New & Used Nissan Juke: In Depth
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The Nissan Juke is a compact crossover that has one of the most bizarre, distinctive designs of this decade. It has optional all-wheel drive for those who deal with less than ideal weather, and its unconventional styling makes it stick out on the road.
For more information on Juke options, prices, and specifications, see our full review of the 2014 Nissan Juke.
It may propel itself on Sentra underpinnings, but the brash, bug-eyed, and quirky Juke has less space inside than that compact sedan. And while it may make a suitable urban fashion accessory, its fuel economy--one of the reasons for buying a small car, right?--is remarkably poor when the Juke is fitted with all-wheel drive. Still, even after a few years, the Juke's looks haven't lost their ability to startle bystanders. For some buyers, that's a good thing.
Competitors for the Nissan Juke include the upcoming Fiat 500L (and a future all-wheel-drive variant of that car), the Kia Soul, the MINI Countryman, and perhaps even Nissan's own Cube, its "tall box" car whose sales have been minimal. Until last year, it would also have competed with the Suzuki SX4, but that maker has now pulled out of the U.S.
Although it's built on the same platform as the Cube and Versa, this is a sporty car. The engine, a turbocharged 1.6-liter four, might not always produce the power that its 188-hp rating suggests—it needs to be revved—and it's far from quiet, but acceleration is strong. We've recommended the six-speed manual over the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), even though the latter comes with simulated 'gears' that you can click between. All-wheel drive is available, although only with the CVT.
While the Juke surely turns heads and is very quick, it's not all that roomy or comfortable. It's possible to fit four adults reasonably well; but the front seats themselves aren't very supportive, and back-seat passengers won't be left with much of a view outward. Front seats are positioned quite high, while in back the seatback is adjustable for rake. Cargo space is also limited, at 10.5 cubic feet.
The other serious down side that we—along with most other reviewers—have noticed is the Juke's surprising thirst. While EPA ratings land at 27 mpg city, 32 highway with the front-wheel-drive CVT model and 24/31 with the manual gearbox (or 25/30 with AWD), we haven't seen higher than about 24 mpg across a wide range of conditions.
For a relatively tall car, the Juke performs well, and all will agree that what it does provide is good handling, along with a sharp, athletic driving experience. On the road, we noticed that impact harshness can be an issue in the Juke over some surfaces, although our editorial team is mixed overall on how well the Juke rides.
Over the 2011 and 2012 model years, the Juke has been offered in three trim levels, with the base model including Bluetooth connectivity, an auxiliary audio jack, power accessories, keyless entry, and 17-inch wheels. Mid-range SV models add push-button start, satellite radio, a moonroof, and automatic climate control; while top-of-the-line Juke SL models get Rockford Fosgate audio, a USB port, and a small-screen navigation system.
A handful of minor changes arrived for the 2013 model year, but we're still waiting on the arrival of a hotter Juke waiting in the wings--the Juke Nismo, seen for the first time at the 2012 Paris Auto Show. The Nissan Juke Nismo gets more power from its turbocharged, direct-injected 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, but Nissan hasn't said exactly how much more. We also expect it will get an even more firmly tuned suspension to go with its specially-developed torque-vectoring system.