New & Used Nissan Juke: In Depth
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The Nissan Juke is one of the more unusual subcompact crossovers you can buy. Some have called its styling downright bizarre, while others have praised its very sophisticated powertrain.
The Juke is nominally a crossover vehicle, since it offers 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.
Competitors for the Nissan Juke currently include the Kia Soul and Fiat 500L tall hatchbacks, the MINI Countryman, and probably the slightly larger Subaru XV Crosstrek hatchback. This year, the segment expanded further to include the Jeep Renegade and Chevy Trax. For 2016, Mazda is bringing its new CX-3 while Honda will have its Fit-based HR-V joining the fray, and the Fiat 500X, a relative of Jeep's Renegade, will also join the group. The Juke was one of the first to enter the segment, and its unique styling may help it against those more traditionally styled offerings, but competition is certainly increasing.
MORE: Read our full review of the 2014 Nissan Juke
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 on in its run, 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 road.
The Juke's size makes it a fun and interesting alternative to compact hatchbacks, but it doesn't have the packaging to back up its crossover-esque looks. Four adults can fit, but the cabin is somewhat narrow, and there's limited headroom in the rear because of the roofline. The front seats could use some more support, and their placement up high blocks the view of rear-seat passengers. Those in back are at least teated to adjustable seat-back rake, which can alleviate some height issues, but it also eats into the Juke's modest 10.5 cubic feet of cargo room.
The other serious downside 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 comes only 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. There's also a slightly more aggressive Juke Nismo RS model that takes the little crossover another step into performance land.
The Juke gets its first major update for the 2015 model year. The front and rear styling has been revised, with LED accent lighting at both ends as well as new projector headlamps. Inside, the interior has been lightly redesigned, and there is more standard equipment than before. All Jukes now include a rearview camera, pushbutton start, and the NissanConnect infotainment system, which is operated through a 5.0-inch touch screen and offers phone-to-car audio streaming, Bluetooth, a USB port, and iPod connectivity. Jukes can also be customized through the dealer with the Juke Color Studio—it offers 12 accessories in eight different colors, allowing customers to make the interesting looking little crossover truly unique, or perhaps weirder looking.