Expectations For Fuel Economy - 2011 Nissan Juke Long-Term Road Test

2011 Nissan Juke Long-Term Road Test

2011 Nissan Juke: Expectations For Fuel Economy

October 21, 2011

nissan_juke_fuel.JPG Alright, so you've got a Juke. It's small (it's 15 inches shorter than a 2012 Civic). It weighs just 3,170 pounds. It's got a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. You might think that this would be a good recipe for high fuel economy. But right now our Juke is averaging just 22.3 mpg.

By itself, 22 mpg isn't a terrible number. But compared to the EPA combined estimate of 27 mpg, it's well off the pace of what we're "supposed" to be getting. If you turn that into a percentage, our Juke is only at 85 percent of its EPA target. That's one of the worst figures for our fleet right now. For reference, our Ford Mustang, the king of burnouts and hooligan driving and 3.73 gears, is still at 83 percent of its EPA combined target.

I don't have an explanation for why this is. Some cars in our fleet do really well for matching EPA combined (Mazda 2, Fiat 500 and Jetta). Others don't, like our Juke and Optima (84 percent). Maybe it's a turbo thing. But our Mini Countryman is at 90 percent. Our Volvo S60 is 95 percent.

But if I had to guess, I'd say it's the combination of a few different things. For one, I've noticed with our turbocharged long-term cars over the years that you can get pretty good fuel economy if you stay out of the boost. Our old GTI was like that, too. But because our Juke's turbo 1.6-liter engine just doesn't have much torque on its own, you almost have to have the turbo spooled up in order to get acceptable acceleration.

Actually, this is pretty noticeable when you select the Econ driving mode. Jay once called this the "suck" mode. And it's true. There's a noticeable difference between this mode and the Normal mode when accelerating from a stop. In Econ, the Juke builds rpm a little (maybe to 2,500 or so) and then drops back down in rpm and out of boost pretty quickly for better fuel economy. Press on the throttle and hardly anything happens. In normal mode, the Juke might go to 3,000 and then hold it there longer (all possible because of the CVT). The turbo is up to speed, and it drives just fine. It's even more responsive in the Sport mode, where the throttle adjustment is even more aggressive.

Maybe the EPA ran its test of the Juke in the Econ mode. Maybe everybody in the office is driving our Juke in Sport mode. Maybe we've only done a lot of city driving and no long trips, and that's hurt the car's average. But even when I'm driving our Juke normally (and in Normal mode) I'm only seeing 22 or 23 mpg.

I've probably expended too much thought on this already. I like our Juke, and the positives of snappy acceleration and a fun spirit greatly outweigh mediocre fuel economy. But I suspect the average Juke owner, having bought a little car and seen the official EPA numbers, will be disappointed in his or her actual mileage from real-world driving.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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