-pillar turns into a flat roof,  instead we get a “bendy” roof.  Which is truly odd.


Speaking of, the bumper-to-fender crease isn’t especially logical. This is an unfortunate by-product of making a radical concept car come to life, cost effectively.  My suggestion?

Perhaps if that crease started at the trailing edge of the grille instead of some random point at the light.  The hood-to-fender has a similar problem: it should start from the top of the light assembly and end at the base of the A-pillar.

Why did Nissan make the least flowing, smallest possible fender?  Cost effectiveness, insurance repair concerns…or both. Sad.


If the fender was allowed more real estate on this form, the Juke would be a far prettier vehicle.  Or perhaps it’s just best in a panel-hiding black.  No matter, look at those fender haunches, front and rear!  What a quirky and fun design!

(That you must love even if you hate it.)


Note the lack of a black plastic triangle aimed to lengthen the greenhouse (DLO FAIL) on the Juke.  This rig is happy being in the dimensions bestowed upon it.  But while the fender was shrunken elsewhere, it creeps up the A-pillar?  I’d prefer if that fender-to-A pillar seam began at the base of the DLO…


The window weatherstrip smeared over the B-pillar is impossible not to fiddle with.  Good thing I didn’t have an X-ACTO knife handy.


Short wheelbase.  Impossibly short overhangs at each corner. Tall roof that immediately sweeps down. Oversized wheel flares.  Volvo like hatchback design. This rig is just plain cool, even if you’d never buy it. Or would you?

That “slopey” roof just does it for me.  What a fantastic design element!!!


I’ve enjoyed door handles blended into a vehicle’s greenhouse ever since the introduction of the GM-10 Coupes, even if they are magnets for scratches in a super visible place.  Combined with the little black plastic triangle of DLO FAIL in the C-pillar, perhaps it doesn’t work here.  I’d suggest eliminating the DLO fail and making the rear door end in a voluptuous curve instead.  There’s no need for a curvy triangle of FAIL if the door was rounded from the git-go.

While it’s always important to have a blend of hard bends and soft contours, the mix here is off.  Round off the door to match the “thrusting arch” of the wheel wells, eliminate the DLO FAIL and call it a day.


Can you imagine this body if the rear door ended with something as round as these fender haunches?


Here’s a close up of the DLO FAIL so you can imagine a rounded rear door that could eliminate this.


The rounded curves (and inward bending of the body) adds a bit of needed surface tension to the Juke’s very tall profile.  Note the wave in the cutline between the doors.  If that “wave” wasn’t there, this would be a boring panel.


Speaking of waves, the tail lights are a fantastic piece of kinetic lighting art.  Maybe the rear door’s redesigned curve should be just as radical as the lights.  Oh, and replace the dumpy square gas filler door with something as round as the back up lights, please? The natural curve of the tailgate and fender haunches demands something less static.

I wonder if it’s the same filler door as the Nissan Cube. Hmm…


Is this a Volvo or a Nissan?  No matter, this huge slice of non-functional red lense does something I thought I’d never say: be an important design element that looks better than if the same real estate was painted body color.


To my earlier point about having a blend of hard bends and soft contours, the Juke’s rear lights embody that belief.  There’s so much surface tension presented here!  And the way it naturally flows into the rear haunches?  Close to perfect for such a small vehicle.


Note the odd lump at the top of the roof, where it meets with the hatchback.  Considering the downward sloping roof and rather tiny rear dimensions, I suspect these “external” hinge covers are necessary.  It’s much like the bubbly roof on a Dodge Viper GTS, except the Juke didn’t make it into a noteworthy highlight.  If only it had more “oval” like qualities, like the front lower bumper valance, perhaps.


While I usually like clean and minimalist rear window wiper arms, the Juke demands something more garish and over-styled.  Too bad about that.


Tacky rear mud flaps are tacky.  Boo for the lack of integration.


The gray Juke was backed up against a brick wall, so its white neighbor will do.  While very Volvo-like, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Note how the lighting pods add excitement to the body, while complimenting the curves and cutlines: the hatchback cutline doesn’t look out of place…even if it sorta is. I’m even digging the oversized license plate mustache with the Nissan logo.  While the mustache has been done to the point of death elsewhere, it looks good on the Juke.

If only the front end’s lighting pods were as logical as the rear. Then again, the Nissan Juke is impossible to miss, and easy to appreciate. While it may never grace your parking space, it deserves your respect.

The Juke is a nice piece of Vellum, that made production without much Venom. Thank you for reading, I hope you have a wonderful week.

