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Car Tech Video: 2011 Nissan Juke SV FWD
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Car Tech Video: 2011 Nissan Juke SV FWD

7:23 /

Nissan's new mini crossover screams, "Hey, look at me!"

-Once upon a time, the car biz couldn't help but make bigger and bigger things. Well, times have changed. Now, the new black is making smaller and smaller things, like crossovers. Nissan already had the compact Murano. Below that, added the smaller Rogue, and now below that, this...the Juke. Let's jump in this 2011 Juke SV and check the tech. Now, Juke's a funny name for a car. You think jukebox which got its name from juke joints in which the term juke meant rowdy or wicked, and this little thing doesn't look rowdy or wicked any more than a Volvo looks naughty. Inside, we've got typical current Nissan DNA. That's a bean-shaped stuff. I find that it echoes the outside of the car a lot which we'll talk about a little bit later. Nothing too interesting on the instrument panel, the same, to my eye, kind of cheapy looking gauge cluster and I hate that late 80s orange-amber display thing. It just brings the car down, but it's not a pricey car. Let's leave that alone. Let's go to the console now. Here is an audio unit that is pretty good on its sources and it's actually based on the SV trim. This guy has a single-slot optical disc there for your CDs. AM/FM, no HD radio. iPod is standard but it's iPod, not the newer USB iPod-compatible jack, it's actually an iPod pigtail which lives down here in the glove box so that's a true iPod connector. That's almost quaint in this day and age as USB really propagates a lot and, of course, we also have an aux setting. You see that icon right there? Bluetooth is hooked up. That's Bluetooth hands-free. We don't have Bluetooth streaming in this car, not at this level. In fact, I don't think in any trim level. Now, here's the most interesting thing in our interface on this car, is this which they ICON. It's their interactive or integrated controller or some mumbo jumbo like that. It's got this little high resolution screen. What is that? Maybe 3 inches, 2-1/2 inches, and it gives you lots of different things that change based on these 2 buttons. If you hit this, you've got the D Mode, the Drive Mode, and that's what you're looking at right now. The buttons on the side for Normal, Sport, or Eco Drive Modes and you can set things up here, get some driving information and your eco information, but hit the climate button, look what happens. Everything changes. Not just what's on the screen, the buttons change, and not in some hokey way where you can see the other mode kinda bleeding through, it's a very cool technology. The reason I like it is because it would allow an automaker and in this case, it does allow an automaker, to have many buttons which I like. I like direct access buttons, but not litter the dash with buttons the way Acura does. This is a very clever way to do that, and we'll see how well all this D Mode stuff works, this Normal, Sport, and Eco, once we get on the road, but basically what happens in each mode is you get 3 different parts of the car that are reshaped, the engine response, the "STRG" or steering response--took me a while to figure that one out--and oddly enough, climate settings. And each mode also emphasizes some particular factor when you go there. Normal tells you what kind of torque delivery you're getting. Sport shows you the boost coming out of the turbo. Eco shows you how greenly you're driving. You've also got a G-force meter. That's like something out of a GTR which of course this car is a cousin of, poor cousin of, it shows your lateral Gs and your acceleration and breaking Gs. Moving down from the ICON interface, there's an interesting design tweak on this car that was part of a concept. It's this whole console here which is in glossy paint. Now, that may not seem very interesting. It's like, "Who cares how they upholster their console," but this is really sort of supposed to be a motorcycle gas tank motif and it's meant to have this real visceral kind of statement, as if you're in a motorcycle but with seats on either side of it. Yeah. You got me. I tried. Now, our guys got the six-speed manual here. You can also option a CVT. Yuck. This is not a bad gearbox. The throws are medium, not real short, not real long. The gear ratios are real tight. You gotta wring and up to go to reverse. Okay. What powers our little frog-faced friend? An interesting little motor--1.6-liter inline 4 gas engine, 1.6, that's pretty small by today's standards, but it gets a lot of help. First of all, DIG, Direct Injection Gasoline, so you hear a lot of clicking going on here. I hear valves and lifters and you hear the injectors making their characteristic sound, and it's turbocharged as you can see also right there on the engine cover and as you feel when you drive, so, the numbers. 188 horsepower, 177 foot-pounds of torque. Again, out of a 1.6. You're gonna get to 60 in 7.3 seconds for a 2900-pound car, while delivering quite good mileage, 24 city, 31 highway, but let's go see what kind of power that really is. If you do get an all-wheel drive Juke, it's a fairly sophisticated torque vectoring arrangement, the sort of layout engineered to carve corners. Again, vague rally car intent here but then muted by that required CVT gearbox. It's a sprightly thing, sprung in a way that feels very alive, very energetic, fun car to drive in that sense, but I really hate the throttle response. This is a small motor with a lot of turbo. That's where it gets its power and there's quite a bit of power, strictly speaking, but it's real peaky, real twitchy. You're either in the power band or you're down in this flat area with no guts at all and that's a real pain to me. The gearbox is fine, not too short, not too long, but the last nail in the coffin for drivability on this car, for me, is the RPM float. So rev this guy up, get your clutch in, get off the gas, and oh, boy, there's no decay in the RPMs for like a full second or more, then they slowly float down. That's not how I like to drive. Some people are fine with that, they mash the clutch to drag the RPMs down, I find that annoying at best, inelegant at worst, but, again, this is not a serious driver's car, this is a fun little runabout type car and most folks are gonna like this overall package, aren't gonna care about things like RPM float and peaky torque. At night, the light clusters on top of the fenders are actually mesmerizing, and since you can see the turn signals working, you should never again get a ticket for a burned out bulb, at least not one of those. Well, perfect weather to price our little amphibious looking friend. An SV Juke, that's the mid trim level, is gonna run you about $21,000 and change base. $500 more if you want the CVT gearbox. Why would you? It's a perfectly nice six-speed. $2000 more if you want the torque vectoring all-wheel drive. You're only CNET-style option is this nav upgrade that gets you a 6-inch touchscreen LCD. It's gonna add better speakers and audio and also a USB plus iPod jack and that's $800. For that price, I might go for it.

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