Quick Drive: 2011 Nissan Juke

By Winding Road Staff

February 15, 2011

This car exceeded my expectations for being fun to drive. First of all, I really like the power delivery from the 1.6-liter four. It provides 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. The torque is noticeable pretty much immediately, and it’s almost too easy to spin the front tires. There’s a little bit of torque steer, but not a lot, and it doesn’t fight against you too much. Once the revs crest 3000 rpm, the turbocharger has spooled up, and you get a second dose of hard acceleration, and, quite often, more tire spin (we were driving in the cold, with frequent dustings of snow between stretches of dry pavement).

Switching through the gears with the six-speed manual transmission was mostly enjoyable. It’s a bit of a long throw from gear to gear. While the lever feels tall, it can still be worked quite rapidly. It almost feels like it could be some sort of rally machine when you’re tossing the shifter into place. It was also easy to select the right gear with no ambiguity, and there’s a reassuring, solid feel when the shifter lands in place.

The steering in the Juke was also very good. It felt precise and responsive, giving the car a really nimble feeling. There’s just a little bit of body roll in the corners, but it doesn’t make the juke feel unstable. There’s a decent amount of action as soon as you turn the wheel off dead center, and quick back and forth movements don’t have a sloppy feel. Plus, the wheel itself is weighted nicely—light enough to be worked easily, but heavy enough to feel solid without being distracting.

I did feel like the Juke could have used more grip, and I’m now looking forward to trying the all-wheel-drive version, as I imagine it’ll make up for the frequent loss of traction I encountered. As long as it doesn’t make the car feel too heavy, it should probably make it feel faster in the lower gears.

—John Beltz Snyder, Production Editor

While the Juke was an absolute hoot to toss about, it also featured a cool new Integrative Control system (or I-CON for short). Situated below the radio controls, I-CON integrates the climate controls along with the drivetrain controls in a nifty little package.

In climate mode, I-CON displays all relevant data on the vehicles HVAC systems. Press the D-Mode button, and the display seamlessly flips over into a performance setup, where drivers can select from three different modes (Sport, Normal, and Eco). The main display screen changes based on the current mode; Sport gets a boost gauge, Normal gets a torque gauge, and Eco sees an efficiency graph.

In Sport mode, the throttle response and steering sharpen up, giving the Juke a greater sense of immediacy. I first encountered this on the freeway, where maintaining speed was somewhat difficult with the slightly unruly turbo wanting to spool up suddenly. That being said, it was a great deal of fun on the street, as the Juke would rapidly scamper away from lights with the front wheels breaking loose.

Normal mode was just that. In this mode, the Juke was a sensible urban toy that could easily zip along through gaps in traffic. Eco mode eases the drivetrain back, while putting the climate controls in a special Eco setting. This was a good setting for the freeway, as it tamed the rather zippy engine.

My only complaint with the I-CON system is that there is no “Individual” setting, like you see on Audi’s Drive Select system. Putting the turbo in Eco mode while leaving the steering in Sport would have made for a more enjoyable driving experience overall.

While the styling might be a bit polarizing (I’m still not sure about the Kermit the Frog front end), the Juke is a hugely competent entry into stylish entry level market.

—Brandon Turkus, Test Fleet Manager

Though I don’t usually, I disagree with my Production Editor’s assessment of the Juke manual gearbox completely. The tall, long-throw gearlever felt both vague and insubstantial to me—way too like what I remember from old stick-shift pickup trucks and Jeeps. Okay, maybe that’s a bit too harsh, but I certainly didn’t feel anything “reassuring” here, nor any factor that would make me want to slam through the ratios quickly.
Of course, the turbo 1.8-liter engine offers some mighty fine incentive to shift around, as it spins fast, and made me want to just keep on accelerating. “Turbo feel” is very high here, with just the right combination of peaky boost, torque pop, and enough of a tug on the steering wheel to keep me interested. The motor makes the Juke feel a lot faster than it really is—I was constantly amazed to look down and find I was doing below sixty miles per hour, when my body was indicating far faster velocities. That’s a great characteristic if you’re into thrills more than trap times.
—Seyth Miersma, Editor-In-Chief


  • Peaky turbo motor is fun to explore
  • Stylish cabin is both functional and comfortable
  • Extroverts ahoy—funky Juke styling will get you noticed


  • Torque tends to overcome the Juke’s grip
  • Needs an “Individual” setting for I-CON
  • Introverts beware—funky Juke styling will get you noticed