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Chicago Auto Show: 2014 Nissan Nismo Thu, 07 Feb 2013 17:37:18 +0000  

 Nissan’s motorsports division doesn’t think it has enough brand awareness in America. To counter this perception, Nissan tossed out a few NISMO (NISsan MOtorsports) models at the Chicago Auto Show. First up we have the Juke NISMO which is Nissan’s oddly shaped small crossover vehicle. The NISMO treatment makes the Juke look even more conspicuous on American roads with shapes and styles never before seen on a production vehicle. Whatever you do, don’t look up Juke in the Urban Dictionary while at work.

Thankfully the NISMO package isn’t just a styling exercise, Nissan also tosses in some cabin upgrades, faux-suede trim and a power boost. The same 1.6L engine is found under the funky hood but now cranks out 197HP and 184 lb-ft of torque. The CVT and 5-speed manual remain the only transmission options and of course AWD can be had for a price. While this is a far cry from the fire-breathing Juke R, it may help you escape the hoards of villagers with pitchforks.

Far more attractive is the Nissan 370Z NISMO gets extensive braking, suspension and styling tweaks in addition to a 350HP version of Nissan’s 3.7L V6 engine. Nissan promises improved downforce and even more fun out on the track. That should just about compensate for the extra 6.2 inches in length the NISMO Z brings to your garage. (Thank the re-tweaked front end for that.)

2014 Nissan Juke Nismo 2014 Nissan Juke Nismo-1 2014 Nissan Juke Nismo-2 2014 Nissan Juke Nismo-3 2014 Nissan Juke Nismo-5 2014 Nissan Juke Nismo-6 2014 Nissan Juke Nismo-7 2014 Nissan Juke Nismo-4 2014 Nissan Juke Nismo-5 2014 Nissan Juke Nismo-6 2014 Nissan Juke Nismo-7 2014 Nissan 370Z NISMO 2014 Nissan 370Z NISMO-1 2014 Nissan 370Z NISMO-2 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail




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Tokyo Auto Salon: Can You Take A Strong Juke? Yes, You Can Fri, 11 Jan 2013 13:01:44 +0000

Today at the Tokyo Auto Salon, Nissan unveiled its worst-kept secret. Assisted by attractive dancers dressed in white, Nissan “took the covers off of the highly-anticipated Juke Nismo” as the press release puts it. No, it’s not the highly anticipated Juke R, the cross-over with the GT-R engine. That has to wait for another Auto Salon. Or possibly one of the upcoming A-events.

The Juke Nismo, teased for what feels like a couple of years, is a Juke with a turbocharged 200 hp engine, actually with a 190 hp MR16DDT engine that has been chip-tuned to deliver 10 horses more.

Outside and inside blend in well with other cars on display at the Tokyo Auto Salon – which is like SEMA in Japanese, and without the big-breasted blondes.

The Juke Nismo can be bought beginning February 19 at Nissan dealers all over Japan. It would set you back 2,850,750 yen, or $32,000.

Juke NISMO Tokyo Auto Salon, picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Juke NISMO Tokyo Auto Salon, picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Juke NISMO Tokyo Auto Salon, picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Juke NISMO Tokyo Auto Salon, picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Juke NISMO Tokyo Auto Salon, picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 15
Somebody Out There Now Owns A $645,000 Nissan Juke Wed, 17 Oct 2012 12:30:08 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

Your humble author was charmed by the regular Juke when it debuted, but the Juke-R is a very different animal and it costs about twenty-five times what the standard Juke does. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any customers…

Nissan Europe claims that the first production Juke-R was delivered today, at a price of $645,000 (no doubt converted from Euros or pounds) and with a rated power of 545hp. The cynic in me thinks the regular Nissan GT-R actually makes 545 horsepower and has done so for some time now, but never mind. While the Juke-R probably isn’t as fast around a racetrack as the GT-R — and the AutoExpress video above seems to reinforce the idea — it’s a genuinely interesting vehicle for the kind of money that normally just gets you a F12berlinetta as a first-time (read: no dealership relationship) Ferrari customer. We wish the owner all sorts of luck and would like to suggest he come meet us at Virginia International Raceway to see how his tippy new toy handles the Climbing Esses. We promise not to bring a Shelby.

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Super Piston Slap: <3 for Nissan Canada? Fri, 26 Aug 2011 19:41:20 +0000  


TTAC commentator SpeedJebus writes:

Hi Sajeev,

You may remember that I wrote in before about my 2007 Honda Civic, and it’s haunted DBW system. That ordeal is over, but apparently I’m a sucker for automobile drama. Here’s the tale of my Juke: an ordeal that has been going on for over three months now. I’d like to share this cautionary tale. Here we go!

In February 2011, I decided to get a 2011 Nissan Juke as a replacement for my Civic. I did the test drive, decided it was pretty cool, and ordered one. I understood at the time that it was going to be at least 4 months, since there was only one factory turning out LHD Juke’s for the world. A month went by (bringing us to March). Then Godzilla attacked Japan, which the media covered up as a earthquake and tsunami.

