Last week we established that the Juke isn't exactly an SUV in the real sense of the term. It's a jacked-up hatchback that's smaller than a Golf GTI. So does it drive like a hot hatch? In a word, yes. Actually, no. Make that a warm hatch. And the direct injection, turbocharged 1.6-litre engine isn't to blame. It develops a neat 187bhp and a useful 240Nm of torque. Paired with the AWD system it feels reasonably peppy in a straight line. It reaches 100kph from standstill in 8.4 seconds andthe needle will eventually knock the speedo at 198kph.
But let's start with the AWD system which not only serves up torque to the front and rear axles on demand, it can also flit the twist between the two back wheels. In theory this means that sensors constantly monitor a variety of parameters — such as vehicle speed, steering angle, lateral G-forces, yaw rate and so on — to distribute torque accordingly and quell understeer. It's fantastically complex and actually completely unnecessary. Partly because the Juke isn't high enough for any meaningful off-roading, but mostly because there isn't enough power to disorientate the front wheels, even at full tilt. The four-wheel drive system only brings extra weight to the party.
Overall though, it's still a sporty little thing. Sure the steering or the chassis don't douse you in feedback, but the Juke feels light and nimble on its feet. It's a fun car to drive.
The elephant in the room though is that CVT. The Juke has all the makings of a good driver's car, but is hobbled by that annoying ‘gearbox'. The engine's great, but the CVT does disservice to it.
In Sports mode, which is activated via the D-mode button on the centre console, it holds the revs, resulting in the typical featureless CVT drone. Manual shifts are half-hearted, and the gearbox seems to slack off for a round of Sudoku between changes. I could go on… But there's a solution. The Juke is available with a six-speed manual transmission and that's the one to buy if you're after driving fun. And my hunch is there is plenty to be had here.
Driven by Amit
Start mileage 4,840km
Recent cost Fuel
Average fuel economy 12 litres-per-100km
Highs The cabin is a nice place to be
Lows Not the most spacious car around