2012 Nissan Juke review:

2012 Nissan Juke

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I imagine the all-wheel-drive version, which not only has the more sophisticated rear suspension but also applies torque vectoring, would handle even better.

2012 Nissan Juke
In this SV trim Juke, navigation is available but has not been included. Josh Miller/CNET

The Juke comes in three trims: S, SV, and SL. Each can be had with the all-wheel drive and CVT options, but only the upper two offer navigation. It comes standard on the SL and as an option on the SV. CNET's car was the SV, and it did not have the navigation option. The system stores its maps on flash memory, so should be responsive, and it does include traffic data.

Without navigation, our Juke SV was left with a Bluetooth phone system and the stereo as the only real cabin tech. And lacking the navigation system's LCD, the only interface is a single line monochrome radio display accompanied by an occasionally confusing set of buttons.

Once paired to my iPhone, the phone system worked very well. It downloaded my contact list automatically, and I was able to use voice command to place calls by name. The call quality sounded decent, and the system automatically muted the stereo when a call came through.

The stereo itself offered limited audio sources. It had the usual CD player along with AM/FM radio. Satellite radio was also present, along with an auxiliary input in the stereo face. And while it did have iPod support, the cable for it was buried in the glovebox, a very inconvenient spot when I wanted to hook up my iPhone before a drive. There was no USB port and no Bluetooth audio streaming, two of the more generally useful modern audio sources.

2012 Nissan Juke
The single line radio display is inadequate for browsing an iPod's music library. Josh Miller/CNET

Browsing an iPod music library through the stereo interface was also difficult, first because the buttons were not arranged in a very intuitive layout, and second because the radio display can only show one artist or album at a time, making it a chore to scroll through large music libraries.

The base audio system lacked definition and punch, and felt especially impoverished in light of Nissan's Juke Box mobile DJ station. There is a Rockford Fosgate system available for the Juke, which upgrades the six speakers and adds a subwoofer. Rockford Fosgate systems tend to be particularly strong on bass, which the Juke could certainly use.

The navigation option would also bring in a backup camera, something that would come in handy with the little Juke. Its odd styling limits rear visibility.

In sum
The 2012 Juke is a bit of an aberration in Nissan's lineup, offering some really cool features not seen in other models. The engine uses excellent efficiency technologies and the all-wheel-drive system can vector torque to aid in handling. The CVT, a more standard piece of Nissan equipment performs exceedingly well, and the D-Mode control ties it all together, taking the car from mild mannered to nimble and fast at the push of a button.

As much as I like the handling and performance, the cabin electronics are a real letdown. The placement of the iPod cable makes it very inconvenient to use that source, and the lack of a USB port or Bluetooth audio streaming rules out two other major sources. A few optional features help the Juke achieve a mere rating of average for cabin electronics overall.

Tech specs
Model 2012 Nissan Juke
Trim SV
Power train Turbocharged direct injection 1.6-liter four-cylinder, continuously variable transmission
EPA fuel economy 27 mpg city/32 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy 27.9 mpg
Navigation Optional flash-memory-based system with traffic
Bluetooth phone support Standard
Digital audio sources iPod integration, satellite radio
Audio system Base six-speaker system, optional Rockford Fosgate seven-speaker system
Driver aids Optional back-up camera
Base price $19,990
Price as tested $22,515

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