With all of the factories idled, and everything up in the air, I entertained the idea of looking at different autos. Well, I have family ties with Chrysler, and started looking at Jeeps. It was love at first sight, and a much sooner delivery date. I contacted the dealer to terminate my order, since (A) it hadn’t even been built yet, and (B) we’d be looking at a MUCH delayed delivery. The sales manager (total twat) told me that I’d have to sign a form, and they’d have their legal department decide if I would get any of my deposit back, etc.

This *right* pissed me off, since we had verbally agreed that I’d have final say on accepting the ordered vehicle, since my previous vehicle had DBW issues. Unfortunately for me, I never got that in writing. (My bad.) Anyway, I had no choice but to sign the request to rescind the lease, and await word back. That was March 22, 2011. I confirmed that the dealership received my fax, and I waiting patiently for word. In the meantime, I ordered my Jeep. On April 14, 2011, I *STILL* had not received any word back. I sent a registered letter again requesting the termination of the lease contract, and refund of my deposit. I sent the same copy of the registered letter to OMVIC as well. (I should point out that I talked to them already, and they said that the dealership so far is in the right, blah blah blah…more on that after.)

After even more time without any response from the dealer at all, I authorized OMVIC to begin making inquiries on my behalf, and to attempt to get results for me. The dealership basically ignored OMVIC for a few weeks. Then I finally received an email from OMVIC stating that it was the dealerships intent to obtain the vehicle, sell it, and go after me financially for any losses incurred in them having to sell this vehicle. This pushed me over the edge.

I called Nissan Canada as a last ditch effort, and laid it all out for them, and they say they’ll look into it. I had no expectations of any results, but it was worth a shot. Long story short, the dealership emails me to say that they will agree to terminate my lease contract, and they will hold my deposit if I should choose to get another vehicle from them in the next year. At this point, I’ve already got my new Jeep, and I’m so sick of dealing with this shit, I just want it done. So I email them back and agree to this. It may cost me my deposit, but it’s over and done with. I have other things going on that I need to get a handle on. This was yesterday. HERE’S THE SURPRISE.

I got a phone call today from Nissan Canada. It turns out that they are incredibly sorry for how everything unfolded. They deeply apologized for the delays, for the mistreatment, and for the entire situation from day one. They are sending me a cheque for my deposit in full.

I was speechless. Still am.

GREAT customer service from Nissan Canada. Unnamed out-of-town dealership, and their stupid ape of a Sales Manager can kiss the fattest part of my white ass. Thanks to the actions of the Nissan Canada Customer Service team, I can say that I would honestly consider buying a Nissan in the future. Just not from that dealership. I can say that I never anticipated these things that can happen during the course of a new vehicle purchase. Huge lesson learned, that’s for sure.

Sajeev adds:

What else can I possibly add to this one?  Sometimes the squeaky wheel does indeed get the grease.  Perhaps not every bad deal needs to pursue legal action.  My hats off to you, good sir, for remaining composed in your actions and most importantly…being patient!  You’ve come a long way from that misbehaving Civic, baby!

And without researching the finer points of Canadian Dealership/Consumer Laws, kudos are certainly in order for Nissan Canada.  You folks obviously did the right thing for a potential customer, which is always a great long term strategy.  If you don’t get ‘em now, you probably will later. This is the first time I’ve been able to use Piston Slap for a positive manufacturer experience, quite a happy moment for me, personally.  If I had a set of Motor Trend’s tarnished Golden Calipers (or one of them 1980′s almost-a-clock desk ornaments given out by JD Powers) here at TTAC central, I’d surely give them to you all.  Respect.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna dream about sippin’ a Tim Horton’s coffee and munching on an Aero chocolate bar while doing wicked burnouts around the CN Tower in a 1990 Pontiac Tempest with an LS4-FTW swap.

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.


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Review: 2011 Nissan Juke Take Two Fri, 10 Jun 2011 18:57:46 +0000

Back in 1989 I spent some time blasting along the unpaved roads of the Southwest in a 1988 Toyota Celica All-Trac Turbo. A frequent thought: “What this thing really needs is more ground clearance.” That same year Pontiac displayed a sports car / SUV crossover as a concept. The Stinger was never produced, but it lingered within memories at GM and eventually provided some inspiration for both the Vibe and Aztek. Neither came close to the Stinger. Both lacked the chassis dynamics to fulfill the mission I had in mind.
And so it fell to Nissan to field the first compact crossover with the spirit of a sports car. Is the JUKE worth the two-decade wait?

