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In the Maxim Garage: 2011 Nissan Juke

Say what you will about the exterior styling of Nissan's new sport crossover, but don't call it boring. Bold or quirky, perhaps, but not boring. The automaker went out of its way to make it stand out, with circular headlights positioned below bug-eyed turn signals, boomeranged 370Z-esque taillights atop balloon fenders with standard 17-inch wheels, and sporty lines seemingly slapped everywhere. And somehow... surprisingly...it all works.

 

On a drive which took our Juke around Vancouver, it garnered attention from a wide range of gawkers—from teens shouting "cool" to an old woman who thought it looked like an "athletic shoe," whatever that means. Of course, this is in line with Nissan's mission for the Juke, so named, says the automaker, because of the vehicle's "ability to dodge obstacles, including the ordinary."

 

The unordinary continues inside, where it boasts an eye-catching high-gloss center console shaped like a motorcycle fuel tank. Tunes can be cranked via a convenient USB iPod connector and a mirror-rattling six-speaker system. The cabin itself is comfortable and claims to seat five adults, who need to be circus midgets to enjoy a rear-seat ride. (It's tight back there.) But fold the back seats down and you could easily slide in a mountain bike or several tailgating coolers.

 

Since Nissan was quick to explain that this sport cross offers "fun-to-drive performance," we put it to the test. At speeds of questionable legality (it was Canada, we can't read kilometers), the Juke sprinted its way through curvy, tree-lined roads and up hills with minimal effort, thanks to a responsive 1.6-liter, 188-horsepowered, turbocharged four-cylinder. The Juke offers two drive configurations—a front-drive version or a pricier (up to $24,550) AWD setup with "torque vectoring," which distributes power not only from front to rear but side to side across the rear axle.

 

Overall, the automaker delivers on both promises. It does offer fun-to-drive performance, and it sure isn’t ordinary.

 

SPEC CHECK
2011 Nissan Juke

Price: from $18,960
Engine: 1.6-L, turbo four-cylinder
Torque: 177 lb.-ft. 
Horsepower: 188
0-60: 7.3 sec