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Long Term Update 2: 2011 Nissan Juke SV


"Fuel" and "economy" don't really mix when it comes to the Juke. Under numerous circumstances, with an equally diverse group of drivers behind its 370Z-esque wheel, the Juke's 1.6-liter "enjoys having a torrid love affair with fuel," as associate online editor, Benson Kong, best put it.

How passionate is said affair? Very. On one occasion, a staffer drove 176 miles on a single tank of its required premium brew. Granted, range, like average fuel economy, depends largely on driver inputs. But still, 176 miles? Some motorcycles can do that on one gallon. Bottom line, it takes a lot of work, plus a 15 mph tailwind, to attain the EPA-rated 25 city/30 highway mpg ratings. But it can be done.

Case-in-point: this past Fourth of July holiday weekend, Kong and his younger sister drove the Juke 600 miles from Orange County to Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California and then back. With air conditioning blowing cool air in their faces and stereo system blasting their ears at maximum volume, he squeezed a staffer-best 289 miles from one tank of fuel. On another fill-up he attained 28 mpg on average -- that's slightly better than the EPA combined fuel rating of 27 mpg. Amazing.

The secret to his success, Kong noted, is to drive "very very carefully." Gentle acceleration runs, even gentler braking stops, and as much coasting as humanly possible helped quell the Juke's thirst, he said. And mind you, the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway they traversed is replete with steeply raked hills.

Kong made sure to point out two items he liked best during his recent his road trip. First were the front seats that offer "adequate bolstering and support without being too uncomfortable. But, the Seat material could be a lot better." Next were the exterior mirrors. Yes, the rear facing glass that every vehicle on today's roads has. "This little Nissan, with its side mirrors extended like Fiona's ears (from Shrek), serves up great visibility, so I'm never second-guessing myself when changing lanes on a busy street. Unlike, say, in a Corvette."

Admittedly, over the past three months it has occupied a space in our fleet, we've had a lot of trouble driving the Juke "carefully" -- even when we really want to. It's just too much fun not to spur hard. "Sport Mode" is more like normal mode. "Eco Mode" anesthetizes the Juke's vivacious personality more than we'd like. Thus, fuel economy takes a back Seat to enjoyment.

In searching for ways to adequately describe this vivaciousness, associate editor Scott Evans turned to his off-roading experience. "It's sort of like driving a dune buggy on the streets. It rolls a bit when you turn, but it hangs on with a surprising grip, and the little engine actually makes you feel like you're moving quickly once the turbo spools."

The Juke may not combine "fuel" and "economy" very well, but it does love purging "FUUUN" from many drivers' lips. And as such, we'll happily keep filling the tank, time and time again.

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