If the Pontiac Aztek’s designers hadn’t been forced to make extensive use of a minivan substructure, it would have looked a lot like the JUKE: weird and in-your-face, even ugly, but (for the target market at least) cool ugly. Much more compact and more tightly proportioned than the Aztek—it’s only 162.4 inches long on a 99.6-inch wheelbase—and with aggressively flared fenders, the JUKE has the athletic stance Pontiac’s designers could only sketch. Turn signal bubbles perched high atop the fenders make for a distinctive view from the driver’s seat. They also make the front corners of the car easy to locate when parking.

Inside the JUKE, the distinctive styling continues, with a center console shaped and finished to resemble the fuel tank of a motorcycle. Matching trim can be found on the door-mounted armrests. These bits are available in red; in the silver of the tested car they don’t stand out nearly as much. Another sporty touch: the floating hood over the instruments. Other design elements don’t work as well. Nissan’s odd long-term affection for orange LCDs continues with much of the instrument panel lighting (though thankfully not the main instruments), and the graphics on the center stack’s multi-function display recall the excesses of the mid-1980s. Some of them might prove useful, or at least entertaining—screens include a boost gauge, a far too easily pegged two-dimensional G-meter, and fuel economy logging—but the screen is mounted just barely above the shifter, so far too low to be safely viewed while driving. The patterned light gray low-knap velour upholstery looks out of place inside such a painfully hip vehicle. It also starts looking dirty within seconds of cleaning it. Black and red/black upholstery are also offered—get one of those.

If you have to ask whether you’ll fit inside the JUKE, you can’t. Well, maybe you can. There’s enough legroom and headroom for drivers up to 6-2, maybe 6-3. But room for shoulders and hips is in short supply. The interior is compact to begin with, and the highly styled center console takes up the space some drivers like to place their right knee (I drive with my legs fairly straight, so this didn’t affect me). In back, though I’m only 5-9 my head brushes the headliner and my legs graze the front seatback (when the former is also positioned where I like it). With a tall driver in the front seat, the rear is best reserved for those 5-6 and under. No one in my five-person family is large, though, so we all fit without a hitch.

The JUKE’s front seats feel comfortable in casual driving; I found nothing to complain about in this area. Get jiggy with the JUKE, though, and their lack of lateral support quickly becomes evident. The seat’s bolsters, small to begin with, are spaced too widely for a slender driver. You sit crossover high not far from a relatively upright windshield. Add in the tight interior and the aforementioned high-mounted turn signals, and the view forward is like that in nothing else, and very much in keeping with the extroverted styling. The rear side windows are small, so while the view from the rear seat is open to the front it’s limo-like to the side. The cargo area is also compact—even a MINI Countryman can haul significantly more stuff. Still, I was able to squeeze in a mountain bike after removing its front wheel and folding the second row (the front seats had to be moved forward a bit to let the rear headrests by).

The JUKE’s consistency of character continues with the driving experience. A turbocharged and direct-injected 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine doesn’t put out much power below 3,500 rpm, but with the manual transmission responds quickly and rockets the 2,828-pound JUKE forward once past that mark, feeling like it’s kicking out well over the stated 188 horsepower. This engine is smooth and loves to rev, letting loose a loud sport bike-like “wreeeeeeee” as it does so. Turbo lag isn’t evident, just a lack of power at low rpm. This engine deserves a second home in a Miata-like sports car.

In addition to the six-speed manual, a CVT which can mimic a manually-shiftable six-speed automatic is also offered. The CVT blunts the engine’s pep considerably. The manual is much more fun, even if the lever’s action isn’t the slickest.

Fuel economy is quite good—as long as you don’t make heavy use of the turbo. The trip computer reported high 20s in both casual driving around town and on the highway (with a cruising speed of in the 70s). So the EPA ratings of 27/32 seem about right. Hypermiling the JUKE in the suburbs I managed 33.3. Doing the opposite I observed high teens.

Front-wheel-drive rocketships have well-known limitations, and the JUKE could serve as a poster child for the lot. Accelerate hard in a straight line, and the car pulls one way then the other—yes, it’s torque steer. Get on the gas in the mid-turn, and the inside front wheel far too easily loses traction. Traverse even the smallest bump or uneven expansion joint within said turn and all those horses are churning air. The obvious solution (aside from a better-designed suspension): all-wheel-drive. The available system even includes torque vectoring, to enable a little throttle-induced oversteer. But there’s a problem: all-wheel-drive is only offered with the CVT. Nissan should also offer it with the manual, perhaps even make it standard with the turbocharged engine. For those not into performance driving, and so not in need of more traction, a lesser engine would serve well enough. For those who want to replicate the responses of a weaker engine, “Eco” mode is a button tap away.

