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#9

in 2012 Affordable Compact SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $15,684 - $19,221
Original MSRP: $19,990 - $26,080
MPG: 27 City / 32 Hwy
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2012 Nissan Juke Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

You know the Juke is a good performer when the automotive industry compares its performance capabilities with the Mini Cooper and Volkswagen GTI. They have good reason to. The Juke’s peppy turbocharged engine and athletic handling make it fun to drive, while optional all-wheel drive can improve its grip and provide some assurance in bad weather.

  • "No Juke is particularly snappy off the line. Acceleration picks up nicely once the turbocharger kicks in, and throttle response is peppy once underway, however." -- Consumer Guide 
  • "However, put the Juke in ‘Sport’ mode and it goes like the tiniest hammers of hell. The turbo boost jumps (check the gauge), the CVT holds the engine at higher revs and the steering response sharpens. This thing is surprisingly quick, twitchy, and what it lacks in outright velocity it makes up for with its willing, spooled-up nature." -- The Wall Street Journal 
  • "Nissan once again makes the most of its engineering ingenuity by delivering a compact crossover that performs like a low-slung pocket rocket." -- Kelley Blue Book 
  • "Performance-wise, the Juke's strong suit is handling-at least on the all-wheel-drive version we drove. Throw this compact SUV into a turn, and its ton-and-a-half of mass changes direction surprisingly effortlessly." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "The Juke ought to have the world's most annoying power delivery. And yet its powertrain combination works." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

The 2012 Nissan Juke may be small, but it’s surprisingly powerful. A 1.6-liter four-cylinder direct injection engine that produces 188 horsepower comes on all trim levels. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) comes standard, but the reviewer favorite is the optional six-speed manual transmission, which test drivers say is more fun to drive. All-wheel drive is optional on all trim levels, but you have to get the CVT to select this option.

The AWD system doesn’t compromise performance, but according to the EPA, it does lower fuel economy ratings to 25/30 mpg city/highway. By comparison, a Juke with front-wheel drive and a CVT averages 27/32 mpg, while the six-speed manual Juke gets 25/31 mpg.

Nissan’s Integrated Control System (I-CON) also allows drivers to customize their daily commute by choosing Eco, Normal or Sport driving modes. Eco has the slowest throttle response, while Sport is quicker. This system is well-tuned, and its display looks good too: It features a special readout in the dash that shows the three driving modes, and a small screen provides vehicle information.

  • "An excellent turbocharged four-cylinder engine provides good acceleration." -- Car and Driver 
  • "Juke's engine whirs loudly in fast acceleration and doesn't fully recede at cruise. The CVT is partially to blame here as it can allow engine speed to race ahead of road speed." -- Consumer Guide 
  • "It's also quite fast: Car and Driver notched a 7.5-second dash to 60 mph, which means-to add some perspective-that this shiny wad of chewed gum on four wheels will blow the doors off Magnum's svelte Ferrari 308 GTS." -- The Wall Street Journal 

Handling and Braking

Test drivers compare the Nissan Juke’s handling with the Volkswagen GTI and Mini Cooper, which is a huge compliment. One reviewer says it’s even more playful than the GTI. Even the base front-wheel drive Juke earns high praise for its agility, but some critics note that all-wheel drive models benefit from a more-refined suspension system and improved grip.

The Juke’s Integrated Control System (I-CON) contributes to its sporty dynamics, which firms up the steering feel in Sport mode. Still, some auto writers note that the Juke’s athletic moves come at the expense of ride quality, which can be harsh over larger bumps and road imperfections.

  • "Nimble and responsive handling." -- Car and Driver 
  • "Decent for a small, sporty car. Small bumps are absorbed well, but medium and larger ones can pound through the cabin. This is not unexpected given the car's sporty suspension tuning and short wheelbase." -- Consumer Guide 
  • "In a fast corner it takes a set and hangs on for dear, windblown life. Now check the g-meter. Wow. Somebody put a saddle on Tinker Bell." -- The Wall Street Journal 
  • "The electric assist power steering feels pretty spot on, although we'd still prefer a hydraulic setup in a car like this." -- Kelley Blue Book 
  • "The engine isn't the only sporty element of the JUKE; the vehicle handles well, too. The steering is light and quick, yet a bit numb. However, it firms up nicely in Sport mode. Nonetheless, we'd like more feel and weight, given the JUKE's sporty aspirations." -- MSN
  • "There's very little body roll and the disc brakes are pleasingly firm as well, both of which help to reinforce the feeling that the Juke's dynamics skew firmly toward hot hatchdom." -- Autoblog

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