Introduced in mid-2010 as a 2011 model, the Nissan Juke was, to put it mildly, controversial. Some saw it as one of the ugliest cars to ever come down the pike, while others loved its idiosyncratic appearance and deviation from the norm.
Either way, Nissan's marketing department knew exactly what it was doing. The target market for this vehicle – buyers 35 years old and younger – would be attracted to it specifically because of its unusual styling and whatever anyone over 40 thought about it was irrelevant. Compact SUVs and CUVs were – and still are – exploding in popularity in Canada and Nissan simply availed itself of opportunities within this fast-growing segment.
Built on Nissan's B platform, which also included the Versa, the Juke came with one engine choice: a turbocharged/intercooled, direct-injection four-cylinder that displaced 1.6 litres and developed 188 horsepower. It was mated to either a six-speed manual or CVT transmission and was available with or without all-wheel-drive. It also required premium grade gas, although it would run on regular.
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 offered fuel economy similar to that of its Sentra 2.0.
One interesting highlight was a "D-mode" performance selector. Located to the left of the steering wheel on the dash, three buttons allowed you to choose from Normal, Sport or Eco modes, and the engine throttle settings, suspension and transmission shift points were altered accordingly. The differences were obvious and immediate. You could also choose different "icon display modes" that let you, at the push of a button, change the instrumentation monitor display. Turbo boost, fuel consumption and even G-forces could be accessed instantly.
Also unique to the Juke was a motorcycle-inspired centre console. Nissan's 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 it could be highlighted in bright red paint – all in an attempt to appeal to the "info-oriented" echo boomer buyers in this market.
In terms of storage and cargo capacity, there was less room in the back than you'd find in the Juke's stablemate, the Rogue, but more than a VW Golf or Mazda3.
Two trim levels were initially offered: SV and SL, and a wide range of extras were available, including leather interior, heated outside mirrors, heated front seats, ABS, power moonroof, push-button start and a navi system.
Two safety recalls to report from Transport Canada. One concerns a potentially serious fuel leak from the fuel pressure sensor that could, if not attended to, result in an engine fire, while the other also involves a sensor – this time from the turbo boost bracket. If it's loose, it could cause the engine to lose power, although it could still be driven for a short distance in its "fail-safe" driving mode.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also has these two on file, as well as 15 technical service bulletins. These range from a glitchy cruise control, to doors that won't lock/unlock, to strange noises coming out of the engine compartment. Complaints from owners: "total engine failure," "car stopped because it was completely out of gas even though the gas meter read that there was more than a quarter tank of gas in the car" and "passenger side ball joints were detached from the frame." A total of 15 complaints here.
Consumer Reports doesn't give this one a particularly good rating. Serious issues with the fuel system, body hardware and the inevitable "squeaks and rattles" translate into the lowest used-car prediction this organization can bestow. The 2012 version fares better. Some comments from owners: "slow to warm up on cold days," "gas mileage not what they say" and "performed better in the snow than my wife's Grand Cherokee."
Market research firm J.D. Power is no kinder, giving this year of the Juke an "about-average" grade for overall performance and design, and a below-average rating for predicted reliability.
From a price of less than $20,000 for a base, manual transmission SV, the Juke has held up surprisingly well. The same version today is priced from the mid- to high teens, with a top-of-the-range SL AWD valued at about four grand more. The AWD versions are valued at $1,500-$2,000 more than their FWD counterparts.
2011 Nissan Juke
Original Base Price: $19,998; Black Book: $18,525-$22,200; Red Book: $14,350-$18,575
Engine: 1.6-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder
Horsepower/Torque: 188 hp/177 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual/CVT
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 7.3 city/6.1 highway (CVT); premium gas
Alternatives: Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda3, VW Golf GTI, Toyota Matrix, Scion xB
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