The JUKE also handles like it looks, with quick steering via a small diameter wheel and a willingness to turn. Dipping into the throttle tightens the car’s line. The small crossover is endearingly frisky when you’re in the mood to play, effectively melding the character of a compact crossover with that of a sports car. Put in the simplest terms, it’s a lot of fun, the sort of fun all small cars should be but fewer and fewer actually are.

This said, steering feel could be better. Hitting the “Sport” button in the center console (which must be done anew each time the car is started) firms up the steering, most noticeably at highway speeds, but it never communicates much of what’s going on at the contact patches. Between this and a suspension that feels a little jumpy, confidence wasn’t inspired. I never quite felt one with the car. The MINI Countryman, though less overtly sporty, does better here.

To replicate my time in the Celica, I visited my favorite local unpaved road in the JUKE. This also served to reveal how the chassis behaves as the tires’ limits are reached at much lower speeds than on pavement. With the JUKE this road revealed a tendency for the rear end to go light and drift wide in turns even while lightly accelerating. Though not too difficult to catch with a touch of opposite lock, this tendency to oversteer even without lifting off the throttle is uncommon among current cars and a bit of a shock the first time it occurred. While not too many people will be JUKING dirt roads, wet and snowy roads are another matter. The standard stability control has its work cut out for it with enthusiastic but inexperienced drivers.

The JUKE rides like the tallish, short wheelbase, firmly sprung car it is. And because Nissan’s suspension engineers haven’t yet figured out how to combine a smooth ride with sporty handling. To their credit, unlike the sportiest Nissans the JUKE doesn’t ride harshly. It just reacts a little sharply to road imperfections and feels jiggly on all but the smoothest surfaces. But it does feel solid, and body motions are well-controlled. On the highway, there’s a moderate amount of noise from the exhaust, air, and road surface. While still much quieter than the subcompacts of decades past (and my Mazda Protege5), by current standards the JUKE borders on noisy. If you’re sensitive to a jiggly, noisy ride, the JUKE will likely start to annoy once you’re done with hooning and ready to cruise.

If you want a performance-oriented compact crossover, you typically have two choices in North America: the JUKE or the MINI Countryman. With its storied European pedigree, a similarly-equipped MINI will set you back $5,310 more than the JUKE SV’s $21,640 base price. (The difference was close to six large earlier, but Nissan has raised prices a couple of times—for a total bump of $620.) Adjust for the MINI’s additional features using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool and the Nissan’s advantage remains nearly $4,000. Just beware the gunmetal wheels on the tested car: they’ll set you back nearly an extra grand.

Ultimately, the JUKE is at least as much sports car as crossover. It’s highly styled and—a rarity these days—drives even sportier than it looks. It reeks personality. The flipside: the JUKE’s not terribly practical or even easy to live with. But we have no shortage of practical, dull-to-drive crossovers, if that’s what you’re looking for. Nissan itself will gladly sell you a cube or a Rogue. If, instead, you’ve been seeking a sports car with a little extra ground clearance, the JUKE is one of two choices, and the least expensive by a substantial margin. Just beware of torque steer (until Nissan sees the light and offers AWD with the manual) and of the rear end’s tricks on slippery surfaces.

Nissan provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

JUKE rear seat JUKE rear quarter 2 JUKE front quarter JUKE bicycle JUKE front seats JUKE engine JUKE rear quarter Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail JUKE intstrument panel JUKE cargo JUKE front JUKE interior Do you get the Juke? JUKE view forward JUKE view forward night JUKE instruments

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Nissan Juke Design Influence Revealed? Fri, 29 Oct 2010 00:33:34 +0000 Whether you are as “infatuated” with the Nissan Juke as Diego Rodriguez of Metacool or not, you have to admit the guy has found an unlikely yet apt comparison for the saucy Nissan. The Saab faithful might be a bit taken aback by the comparison, but the Juke’s wacky look is probably closer to the spirit of the 96 than Saab’s latest design “effort.” Still, put an updated 96 body on the Juke’s platform, and you’d quickly have this Saab skeptic’s attention. Surf on over for the full comparison. [Hat Tip: Michael Banovsky]

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The Juke’s On Me. Sadly Tue, 05 Oct 2010 19:27:08 +0000

When Renault released their second generation Megane, people’s reaction pretty revolved around three words. “Whisky”, “Tango” and “Foxtrot”, if you know what I mean. I remember when I first saw it my first thoughts were “My goodness! It looks like someone’s made a massive dent in the back with a cricket bat.” But what did I know? It was voted European Car of the Year in 2003, was the first small family car to achieve a 5 star Euro NCAP rating, and went on to become a sales success. Now let’s look at Renault’s partner, Nissan. When the Juke came out, the reaction was pretty much the same to the Renault Megane. “What in the name of all that is holy is that?!” And now. the Renault-Nissan alliance has done it again.

