The 2012 Nissan Juke five-door hatchback is an unusual beast: an upright but divisively styled subcompact crossover, with available all-wheel drive and some very cool technology inside. People either love the Juke or hate it. There's no middle ground.
Unfortunately, while subcompacts generally get good gas mileage, the 2012 Juke is the exception to that rule.
Its highest EPA ratings comes from the front-wheel drive model with the CVT--27 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 29 mpg--our road test of an all-wheel drive model returned real-world mileage between 24 and 27 mpg.
That's below the EPA combined rating of 27 mpg for that model (25 mpg city, 30 mpg highway), and some publications have gotten as little as 22 mpg. Adding to the evidence, Juke owner forums are full of complaints about the car's startlingly low fuel efficiency, regardless how economically it's driven.
These days, the low 20s would be lousy fuel economy for a mid-size sedan, let alone a subcompact like the 2012 Hyundai Accent that is rated at 30 mpg city, 40 mpg highway (for a combined 34-mpg rating).
That major flaw aside, we liked the Juke we drove when it first hit the market in 2011. Its performance and handling are a surprise and a delight, to the point where it really shouldn't be compared to other subcompacts.
The styling can only be called alien, though once you're past the bug-eyed front end, the rest of the Nissan Juke hangs together nicely and ties into the styling themes found in the brand's larger Leaf electric car.
Its 188-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine powers a lightweight body that steers swiftly and grips the road tightly despite its upright stance.
The front-wheel drive model can be ordered with either a six-speed manual gearbox or Nissan's characteristic continuously-variable transmission (CVT), which comes with paddle shifters that let the driver simulate downshifts for better performance. The all-wheel drive model, which includes a far more sophisticated rear suspension design (and a smaller fuel tank), comes only with the CVT.
From the inside, the cabin is sophisticated far beyond standard subcompact fare. The seating position is high, so it doesn't feel low to the ground and vulnerable. The I-CON control system not only remaps throttle and transmission settings to emphasize fuel economy or performance, it changes the labels and colors of some of the secondary controls from entertainment to operating information.
Unlike so many makers, Nissan keeps its navigation system affordable, and it's neatly integrated into the dashboard. Still, if you opt for all-wheel drive, navigation, and a handful of other options, you'll find the 2012 Nissan Juke nudging $25,000--a good $10,000 above base subcompacts designed more for fuel economy than for style statements.
Perhaps the Juke's real competition isn't the usual-suspect subcompact lineup of Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Ford Fiesta, and new 2012 Chevrolet Sonic, but something more individualistic--perhaps the equally unique Jeep Wrangler?
|Style||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|
|5-Door Wagon CVT AWD (3)|
|5-Door Wagon CVT FWD (3)|
|5-Door Wagon Manual FWD (2)|