If you thought Nissan pushed the envelope on quirkiness with the boxy little Cube, wait until you see their latest utility, the Juke. With a funky design and an attractive price, it’s an ultra-compact crossover is intended as a youthful, and more gas friendly alternative, for those seeking all-road utility and flexibility. The Juke is clearly no joke. But will smiling American buyers take it seriously enough to sign on the dotted line?

It’s hard to miss the 2011 Nissan Juke, an urban-ute with a mini footprint and a bold sport cross look. As the newest member of Nissan’s utility line-up, the wide-stanced Juke is over 20 inches shorter than the Nissan Rogue. Built on Nissan’s proven B platform, shared with the subcompact Versa and the Cube, the Juke wears an overall length of 162.4 inches with a wheelbase of just 99.6 inches. And, while it is the smallest 5-door crossover yet available with all-wheel drive, it will still likely be cross-shopped against the Kia Soul, Suzuki SX4 hatchback, and even the Mini Cooper Clubman.

Borrowing its unique take-it-or-leave-it styling from the Nissan Qazana Concept, the Juke boasts a multi-tiered front-end treatment. Turn signals are up high on the fenders, much like the ill-starred Pontiac Aztek. Huge, bug-eye headlights are set at the bottom edges of a wide mesh grille.  Down further is a skid plate-style lower fascia with three circular openings between available fog lamps.

With standard 17-inch alloys, the Juke’s swept-back profile is defined by bulging fender flares, short overhangs, and a taut upper canopy with a falling roofline. The sporting rear-view is defined by a well-sculpted lift gate flanked by 370Z-like boomerang-shaped tail lamps.

The roomier-than-expected 5-seat cabin is headlined by an equally showy instrument panel. Liquid metal accents set-off a motorcycle-inspired, hooded gauge cluster, and center console, with its elevated gear shifter. The well-bolstered front seats have active headrests, along with available leather and heat.  But the Juke doesn’t offer power seat adjusters at any trim level.

Though it does come with standard steering wheel switches for cruise, audio, and Bluetooth. Our top-of-the line SL model included other upscale amenities like push button start, automatic climate control, a Rockford Fosgate-powered subwoofer, and a 5-inch touch screen for Navigation and rear-view monitor.

While we indicated a capacity for five, three abreast in the rear seat will be tight for any size. Anyone under 6 feet will be fine with headroom. The 60/40 folding seat backs help make the most of limited space.  Seats down, flat floor cargo room more than triples to a very usable 35.9 cubic feet.

Motivating the front- or all-wheel drive Juke is the Versa’s 1.6-liter I-4, but here direct fuel injection and turbo charging raise output to a healthy 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque.  We found the turbo to be snappy and strong. 0 to 60 passes in about 7.5 seconds. Power surges nicely around 3,000 rpm, and doesn’t get noticeably buzzy until it nears 6-grand. Output is effectively managed by either an Xtronic CVT automatic, or a 6-speed manual available only with front drive.

Government Fuel Economy Ratings with all-wheel drive are an impressive 25 city/30 highway on regular gas. Debuting on Juke is Nissan’s Integrated Control System, or I-CON, with three drive modes – Normal, Sport, and Eco-each with distinct throttle, transmission and steering settings.  It achieves it’s goal of better matching driver needs with Juke performance.

Equally impressive is Nissan’s Advanced Torque Vectoring all-wheel drive system.  Unusual for any affordable crossover, it not only distributes torque up to 50:50 front-to-rear, but also splits torque from side-to-side across the rear axle.  The result is higher agility on turns and less under steer during cornering. 

The front drive Juke’s suspension mirrors Versa and Cube. Struts front and a torsion beam at the rear. All-wheel drive adds rear multi-link geometry.  Both setups are paired with speed-sensitive electric power steering and electronic traction and stability control.

We found the all-independent setup to be taut and sporty, making the Juke highly maneuverable on our initial Canadian test drive. In Sport Mode, turn ins are quick and precise.  Overall, the vehicle has a solid, balanced feel, with plenty of engine in reserve to get out of trouble. Stopping power comes from all-wheel disc brakes with ABS and Brake Assist.

Pricewise, the entry level Juke S stickers for $19,760; the high volume SV trim starts at $21,060; and the loaded SL begins at $23,350. The 2011 Nissan Juke is a fun, sporty little urban runabout with zippy performance, a shot of utility, and a face that’s all its own.  For city dwellers looking to tread the midtown mayhem, it’s perfect.  But for those looking to sidestep the chaos and run off to greener pastures, the Juke makes a nice little mover there, too.


  • Engine: 1.6-Liter I-4
  • Horsepower: 188
  • Torque: 177 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 7.5 Seconds
  • EPA: 25 MPG City/ 30 MPG Highway