AutoEvolution (I wonder if there’s an “AutoCreation” website? You know, “teach the controversy” and all that.) reports that in the first four months of being on sale, the Nissan has taken (or sold) 50,000 orders for the Juke. In Japan, 20,000 wanted one. This was particularly satisfying because Nissan had only forecast to sell 1,300 per month. In Europe, demand was even higher with 30,000 orders placed. “The demand for Juke underlines customers’ warm reception towards its innovative concept and value, breaking barriers in what is considered an all new category” said Akihisa Suzuki (insert your own joke here), Nissan’s Global Chief Marketing Manager for the Juke, “It is not surprising that its stylish design captures people’s heart. Delivering a whole new experience by integrating the appeals of a sports coupe and crossover, drivers will be amazed by its agility and smart body motion control through advanced technology.” Management types do talk a lot of twaddle, don’t they? (Ed – No we don’t!). It’s appears that despite the “WTF” design, the Juke is a firm hit. Man alive! I feel like I’m the victim of a really cruel, practical “Juke.”

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Nissan Juke: The Car For… Cross-Dressers? Fri, 17 Sep 2010 16:40:50 +0000

The first 9/10ths of this strange Nissan Juke spot is the typical youth-oriented car commercial: much sound and hipness, signifying nothing. Which is probably why the unexpected ending makes such an impression. Say what you want about Nissan’s decisions regarding the Juke’s styling and marketing, nobody can accuse the brand of living in the past.

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Nissan Juke Design Inspiration Discovered Wed, 25 Aug 2010 22:37:25 +0000

I happen to like the Juke, in about the same way I like the Datsun F10. Even though the F10 was a CC competitor for the world’s ugliest car, I’m all for anything that makes our streets less boring; bring it on! And the Juke certainly does that. And you can’t deny there’s more than a few similarities, right down to protuberances on their front fender tops:

The C-pillar with that blacked out rear section, the upswept window line, the two-door look, and…

Interestingly enough, while the rest of the Juke evokes (for me anyway) the F10 wagon, at the rear, it’s the hatchback that comes to mind, with its graceful arc at the top, and the prominent license plate surround. I say bravo, Nissan, for having the guts to retro one of your all-time…um…memorable designs.

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Review: 2011 Nissan Juke Wed, 25 Aug 2010 20:41:32 +0000

Because car enthusiasts tend to be more interested in cars themselves than the industry that creates them, critics and commentators tend to praise engineers while vilifying accountants, marketers and the countless other professions required to bring a new car to production. The assumption seems to be that engineers develop great cars which are then cheapened, blandified and otherwise screwed up by everyone else. Obviously this is an oversimplified perspective, but in certain cases it’s downright undeniable. Rarely has it been more true than with the Nissan Juke.

Now I know what you’re thinking: the villain of project Juke was the legally-blind eldritch abomination who styled it. Having read initial reactions to the Juke’s styling (and yes, even fanned the flames a bit), it’s clear that the “design issue” dominates perceptions of Nissan’s B-Segment “crossunder” (or, to use Nissan-approved language, “SportCross”). The good news is that, as is becoming increasingly common for new cars, the design works far better in three dimensions than two.

A weird mix of coupe and crossover, the Juke mashes a number of Nissan design cues into a crazed pastiche: the swollen wheel arches and elongated turn signal lights of the Leaf, the rounded rear hatch of the Infiniti crossovers, the 370Z’s tail lights (with a dash of Volvo C30 mixed in) and the Z-meets-Kia Soul greenhouse actually combine for a look that is utterly distinctive, and not entirely unpleasant.

Only the front end remains truly challenging in person, with Nissan-consistent turn signal lights fighting for attention with the protruding, nostril-like round headlights. A more brand-consistent front end end might have broadened the Juke’s appeal in this country, but on the other hand, anonymity kills in the under-publicized subcompact crossover segment (see: Suzuki SX4). But even forgetting the fact that aesthetics are an obviously subjective matter, it simply wouldn’t be fair to blame the Juke’s designers for ruining the car.

That’s because Nissan’s product-planning and market-research teams had fundamentally hurt the Juke before a single stylist had the chance to touch it. According to Nissan’s reps, the Juke was developed with a very specific market in mind: 18-34 year-old males making $45k+, or as Nissan calls them, “Urban Experience Seekers.” This focus is what allowed the daring exterior design, but more importantly it clearly led the development team to emphasize style over substance on nearly every key decision.

