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The 2011 Nissan Juke

Well, I don’t really know if you can cube a Cube or not, but you’ve got to admit it makes a neat headline. And if you could cube Nissan’s boxy compact Cube, maybe you’d end up with something like the new Juke. A jukebox it’s not—unless it’s one with the corners all chiseled down like a bar of soap left in the tub too long. I don’t believe there’s a straight line to be found anywhere on Nissan’s newest—this is their description, not mine—sport cross.

You can plainly see from the photo that it’s distinctive looking. I’ve been trying to find the right words to describe the styling, and have so far narrowed it down to these: amphibious (I’m seeing a bit of bullfrog in both the face and the hind end); canine (the head-on frontal view also reminds me of what my dad would have called a yip-yip dog); interesting (in the way of the old Chinese proverb “May your life be interesting”). None of these, mind you, are bad things. There’s a hilarious Family Guy video on YouTube titled “Bullfrog.” Two of my nieces have chihuahuas and they’re adorable. And I’ve overheard friends of my wife telling her, “Your husband is very interesting.” When I first saw a Juke, I thought it was a joke, but it’s since grown on me. There’s something to be said about a vehicle which is ultra-easy to find in the mall parking lot without having to stick a tennis ball on the radio antenna.

But the Juke isn’t all about looks. It’s really a nifty little car…er, sport cross. It seats five, has four doors—the rear door handles are “hidden” according to Nissan, which I guess is supposed to make it look like a two-door?—and has a very unique-looking center console, which I find attractive even though Nissan insists is supposed to look like a motorcycle gas tank, whatever that’s got to do with anything. It has a wheelbase of 99.6 inches and an overall length of around 162 inches (more than a foot shorter than a Ford Escape). Height-wise, it’s about a half foot lower than the Escape, yet headroom is only half an inch less. Nissan doesn’t say what the Juke’s cargo capacity is cubic-footage-wise, other than to say the 60/40 folding rear seat increases the space. Yes, it would. Removing the rear seat—and the front passenger seat, for that matter—would also increase cargo capacity. I guess that melting bar of soap styling, which looks great from the outside, doesn’t help much on the inside.

Power for all 2011 Jukes comes from Nissan’s 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder engine, which is rated at 188 horsepower. Front-wheel drive is standard on all three series: S, SV, and SL; all-wheel drive is an option for all three. A Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) or a six-speed manual complete the powertrain. CVT-equipped front-wheel drive models are EPA rated at 27/32 miles per gallon city/highway.

There aren’t many options available. There is a navigation package (which includes as upgraded audio system); a chrome package (outside accents here and there); a sport package (better wheels, a spoiler, and stainless steel exhaust tips); and an interior illumination package (which includes 20-color interior lighting). Pricing starts at $18,960 for the S; $20,260 for the SV; and $22,550 for the SL. For reasons I don’t understand, the CVT is standard on the cheapest model, while the two higher-priced cars come with a stick shift. Moving up to the SV gets you a sunroof, and intelligent key with push button start, among other things, while moving up to the SL adds a nav system, automatic on/off headlights, heated front seats, and fog lights.

I guess you’ve got to give Nissan a hand for being different. Who says a new car has to be completely practical? Some buyers just want to stand out. And be “interesting.”

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