Nissan Juke, 2012: Looks funny, drives fast, best buy small SUV crossover (video)

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Introduced to the North American market at the 2010 New York Auto Show, the Nissan Juke is another in the ever-evolving series of unique-looking crossover vehicles with equally ever-evolving names.

With the 2012 edition, the Juke remains the same as its 2011 debut edition — a turbocharged 1.6-liter, 188-horsepower 4-cylinder with a continuously variable automatic transmission. Nissan calls the Juke "The Bold Urban Sport Cross."

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

Like some of its rivals, including the Kia Soul and Scion xB, the Nissan Juke gets immediate attention. One national reviewer said its distinctive exterior is reminiscent of a "horned lizard." Another critic said it was stil in its "larval stage." The Juke's fans call it sporty.

During my test week, the Juke's looks were praised and panned. But more unique than how it looks is how it drives. The four-door crossover is more sports car than its combination description as hatchback and a small sport utility vehicle.

Nissan Juke, 2012: Looks funny, drives fast, best buy small SUV crossover (video) 5

The Juke has an elevated ride height, which further accentuates its precise, quick handling. With its 0-60 mph time of 7.3 seconds (it seems quicker) the Juke is among the quickest crossovers in a segment that includes the abovementioned choices as well as the Mitsubishi Outback, Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta and Mini Cooper Countryman.

My weekly driver was the front-wheel drive, top-of-the-line SL trim, which includes leather-wrapped steering and other upscale accoutrements. Base S and SV trims are also available with all-wheel drive as an option in all trims.

Standard equipment includes: 17-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, cruise control, keyless entry, air-conditioning, 60/40-split-folding rear seats, a tilt-only steering wheel, a trip computer, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.

Nissan Juke, 2012: Looks funny, drives fast, best buy small SUV crossover (video) 6

And, of course, there's the name Juke. There's a juke joint or its, juke house, where there are jukeboxes. And there's juking as in dancing or maneuvering. The Weekly Driver is assuming the latter is why Nissan chose the name, and with good reason.

Likes:

Superior handling.

Impressive power.

Comfortable front seats.

Dislikes:

The Juke is promoted as a five-passenger crossover. Good luck with that. Two average-sized back-seat occupants ride cramped. Three children can sit in the back seat, but three adults? No way.

Premium fuel required.

Small cargo area.

Plastic console parts look cheap.

Facts & Figures: 2012 Nissan Juke

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 7.3 seconds
Airbags (6): Driver and front passenger, side impact and side curtain.
Antilock brakes: Standard.
First aid kit: Not available.
Fuel economy: 25 (city), 32 mpg (highway)
Government Safety Ratings: Not tested.
Horsepower: 188.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $21,580.00
Manufacturer's Web site: www.nissanusa.com
Price As tested: $22,515.00

Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,0000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles.

What Others Say:

"Get past the styling and the compact Juke proves to be a fun little SUV." —- Car and Driver.

"If you're looking for a vehicle that performs like a racy little coupe, can tackle snow and dirt trails when asked and starts around $20K, the 2012 Nissan Juke CUV has you covered." — Kelley Blue Book

"It blends the ride height and looks of a crossover with the soul and sensibility of a hot little hatchback, making for a truly fun-to-drive machine." — MSN

"If you're looking for a vehicle that performs like a racy little coupe, can tackle snow and dirt trails when asked and starts around $20K, the 2012 Nissan Juke CUV has you covered." —- Kelley Blue Book

"It blends the ride height and looks of a crossover with the soul and sensibility of a hot little hatchback, making for a truly fun-to-drive machine." — MSN
   
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

"Too many manufacturers make too many cars that look too similar. Kudos to Nissan for trying something different. The Juke has a bad name, and it ain't pretty. But it works in a lot of ways as a speedy little crossover."

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zbYPyOlGj0&feature=plcp[/youtube]

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