This is most clear in the Juke’s packaging, which scrupulously avoids any hint of practicality. The concealed rear door handles lend the Juke a surprisingly coupe-like look, but they also hint at the rear bench’s coupe-like appointments. Knee and headroom are severely constrained for anyone approaching the six-foot mark, and claustrophobes of any size need not apply. Between the pinched-off greenhouse, and a moonroof (standard starting at the midlevel “SV” trim) that brings the headliner even lower (before terminating a few inches from the rear passenger’s forehead), the Juke’s back seat is a dark, unhappy place. Since the rear seats don’t fold flat, and cargo room under the hatch is limited, the Juke clearly wasn’t developed to be used like a real crossover.

Nor was the Juke designed to make good on its lifted, SUV-inspired pretensions. Nissan didn’t provide any opportunity to test the Juke on anything more extreme than rough tarmac, and the PR reps gently fended off inquiries about the Juke’s capability on rough terrain by emphasizing its mission as a “urban crossover.” And with good reason: the black plastic faux-skidplate on the Juke’s nose might look like it’s designed to improve the approach angle, but in reality it merely conceals (rather than protects) a low-hanging radiator that would be immensely vulnerable in even a rock-strewn dirt road scenario. Moreover, Nissan makes no off-tarmac claims about its torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system, focusing instead on its “enhanced agility” and ability to reduce understeer in on-road cornering.

With its pretensions of crossover practicality and SUV ability stripped away, the Juke’s remaining identity is as a slightly-practical sports coupe with a high seating position, and on this level it works far better than you could possibly expect. Yes Virginia, under the Juke’s shock-factor styling and layers of what can only be properly described as marketing bullshit, Nissan’s engineers have built a truly remarkable little car.

Starting with the platform that underpins the Nissan Versa (a car that precisely nobody praises for its dynamic abilities), Nissan’s engineers widened the track by a full three inches, and were rewarded with a chunky, chuckable little car that is way more entertaining than it has any right to be. Despite the jacked-up bulk required to keep Urban Experience Seekers from feeling like they’re driving something more than a mere car (in AWD/CVT trim it’s a 3,000 lb B-segment car), body roll is practically nonexistent. Though steering is on the light side by enthusiast standards, it’s still sensitive and precise. Using a small steering wheel from the elevated “command-style” driver’s seat lends the Juke a distinctive feel in enthusiastic driving that’s entertaining in a wholly unserious way. Imagine a cross between a MINI and a Subaru Forester XT, and you’re getting the picture.

But if the Juke’s chassis is merely better than you’d expect, its standard 1.6 liter, direct-injected turbocharged four-cylinder engine is without question the single best reason to ignore all of the Urban Experience Seeker twaddle and drive the peculiar little Nissan. Making 188 hp and 177 lb-ft, this little cracker of an engine fizzes with brio and motivates the Juke with aplomb. Turbo lag is minimal, although it’s enough to slow standing launches noticeably. But in return for that sacrifice, a carefully-driven Juke should easily return the 25/30 MPG it’s rated at in its thirstiest trim. Besides, in-gear acceleration is a far more important real-world attribute, and the Juke happily pushes through all six (manual) gears with an infectious, mechanical, zinging whine. If downsized, direct-injected, turbocharged engines are the future (and they are), the Juke’s feisty mill is cause for optimism.

So too is the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), which holds its simulated gears with tenacity (particularly in “Sport” mode), keeping the engine’s delightful boost at a constant state of readiness. Once the enemy of enthusiasm (and in underpowered applications like the Cube, it’s still a burden), the CVT’s electronic brains have been well-refined, and it’s an unobtrusive but intuitive partner in any kind of driving style. Which is a very good thing, considering the AWD system (a $1k upgrade) also requires the rubber-band-box (a $500 option). On the other hand, the AWD’s advantages were hardly noticeable even on rough sections of British Columbian back roads, and its extra weight and elimination of under-floor storage in the cargo area count against it.

Given the Juke’s sporting style, it’s tough to recommend anything other than the front-drive, manual transmission drivetrain. Neither torque steer nor understeer is a serious issue in the Juke, and caning the fizzy little engine through six manual ratios is pure pleasure. Like its off-road pretensions and willful styling, the AWD option seems to exist solely to satisfy the subjective wants of Urban Experience Seekers rather than to actually make the Juke a better car. And given its shortcomings in terms of practicality, the extra storage space in FWD models is likely to be used more often than any AWD advantage. Still, the Juke’s abundant driving character comes through in all of its drivetrain configurations.

Base “S” trim Jukes start at $18,960 (plus $750 destination charge), but are available only with the CVT transmission. Though hardly cheap, these models are quite well-equipped, offering iPod/Bluetooth connectivity, a grip of airbags, stability and traction control and a number of other increasingly-common features.

