I finally bid my 2005 Prius adieu. It had 280,000+ miles on it, and the battery was starting to fade (for the second time). I decided that I didn’t want to be the owner of an older Prius and have to start dumping money into it. Also, since I live in snow country, I had my Prius for daily driving, and a Laforza SUV 4WD for when it was snowy. I wanted to consolidate and just have to maintain ONE vehicle for both purposes.
As I do a lot of driving, mileage was very important. I like a hatchback, so I looked around to see what was available in high-mileage 4wd vehicles. It turns out, there are not a lot of options. Still, I soldiered on and came up with a list of cars. My wife and I drove down the hill to the auto plaza in Ontario so we could test drive all of them.
On a whim, we decided to toss the Nissan Juke into the mix, even though my wife was sure I wouldn’t like it. On that basis, I drove it first to “get it out of the way”. It’s an odd looking car, has decent mileage 25/32, and AWD.
We then went on to test drive the more solid ones on the list: Mazda CX5, Subaru CrossTrek, and Jeep Patriot. I expected to like and buy the CrossTrek, from my web drooling sessions. In fact, I found it to be the most “whelming” vehicle on the list. It was okay, but didn’t really impress me in any area (performance, handling, interior, features). It did have the highest mileage, but only by one MPG, so I didn’t feel that was a differentiating factor.
The top two were, to our surprise, the Mazda CX5 and the Nissan Juke. They both had good mileage, AWD, nice interior, and lots of features (ok, so I’m a geek, I love the bells and whistles). The main difference was that the CX5 is larger and roomier, but the Juke has better performance due to it’s Turbo. I’m a bit of a leadfoot, so I chose performance over roominess.
We traded in the Prius and drove the Juke home that evening. It was certainly not the outcome we predicted, but after driving it for a couple of months (and 2600 miles), I really like the car. It handles great in all conditions, and is sporty to drive. I get an average 26.1 MPG for the most part (unless I keep my foot in it, which I really DO try not do do… really, I do!). It’s been wonderful in the snow several times, and even with the lousy factory highway tires, hasn’t needed chains or anything. I did re-adjust my “Spikes Spider” chains from the Prius for the Juke, so worst case I can whip those puppies on. If you don’t know about them and drive in the snow, you should check them out. They are really a great invention. I put my chains on or take them off in the time it takes other drivers to lay their chains/cables out on the road behind their wheels. When the tires wear out, I will replace them with all-season tires and so I expect my grip next winter to be even better.
As the Juke is fairly new to the world, there don’t seem to be any hacks/tweaks/backdoors out for it yet. The only one I have found online is a hardware hack to disable the speed reporting to the nav system so that it thinks you are stationary and lets you do anything you want. I might just have to do this, but it does entail a fair amount of dash disassembly, so I’m not really thrilled about doing it. As far as software back-doors, I have yet to hear about one.