Nissan's all-new 2011 Juke has the subtlety of an atom bomb. Even cast against the increasingly avant-garde crossover segment, the Juke looks downright alien. Its styling is said to evoke rally cars and motorcycles (the center console resembles a fuel tank), but from our staff the face elicited comparisons begrudgingly accepting (Isuzu Vehicross) and downright hateful (Pontiac Aztek).
While the design is the most polarizing aspect, we reached agreement on performance. The 2011 Nissan Juke's turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-four produces an eager 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. With the continuously variable automatic buzzing the engine's top speed incessantly, the front-drive Juke we tested accelerated to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds, and through the quarter mile in 15.2 seconds at 91.9 mph, which is right on par with the Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T, mind you. Stopping distance is equally impressive, at a best of 124 feet from 60 mph.
Handling proves to be more fun than the torsion beam rear suspension would lead you to believe. (All-wheel drive models get a more sophisticated multi-link setup.) Around our figure eight, the Juke put down a best lap of 27.3 seconds and an average lateral acceleration of 0.85 g. That's 0.7 seconds slower than the aforementioned Genesis Coupe, but in the same territory as the Mazda3 hatchback and Volkswagen Golf. Credit is due to the Juke's low 2932-pound curb weight, an anomaly welcome not only in the crossover segment but also in a new-for-2011 vehicle.
For its $22,310 as-tested price, our Juke delivers an impressive array of features. Bluetooth and iPod integration work delightfully well, and the optional navigation system far outperforms what its $800 price tag would suggest.