The mid-level “SV” trim adds all of the really worthwhile features like keyless starting, automatic climate control, moonroof, USB iPod control, moonroof and improved steering wheel and upholstery materials. It also adds Nissan’s I-CON system which integrates climate and dynamic controls into a single unit which switches modes and button functions at the push of a button. Though at first it seems like an Urban Experience-related gimmick, the system works on functional, aesthetic and sensible gee-whiz levels. The “SL” trim adds more luxury touches like heated leather front seats and navigation, but we’d spend our hard-earned on the SV-trim FWD version with manual transmission for $20,260 ($200 less than an AWD “S” model).

The Juke’s interior is perhaps a little disappointing at that price point, with lots of mid-grade black plastic that’s been moderately well-assembled. The I-CON system’s knobs are the biggest quality problem inside, as they feel like they’re barely attached to the unit. The instrument panel itself is finished in a piano-black material that adds some needed quality, although navi-equipped models use a head unit that doesn’t match it, ironically making SL-spec interiors look less well-finished. Other questionable Urban Experience interior features include a gearshift surround finished in high-gloss paint that’s said to be motorcycle inspired (for some unexplained reason) and garish chrome door handles. Otherwise, there’s little to complain about.

On the whole, the Juke reinforces the cult of the automotive engineer as much as it reinforces the widely-held belief that automotive marketers are good at screwing up a good thing. Without the marketers, it’s tempting to believe that Nissan’s engineers would have widened the Versa platform, added the fantastic turbocharged engine, and then decided to simply put a steroidal Versa body on top, creating the king of all B-segment hot hatches. Later they might have even added an spacious, practical mass-market crossover with an AWD option.

Instead, the marketers decided to build a car that could be all things to all hip 18-34 year-old urban males, saddling the Juke with extra weight, reduced practicality and a Lovecraftian front end. That the Juke still ends up being as good as it is, is an enduring testament to Nissan’s engineers.

Nissan flew us to Vancouver BC, put us up for a night in an expensive hotel, and wined and dined us in traditional press launch fashion to make this review possible.

DSC_0016 DSC_0028 DSC_0136 DSC_0189 No Juke-ing... DSC_0193 DSC_0091 DSC_0034 DSC_0107 DSC_0079 DSC_0022 DSC_0104 DSC_0045 DSC_0181 DSC_0039 DSC_0044 DSC_0013 DSC_0065 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 116
Can You Take A Juke? Tue, 16 Mar 2010 22:13:07 +0000

How about 7 minutes and 48 seconds worth of Nissan Juke B-rolls? That this car exists isn’t puzzling: Europe is forever producing bizarre little segment-busters that look like they were styled by an eldritch abomination. What boggles the mind is that Nissan is going to try to sell this Versa-based “crossunder” in the US. Stare at the footage for a bit and try to imagine what business in your community you could see one of these in front of, and you’ll see what we’re on about. [Warning: more than 3 minutes of uninterrupted viewing could cause complete loss of sanity and/or a new appreciation for Toyota-bland styling]

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Geneva Gallery: 2011 Nissan Juke Wed, 03 Mar 2010 20:00:01 +0000

No, it’s not a concept, and yes, it is coming to the US this fall. The Versa-based Juke clearly hopes to banish the term “Aztek” [noun, referring to the ugliest crossover ever sold in the US] from the modern automotive lexicon. We’d Juke around some more about this tiny rolling affront to the laws of natural beauty, but frankly we can’t bring ourselves to. For one thing, where do you start, and for another, where would we stop? Expect thesaurus sales to jump considerably when the Juke hits the press-car circuit later this year.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Searing Retina Damage Approved For The American Market Edition Wed, 10 Feb 2010 22:41:45 +0000

We had a laugh at the Nissan Juke teaser images Nissan trotted out about a month ago, but apparently the Juke isn’t over. For some reason, Nissan has decided to announce that the Versa-based crossover is approved for the American market before the production model is even unveiled at the forthcoming Geneva Auto Show. Nissan accompanies the announcement with a gallery of shots that are labeled “Nissan Juke” but carry the caveat “model shown is European show car.” It’s clearly more production-y than the Qazana concept, which Nissan cites as the inspiration for the Juke, but could Nissan really be building a production model that’s this unforgivably ugly? At least we now know what the offspring of a Pontiac Aztek, a Fiat Multipla and a Nissan Versa would look like… though I’m still not sure why we needed to.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: The Juke’s On You Edition Thu, 07 Jan 2010 17:09:21 +0000 Nissan Juke, Nissan's sub-Rogue crossover

Nissan stumbles into Scion territory with this teaser image of its new compact crossover, the Juke, to be built in Britain starting this year. The Juke is supposed to bridge the gap between the Qashqai (Rogue) soft-roader and the Note compact MPV. Because someone, somewhere wants a compact crossover with less capability than a Rogue and less rear visibility than a Note. The hunt for that confused consumer is now officially on.

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