Bottom line: It’s a niche mobile — not for everyone, not meant to be.
Ride, acceleration and handling: The 2012 Nissan Juke SL AWD easily has one of the best small-platform acceleration and handling packages available in the U.S. market. You will have to drive this one to believe it. Ride is okay, but it’s compromised by overall seat comfort.
Head-turning quotient: It’s loaded with AME (art-museum effect). You know it’s ugly. But you hesitate to say it because you think fellow onlookers might consider you unschooled in fine art. I have no such reservations. It’s ugly!
Body style/layout: The Juke is a subcompact economy hatchback crossover-utility vehicle based on Nissan’s small Cube and Versa automobiles. It is a front-engine setup basically offered with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is optional. There are three basic iterations — base S, mid-scale SV and top-of-the-line SV.
Engine/transmission: The Juke continues to run with a base 1.6-liter, 16-valve, gasoline-direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder engine (188 horsepower, 177 foot-pounds of torque). A six-speed manual transmission is standard. An automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT) is optional and was installed in the model driven for this column.
Capacities: There is comfortable seating for four people. Cargo capacity is 10.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 35.9 cubic feet with those seats folded. Fuel capacity is 13.2 gallons (premium gasoline is recommended).
Mileage: You do average 27 miles per gallon in the city and 32 on the highway. But this is a high-compression small engine requiring premium gasoline for best performance.
Safety: Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front, solid rear); four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; emergency braking assistance; electronic brake-force distribution; electronic stability and traction control; and side and head-curtain air bags.
Safety complaints: Lots of complaints on this one from different drivers about front fender and headlamp design obstructing vision.
Pricing: The base price on the 2012 Nissan Juke SL with optional all-wheel drive and continuously variable transmission is $23,900. Dealer’s invoice price on that model is $22,656. (You can save $500 by going with the standard six-speed manual transmission.) Price as tested is $26,450, including $2,290 in options (sport-package trim, navigation system and other cosmetics) and a $760 destination charge. Compare with Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Chevrolet Sonic.