The 2012 Nissan Juke is one of those rides that combines value with styling and a marked fun quotient.
A grouping one doesn't see all that much.
Let's commence with the drive factor. The 1.8-liter direct-injection turbocharged engine turns out 188 hard-toiling horses; same with 177 pound-feet of torque. For its segment, the Juke is flat out peppy, respectable off the mark and more than adequate when passing. I learned this first hand, with some admitted skepticism, when maneuvering upward on a hill, successfully getting around a laggard with - oops - an oncoming vehicle bearing down. Whew! But no problema, gracias. Plenty of power for the Juke, which is not significantly changed from last year.
Handling is equally rewarding. Negotiating one day during early rush hour, my lips slowly curled into - what's this? - a slight grin. Trust me, that doesn't come easily for this grizzled gal. Again, for the class, it was all zip, zip, zip ... taking me slightly aback. While I wasn't expecting sluggard annoyance - I'd heard from peers that this here was a keeper - I did not anticipate outright pleasure. For the segment, this thing was quite enjoyable to tool around in. To boot, there's minimal understeer, and braking is just right.
The six-speed manual transmission was relatively slippery - a good thing, no? Only available with SV and SL trims, the stick's a real deal helper, as far am I'm concerned. Not that I wouldn't buy an auto tranny-ed Juke, but this powerplant and suspension, in my eyes, calls for a manual mate. I discovered this one aft while zagging through burgeoning, uneven traffic, with nary a hint of frustration. Otherwise, if you don't opt for manual, the continuously variable transmission is offered for front-wheel and all-wheel drive.
The Juke's interior is rather comfortable, cool and practical, sort of a rare triumverate. The cabin has a quasi motorcycle theme, from the instrument cluster to the center console. Control buttons are fingernail friendly, and intuitive to use. Six-way manual driver - and four-way front-passenger - seating, felt just fine. There was ample room for this, ah, willowly scribe, plus plenty of cargo space behind the rear seats in addition to under-floor storage. Mind you, this is a ride that, overall, is not all that big, but somehow carves out room. The`fold-flat second row is not quite as spacious, but I'd be willing to hang back there for a few-hour jaunt. The front seats are heated and leather appointed. There's also a rear hatch.
Some of the inside materials are, well, less than refined, but keep in mind this is a $24,335 vehicle (my loaner). There's good attention to detail here, plus loads of goodies: a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Rockford Fosgate subwoofer and amplifier, USB connection port, easy-to-get navigation, Bluetooth capability, rearview monitor, sliding moonroof and 12-volt power outlet.
Exterior-wise, the Juke is no wallflower. It's in your face, brash with myriad dips and angles. But not such that I was moved to don Jackie O. oversize shades and a baseball cap (which has been known to happen). What with its tall ride height and bulging fenders and edgy front end, including halogen headlamps, Juke has a confident, modern allure.
Value, styling and fun. Combined with fuel economy of 25 and 31, that's a pretty darn decent trifecta.