(Speaking of No-no’s, our recent review of the Infiniti Q50S headline spelled out “infinity” in big, bold letters. Several readers took us to task over it. The buck stops here; our apologies. Hush, hush hint: It’s Johnny’s fault! He’s the English teacher.)
JOHN: Wait, my fault? That is how you spell “Infinity” in English. Ending it with an “i” is a car thing, so I am blaming you. Ow! I should have known better.
Back to the Nissan. First impressions? It looks like a frog. Sorry, I always try to say nice things about cars and play down the things I think are less than perfect, but the Juke looks like a Frog, or some other insect creature. Your thoughts, dear?
LAURIE: Whenever we meet our readers, we always ask them what they think about our column. Invariably they say, “You always say nice things about the cars you review.” If you listen(ed) to our radio show on Thursday mornings at 10:00am Eastern Time, log onto http://www.blogtalkradio.com/westchesteronthelevel, then you heard John “Bugsy” Lawlor, our resident car expert and Technical, Spiritual and Menu Advisor of NPR Radio’s Car Talk, say there aren’t any bad cars these days—at least, not like in the olden days. Technical advancements spurred on by competition have seen to that. So, we really don’t have reason to harbor any negative comments; until now that is. I won’t go so far as to say the Nuke Juke Nismo is Abysmo because there’s a lot going for it. That is, once you manage to get in.
JOHN: I am hoping that driving the car improves my first impression. Really, I am.
LAURIE: And I’m hoping for world peace, honey. Tell our readers about the problem we had with this car.
JOHN: If you are slim, 35 and under, and fairly agile, this might be a car that attracts you. Why slim and agile? Because the bucket type seats have an incredibly hard bell curve side to the seat on both the driver’s and passenger’s side that make it very difficult, and dare I say painful, to get into the car. Getting out was just about as bad and I noticed our car. With only 7,000 miles, the hard bell curved sides are revealing a worn spot in the leather at the top of the bell curve. This has been caused by people sliding in and out of the seats; and painfully no doubt.
LAURIE: Getting in and out of this car is indeed painful and there is literally no way to get around it. The sides of the bucket seats are composed of some material that make the hard ridges difficult, almost impossible to slide over. What’s more, there’s no head clearance, even when you have the seat positioned as far down as it will go, so you not only have to stoop to get in, but you have to crunch to get over the virtual hurdle. When you get out, it’s even worse—and I have a black-and-blue mark on my thigh to prove it. Look, we are big Nissan cheerleaders. We were over the moon in our review of the Nissan Pathfinder, the Nissan Rogue and the Nissan Versa. This Nissan Juke Nismo, I just don’t get. But then again, maybe Johnny’s right—we’re not under 35 and slim anymore. Well, maybe… in our minds.
JOHN: In whose mind? Ow?
SUV’s and Crossovers have gotten very popular. Why do you think this one will attract a following?
JOHN: I am back to the ‘hip’, whatever that means, young crowd. This is their car – a different type of ‘style’: sporting, little, easy to maneuver in traffic and parking lots, several really nice features – like stereo, back up camera, Bluetooth, and GPS. This is a statement car for the ‘Young and Restless’, in my opinion; and that’s all that it is, an opinion.
LAURIE: Anyone who collects Matchbox die cast Adventure City cars will be drawn to the Nismo. What’s a Nismo, anyway? Well, I’m here to tell you. It’s a clever melding of “Nissan” and “Motorsport.” Hence, Nismo. And the method behind Nissan’s madness is that the Nismo is supposed to give a car buyer “the motor sport experience.” At first, I thought it was the brother of Captain Nemo, who roamed the ocean deep in the Nautilus in Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” Nismo, Nemo…get it, Johnny?
JOHN: Laurie, you gotta love her. Ow!
‘Practical’ is a word often used to define a vehicle like this. How does that definition fit this vehicle from your perspective?
JOHN: Well, size-wise; mileage-wise, parking-wise, I think I could say “Yes, it’s practical.” But if I don’t like getting in and out of the car, I’m not going to drive it as much as I might normally, so, “No”, practical doesn’t fit the definition for me.
LAURIE: Let’s be fair. This car had a great back-up camera and screen and a nice sound system. But once you got in, there was another problem, and that was, the car we drove had a standard transmission. That meant, when you had to put your foot on the clutch to change gears, your thigh rode over that hard ridge along the entire left side of the seat. More pain. Plus, with manual seat controls, it was difficult to adjust. Nissan, we love you—but I’m sorry, I just can’t get past the seats.
