Among the most well-worn buttons on our Juke's innovative I-CON (Integrated Control) display is the one labeled Sport. In the Juke, the piano black piece is a means to a more responsive throttle, weightier steering, and a transmission that holds its "gears" near the 1.6-liter's redline. Nissan describes the mode as giving a "more intense performance feel." I call it How It Should Be mode, or, put simpler: Normal mode.
Rarely during my traffic-filled commute on L.A.'s city streets has the Juke ran in either of its two other "D-Modes" -- Eco, which conserves fuel by numbing or reducing all the aforementioned Sport variables, and Normal, which serves as a sort of middle ground between the pair. According to my impatient right foot, both alternative modes are rather boring and are best saved for mall parking lots where responsiveness counts for little.
Sport perfectly matches the Juke's spunky, energetic, and unique personality with equally zesty ECU settings. True, I gain some range with Eco or Normal turned on, but to me, the lack of a palatable fun-factor isn't worth the hassle of commanding a powertrain that feels as if it's set to Molasses. And as I've made clear in prior updates, mpgs are hard to come by in the Juke regardless of how it's driven; it's thirsty, to say the least.
My preference in driving mode brings me to a point that has gained momentum as of late: The Juke should offer drivers a higher level of sportiness than the current button can produce. While the Juke's simplistic engine/drivetrain/interior formula and surprisingly versatile abilities have made it a worldwide sales hit (Europeans, in particular, love it; they've bought around 100,000 units so far in 2011), I see two avenues from which the CUV could gain additional athleticism and international appeal.
The first would be to eliminate the existing Normal mode and allow Sport to fill the hole. Thus, all the advantages of Sport remain without the title or switch. Eco continues to keep the fuel-conscious set happy. The majority of buyers -- most of which are not of the enthusiast inclination -- would be satisfied.
The second option would be to expand the range with a performance model, something Nissan's European-based engineers and product planners are already toying with.
Over the last few weeks they've built a GT-R/Juke hybrid called the Juke-R. An overwhelming number of people love the one-off concept (it's street-legal in Europe and packs 485 horsepower). Many comments on Nissan's YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter pages are of the collective "Build it and we'll buy it" tone. Indeed, an enthusiast edition that capitalizes on such a nimble short wheelbase, all-wheel-drive platform would only help the vehicle's sales stardom.
Unfortunately, it may take another few model years for anything of the sort to happen. Until it does, the fluorescent orange light below our Juke's Sport button will perpetually shine bright.
| Our Car |
| Months/miles in service || 7/12,540 |
| Avg econ/CO2 || 23.5 mpg/0.83 lb/mi |
| Energy cons || 143 kW-hr/100 mi |
| Unresolved problems || None |
| Maintenance cost || $110.43 (oil/filter change, rotate tires, inspection) |
| Normal-wear cost || $0|