New & Used Nissan Juke: In Depth
Angular Front Exterior View - 2014 Nissan Juke 5dr Wagon CVT S AWDEnlarge Photo
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It may be only a compact, but the Nissan Juke is by far one of the most unusual, distinctive designs--some would say downright bizarre--on the market today. It's a compact crossover utility vehicle, of sorts, with all-wheel drive as an option for bad-weather states. But it's the unconventional styling, making it stand out on the road, that's likely to be its biggest selling point.
While its underpinnings come from the prosaic Sentra, the quirky, brash, and bug-eyed Juke doesn't offer nearly the interior space of that compact sedan. The biggest hurdle buyers will have to conquer is its remarkably poor fuel economy when fitted with all-wheel drive. That's one of the reasons for buying a small car, isn't it? The Juke is more an urban fashion accessory than a utility vehicle--and even several years later, it can startle bystanders. That's a good thing to at least some of the Juke's intended audience; it's not quite like anything else on the roads.
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.
Despite a platform shared with the tall Cube as well, the Juke is built to be a sporty car. The engine, a turbocharged 1.6-liter four, may not always produce all the power that its 188-hp rating suggests—drivers have to learn to rev it—and it's far from quiet, but the acceleration is strong once you get there. We prefer the six-speed manual to the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), even though the latter comes with simulated 'gears' that you can click between. All-wheel drive is available, but solely with the CVT.
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.
For the 2011 and 2012 model years, the Juke was 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 the hotter Juke Nismo took until 2014 before arriving. The Nissan Juke Nismo gets more power from its turbocharged, direct-injected 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, along with an even more firmly tuned suspension to go with its specially-developed torque-vectoring system.
Competitors for the Nissan Juke include the Kia Soul and Fiat 500L tall wagons, the MINI Countryman, and probably the slightly larger Subaru XV Crosstrek hatchback. Next year, the segment will expand further to include the Jeep Renegade and the Fiat 500X, two related subcompact crossovers that will likely boost sales of very small crossovers considerably. This type of car may well have been pioneered by the Suzuki SX4, but that maker pulled out of the U.S. in 2012.