JOHN: My thigh didn’t ride over the ridge. Why do you think not? Ow! Just an observation, dear. Ow!
Who buys this kind of vehicle and why?
JOHN: Young people. Young people who like great stereos and straight shifts. Young people who also use Bluetooth. Young people whose butts don’t drag across the seats when they get in and out. That’s who I think would buy it.
LAURIE: No one I know.
JOHN: We don’t have a lot of young, skinny friends, do we? We do, however, live in a great place for retirement and beautiful scenery. Come to think of it, this is the first Juke I have seen in the area.
What features in particular set this one apart from others?
JOHN: This one had a 6-speed manual transmission, and it was pretty flawless. The clutch was easy on old, athletically worn knees, and the power was there for a car this size. Sixth gear on the open highway was quiet and powerful. Liked this feature a lot. I would have to say the styling sets this one apart as well. For those of you who are as old as I am, you remember the Edsel. It was panned overall, but those who loved them and bought one, got a treasure – especially if they kept it until today in pristine condition. The Juke is not my choice for superior styling, but again, I am in my 60’s. This style appeals to younger people I think, with a flair for the modern.
JOHN: Laurie, you gotta love her. Wait I already said that. Ow!
What about value, comfort, and safety?
JOHN: At $20,250 MSRP, this could be a value. It did come with a great stereo system, Bluetooth, rear view camera, cruise control, and a good GPS system, all pluses in my book. If you want one, and really like it, that number might not keep you from buying it for sure. Comfort? Once you are in the car, the seats were comfortable for the driver, although there were not many adjustments to the seat – only back and forth and the reclining angle of the seat were obvious. The back had nice seats without the bell curve butt beater, but the legroom was limited unless you were a small person. For safety, it has the airbags, the seat belt, and the rear view camera – pretty basic these days, but definitely the things that would help you the most.
LAURIE: I’m done.
JOHN: You were done three questions ago. Ow!
JOHN: The fact that it isn’t the car for me shouldn’t mean it couldn’t be the car for someone else. If you are looking for a small, standout, not your average car design, then the Juke is something you might want to consider.
LAURIE: Nissan’s got some of the greatest sports cars, SUVs and crossovers, vans and sedans on the road today. So what if there’s the occasional hiccup with the Juke Nismo. If you fix those seats, Nissan, and give me a Nismo with an automatic transmission I know I’d like it much better. I mean, 28 mpg city and 34 mpg highway is pretty good. Heck, I might even call it Captain Nismo.
JOHN: Have I told everyone lately that this wonderful woman drives me crazy?
* * *
John and Lurie are a married couple in their “sensational sixties” who talk about today’s hottest, newest cars—and still manage to go to bed without getting angry at one another at night.
John and Laurie Wiles have a combined driving history of ninety-five years. Laurie is one of only thirty-six journalists who are members of the prestigious New England Automotive Press Association (Tom and Ray Magliozzi, hosts of National Public Radio’s “Car Talk” among them.) Since 1998, Laurie has test-driven and reviewed over eight-hundred new model cars, trucks, and SUVs. John, a lifelong car enthusiast, has owned more than forty vehicles (so far.)
John and Laurie recently got the idea of combining on a weekly car review. Laurie explains. “One day, a gorgeous blue Porsche Cayman pulled in the drive. Johnny slides behind the wheel, cocks an eyebrow, and says, ‘The name’s Bond. James Bond,’ like he’s Sean Connery or something. The next week, a Chevy Camaro rolls in. Johnny gets one glimpse of that muscle car and shouts out, ‘Can you say N-A-S-C-A-R?’ Once I realized he wasn’t speaking in tongues, I realized his voice, together with mine, might be fun. After all, ‘sixty is the new forty.’”
John adds, “Men and women have very different opinions about cars and I think it’s good for people to get an understanding of what a couple think about a car, and what they like and don’t like. Of course, that doesn’t mean they have to agree on everything—you know, like the way it is in a marriage.”
Laurie, whose professional name is Laurie Bogart Morrow, is the author of a dozen books, including The Hardscrabble Chronicles (Penguin Putnam) and The Giant Book of Dog Names (Simon and Schuster. John is a retired program manager in the National Defense contracting industry and a teacher in the public school system. They live happily in Pinehurst, North Carolina.