2011 Nissan Juke SL FWD Review

Front 3/4 view of silver 2011 Nissan Juke
The 2011 Nissan Juke. Beauty is as....um....

So, if a Pontiac Aztek mated with a....

Let's just deal with the appearance issues surrounding the Nissan Juke right away, shall we?

It's an acquired taste. And I haven't acquired it yet. It looks to me like maybe Nissan's styling department has decided to pay tribute to the 1977 Datsun F-10. Don't remember that one? Here ya go:

Period photo of 1977 Datsun F-10
The 1977 Datsun F-10. No, kids, this isn't the Onion. It's real.

But while the F-10 had virtually nothing to recommend it 35 years ago, the Juke is a surprisingly entertaining drive.

Sitting where you can't see the styling, you press the gas pedal and a 188-horsepower 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (with 177 pounds per foot of torque) takes off rightnow. You can shift it yourself, or as in the case of our tester, opt for the Continuously Variable Transmission, and, as we've noted before, Nissan makes the best CVTs on the market today.

The Juke backs up the go power with stopping power...vented front disc brakes and solid rear disc brakes. And for in between launch and landing, the handling is remarkably good too..with front wheel drive, speed-sensitive electric power steering, an independent front suspension, torsion beam rear suspension and front and rear stabilizer bars.

Rear view of silver 2011 Nissan Juke
The 2011 Nissan Juke's rear hints at the amount of junk that will fit in the trunk.

The tall and wide styling makes the Juke spacious for people and their things...and it's loaded with safety features like a full complement of air bags, active head restraints, seat belt pretensioners, anti-lock brakes, vehicle dynamic control with traction control system, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.

Interior of 2011 Nissan Juke

And the inside...well, stuff gets stylish (in a funky kind of way). The color accents brighten up what could be a drab cabin, and in SL trim, the Juke is very well-equipped with leather-appointed seats, steering wheel and shift knob, steering wheel controls for audio and cruise, a 6-speaker (plus Rockford Fosgate subwoofer and amplifier) AM/FM/Sirius XM/CD/mp3 audio system with USB connection and Bluetooth, navigation including XM NavTraffic with a 5-inch color screen, pushbutton start, power locks, windows and a power sliding moonroof. That's all standard for $23,050.

The test car we had for a week had only three options...stainless steel exhaust finish for $95, carpeted floormats and cargo mat for $175 and the rear roof spoiler for $390. Tack on the $750 destination charge and the bottom line is $24,455...which is a bargain for the fun-to-drive quotient. And it gets good mileage (EPA estimate 27 city/32 highway).

The question: Can you get past the looks long enough for a test drive? And if you agreed with my assessment of the car's capabilities, would you overlook its styling and buy it?  Click the comment button and let's discuss.

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