A trip south to downtown San Diego from our Los Angeles headquarters is just over 120 miles. Or in Nissan Juke terms (with yours truly behind the wheel), that's around three-quarters of a tank down the notoriously traffic-clogged Interstate 5 highway.
Only if I kill the air conditioning, set the amusing I-Con system to "Eco", and play coy with the throttle, will the thirsty little 1.6-liter drink maybe half its 11.8-gallon premium fuel capacity on the way to America's Finest City. And that's being generous with an absolutely desolate path ahead and cruise control pegged at 72 mph. A Santa Ana tailwind always helps out, too.
Keeping the Juke's instant mpg gauge above 20 mpg is as tricky as juggling three Penns while standing on one leg. Sometimes you nail it, but most of the time you fail horribly. So far during my 4000-plus miles, I've managed to eek out 23.6 mpg. The EPA says I should be getting around 287 miles per tank. How could all this be, you ask?
One likely reason has to do with the fuel-sapping all-wheel drive system. Even with onboard technologies like a continuously variable transmission, direct-injection, and a small turbo designed specifically to boost power while minimizing fuel consumption, the Juke continues to suffer from the adverse affects of all-wheel power.
As it usually goes, the more wheels you power, the less efficient the vehicle becomes. Nowadays, AWD efficiency in general has been on the uptick, but in the case of our Juke, the decent 25 mpg city/30 mpg highway/27 combined fuel economy numbers simply haven't translated to the road during its three months of service.
Granted, there is also this other real-world explanation to consider when speaking of miles per gallon: Although it may look like a laboratory experiment gone wrong, the Juke is undoubtedly a fun crossover to drive.
Somewhere in process of creating a vehicle for the young, securely employed, and at times adventurous urbanite, Nissan's engineers underestimated their customers' affinity to partake in spritely driving. Hints of frugality go quickly out the door once a peppy, spool-happy mill and a responsive chassis are introduced to the vehicle equation, no matter the driver and his/her intentions.
I can't get into a Juke (long termer or not) without wanting to ring-out the four-banger to its 6600 rpm redline. Then I have to push it aggressively into a bend as if my last name were Vettel. Frugality can't be a reality at this point in a Juke. It begs to be played with, albeit at a slower, top-heavy performance level.
Sure, go ahead, call me ridiculous. To which I say: Go test drive an SL AWD for an extended time and be prepared to sport a wide grin on your face as the digitized torque distribution indicator flashes furiously before your eyes. You'll be entertained, to say the least.
Each time I strap in, I find myself wanting the drone-happy CVT to shift into an actual mechanical gear (the CVT gets old fast). Even better would be a six-speed manual option on the AWD variety. But until such a Juke exists, I'll have to be satisfied with a crossover that rewards its driver with more than a few unexpected smiles, and some less than impressive mpgs.