Nissan's funky new Juke is no box
Raise your hand if you're the kind of person who loves to strike up spontaneous conversations outside the Krispy Kreme. Or who doesn't mind the constant points and stares of fellow motorists. Or responding to a never-ending barrage of questioning that kicks-off with: "What the heck's that?" If you're OK with all of this public attention, boy do I have a car for you. Say "Yo" to the brand new 2011 Nissan Juke. Targeted at young and hip Urban Experience Seekers - Nissan's words not mine - Juke is a funky five-door sport hatch with a sub-$20-grand sticker and more personality than the entire cast of "Glee."The styling is wild. A mix of coupe and crossover, it features enormous bulging wheel arches, oddball hood-mounted turn signals and deep-set, pizza-sized, headlights. But ignore, if you can, those extreme looks. Beneath all that forced style is real substance in the form of a high-tech 1.6-liter direct-injected turbocharged four-cylinder. Packing a healthy 188-hp, this firecracker of an engine gives the lightweight Juke zinging performance coupled with 32 mpg highway economy. Opt for the six-speed manual shifter and this thing is more fun than a day at Busch Gardens. While the Juke is based on Nissan's tofu-dull Versa econobox, you'd never know it. The wheels have been pushed further apart, the suspension firmed up and the electric steering sharpened to give it the handling of a go-kart. Open the door and the funkiness continues with a center console shaped like a motorcycle gas tank, complete with high-gloss paint. But inside there's space for four and a ton of luggage. Take your pick from the base S - a deal at $19,710 - mid-range SV or leather-lined SL, front-drive or all-wheel drive, stick or CVT transmissions. Make no mistake, this is one Juke that should be music to the ears of those who dare to be different. Tampa-based auto writer Howard Walker can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.