Test Drive: 2013 Nissan Junke AWD CVT
Entry Price: $18,990
Price as tested: $29,205
This week, we're driving Nissan's EPA categorized "small station wagon," namely the 2013 Juke SL AWD with the CVT transmission. As we mentioned a few years ago when we tested Juke, the name may be aimed at younger generations, although I've seen some happy looking baby boomers riding along with a grin of satisfaction on their faces.
Nissan officially calls Juke a "Sport Cross (over)," which is a segment that seems to be growing as Crossovers get smaller and smaller. Juke's reputation lies in the fact it delivers both utility and sports car personalities and then ties them together with a 32 MPG highway EPA package. Additionally, you can park the entry level 2WD Juke S with the CVT in your driveway for just $18,990.
Assembled in Los Angeles, CA., Juke relies on a peppy 1.6-liter turbocharged 188-horse four-cylinder for power. The turbocharger helps deliver 177 lb. ft. of torque and takes care of the "sports car" ingredient of its core makeup. City fuel mileage has increased since 2011, up two more to 27 thanks to improvements in Nissan's CVT automatic. The highway EPA is 30 for an AWD while the front drive Jukes deliver 32 on the freeways. A 6-speed manual comes standard on the front drive SV only, (starts at $20,990) but our recommendation is a Juke CVT in S or SL trim. The CVT delivers better fuel mileage and also comes as standard fare on all of the AWD models.
There are some Juke drawbacks, however. Listed as a five-passenger, the rear seat is small and very tight, while legroom is next to nothing if front passengers have the front seats in the "all the way back" position. Still, children and family pets will fare well while the 60/40 rear split seat will free up cargo room when folded down.
Underneath, Juke is well-built. MacPherson struts in the front combine agreeably with a multi-link rear. The Torque Vectoring AWD 4x4 system delivers traction to the wheels as necessary, while fore and aft stabilizers and 17-inch tires on aluminum alloy wheels add to the car's sporty characteristics. As for the ride, the short wheelbase and stiffer AWD components result in a bumpy experience on rough roads, but once you're on the freeway Juke is more akin to a family sedan.
If you want to go off-road, use sense as Juke is more of a dry road performer than a rock climber. As for snow and bad weather, the AWD is a great choice.
Juke's cabin is striking, with comfortable color coordinated seating, sporty gauges, Rockford Fosgate premium stereo, MP3, XM/Sirius with traffic, push button start, iPod, Bluetooth, cruise, and steering wheel controls. Noteworthy is a standard rear safety camera with a five-inch "Color Touch" screen.
As for safety, Juke is similar to all Nissan siblings which center on overall passenger safety. Included are all the airbags, traction control, four-wheel ABS discs, electronic brakeforce, vehicle dynamics control and more. Your Nissan dealer will gladly explain all features.
Our high end tester came with three options, including carpet mats for $180, center armrest package for $245 and a sport package for $1,350 that includes a rear spoiler and 17-inch gun metal wheels. (I'd pass on the sport package).
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 99.6-inches, 10.5 cu. ft. of cargo space expandable to 35.5, 11.8 gal. fuel tank (13.2 in FWD models) and a curb weight of 3,172 lbs.
Juke may not be for everyone, but it does well in all categories and is certainly worth a test drive if shopping this segment. There's no car on the road quite like it, thanks to Nissan's use of its "real sports car" 370Z taillights, its bold front end sculpturing and otherwise forceful lines. If it could talk, it would tell everyone it's a Nissan Versa on steroids.
Middle aged to senior consumers can take solace if they test drive this unique vehicle because: A - it's fun and easy to drive; and B - it offers much for the dollar spent in entry level trim.
Likes: Engine, sporty handling, AWD, Nissan reputation.
Dislikes: Tight rear quarters, rear visibility.
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist)