Turbocharged, all-wheel drive vehicles have a special place in the hearts of Mitsubishi owners. We always want to give them them the benefit of the doubt. We can see the potential. Which is perhaps why the only positive things I can remember anyone saying in the thread on the Mitsubishi forum where I first saw a picture of the Nissan Juke have to do with the powertrain.
The Juke has one of the most polarizing designs of any vehicle in recent memory. People either love it or hate it. And we’re finding, in the four months we’ve owned ours, far more people seem to love it. Almost weekly, someone stops Vanessa to ask her about her car. Those great big headlights draw them in. They ooh and aah at the red, motorcycle-inspired center console. And they get excited when she tells them it’s a low US$20k vehicle as they’re looking at it. It might be built on the same platform as the Cube and Versa, but the Juke is nothing like it’s more dowdy cousins.
This is a Story About Our First Road Trip
And why I’ve fallen in love with the Nissan Juke. Pictures taken mostly in and around Creede, Colorado, on the Bachelor Loop road.
The Juke had scarcely more than 4,000 miles on it when we loaded up the in-laws and hit the road north out of Phoenix for Creede, Colorado, nearly 600 miles away, to see Vanessa’s brother Patrick act on-stage at the Creede Repertory Theatre. The first leg of the journey was Interstate 17 north out of Phoenix, which climbs a mile and a half into the sky over the course of less than 140 winding, divided 4-lane asphalt.
A little information about our Juke before we really get into it, “Frogger,” as Vanessa is calling it, is a mid-level SV model, meaning he’s front-wheel drive with the CVT (automatic) gearbox. The 1.6L direct-injected, turbocharged four cylinder is rated 188hp @ 5600rpm, 177lb-ft of torque @ 2000rpm, and the center stack allows for remapping the throttle and CVT for sport, normal, and eco modes. More on these later. In this trim level, the Juke is rated 24/31 mpg, city/highway. Back to the road trip.
The last time I drove I-17 in a 1.6L Nissan, it was a 1998 200SX SE, which regularly required me to grab 4th (sometimes 3rd) gear and pray I didn’t have to let up on the throttle, lest I spend the next four hours trapped behind a row of semis crawling up the rim at 10mph. Not only did the Juke handle the climb with aplomb, let’s just say this sprightly little runabout devoured the road. We were passing everything in our path at 85mph, and my in-laws in the backseat had nary a comment on how fast we were going.
Upon reaching Flagstaff, we were down half a tank, so I figured a fill-up and stretch-of-the-legs was in order. A little bit of math at the pump revealed we got just 17mpg (13.84 L/100KM) on the first leg. I know, that sounds pathetic, but consider the turbocharged 1.6L had just climbed 5,800 feet at 80-90mph with four adults and luggage aboard without a single complaint. I remained optimistic as we made our way out of FLG on AZ 89 toward Tuba City, Kayenta, and Monument Valley.
With the bulk of the climb out of the way for a while, I switched to eco mode on the center stack, at which point the Juke seemed to take an average reading of what my foot was doing on the right pedal (when I wasn’t using cruise control), smoothing out the throttle inputs, and I watched the DTE (distance to empty) reading on the instrument cluster actually climb over time.
It was almost unreal, here we were, still doing 75-85mph, fully loaded, with the air conditioning on, a window or two down, and the occasional need to do a 50-90mph, multi-car passing maneuver, and it was like we weren’t burning any fuel at all. Next stop, in Kayenta, I did the math again. 30mpg (7.8 L/100KM)!
I know the backseat isn’t the best, but I didn’t hear so much as a peep from my in-laws back there the whole time. And, sitting in the driver’s seat, watching the incredible, rugged beauty of the desert southwest rise to meet me and linger in the rear view mirror, I couldn’t tell you the last time I’d enjoyed a road trip this much. The Juke is just that nice to drive on the open road.
In seemingly no time at all, we arrived in Creede, nearly 9,000 feet above sea level, where the air was thin and the stars were thick in the sky above. I’m sure the Juke was breathing just as heavy as we were at this altitude, but all I could think was, “Hey. Turbocharged engines just love the cold air.” This car felt nearly as peppy in the Rockies as it did down in the Valley of the Sun.
In Creede, we met up with friends who it turned out had rented a Nissan Versa for the weekend, which I found particularly interesting, given the Juke is built on the same platform (along with the Cube). In climbing the fairly steep hill behind the Juke in the picture above, I simply left the CVT in ‘normal’ mode.
With four of us inside, the Juke made its way up the incline with only a hint of wheelspin (which traction control ably handled) and I had to keep a light foot to not crest the blind hill at something ridiculous like 45mph in a 15mph zone. The four of our party following in the Versa, however, had to back up and take a running start at the hill, floorboarding the little econobox to crawl up the hill as they watched both tachometer and speedometer grind to a halt. (They barely made it.)
There were a couple instances on this road – the Bachelor Loop – where the Versa really struggled, while I fought the urge to try flicking my wife’s new car around the bends like I would my own 20-year old Mitsubishi Galant VR4. As nearly every other vehicle we came across on this scenic drive was a full-sized 4WD turbo diesel truck, I wondered how easily the (unfortunately not available in the US) diesel Juke would have handled this trek.
The Bachelor Loop wound its way up into the sky, a narrow dirt thread stitching together golden Aspens, whispering pines, and solitary meadows. Deer, startled by the sound of all season radials on gravel, regularly appeared out of nowhere. I know we had something on V’s iPod playing in the background, but I was taken by the sound of dirt under tire, the smell of pine on the breeze through all four open windows, and the warm sun pouring in through the open moonroof.
Our little Nissan parade made its way up, over, and around, past some of the coolest homes and ranches we’ve ever seen (some with helicopter landing pads). When we came out on the other side, we’d indeed made a loop. We looked down at Creede from what must have been a good 2-3,000 feet (6-900M) above and were gobsmacked at just how much we’d climbed. After that initial ascent, it was mostly a Sunday drive in the country.
As the sun rose on our last morning in Creede, I thought about how much I would miss this tiny mountain town once we left. The air was clean, nobody locked their doors, dogs and deer roamed the streets wild and free. At night, the only sound was the creek running through town. If someone fired up a car or truck to go somewhere, you could pinpoint their location from your back porch and then watch as they left town. It was that quiet.
For a time, the Juke got 99.9mpg (2.3 l/100km) on the way home, as much of it was simply coasting downhill for miles on end. Ultimately, we caught up with local rush hour traffic – a couple hundred head of sheep being herded (with dogs, no less) right down the only road in/out of the area. We were stuck in traffic, eager to get home, but entirely comfortable in the Juke.
Maybe it was the destination. Maybe it was the company. This long weekend spend bombing through the Four Corners region and climbing up into the sky in the Rockies, where I averaged eight hours a day over a long weekend behind the wheel of my wife’s Nissan Juke, was one I’ll not forget.
I know the Juke has polarizing looks. I know most enthusiasts would rather have in rear- or all-wheel drive with a stick shift (c’mon, Nissan), but getting to spend that much time behind the wheel that weekend, in such a variety of environments, I really came to love this thing. It’s got it’s idiosyncrasies like any other new model, but the all around sheer enjoyment of driving our Juke far outweigh them, in my opinion.
EDIT: If you’d like to learn more about the Nissan Juke, well, you’re on the internet. You know how to use Google by now, but maybe you’re thinking about this road and Creede, Colorado. And since there’s a risk of ending up a crappy band site if you Google it wrong, Here’s the official Creede website. Take a look around. It’s a great little town.
- Would you like us to do more new model stories?
- How about road trip stories, tips, and tricks?