2013 Nissan Juke Review

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Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
June 13, 2013

The 2013 Nissan Juke is road candy, from its zippy powertrain to its wacky looks--but tight space and low real-world gas mileage leave an aftertaste.

The Nissan Juke has only been around for two years, but it has become one of the easiest cars on the road to identify. It's one of those cars that looks like it managed to emerge from the design studio intact, as if it escaped the factory as a concept instead of waiting around to be watered down.

It's futuristic, it's definitely quirky--and it's sometimes hard to quantify. Is it a hot hatchback with some extra ground clearance? Or a crossover permanently hamstrung by a teensy cockpit and a stiff, almost sportscar ride?

It's both, and the oxymorons keep coming from all directions, even from the Juke's petite engine bay. The Juke comes with just one engine, a 188-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, and offers either front- or all-wheel drive, and a choice of manual or continuously variable (CVT) transmissions. The powertrain lends itself to city and commuter duties, but with gas mileage of, at best, up to 27 mpg city and 32 mpg highway, it's easily outpaced by the extra-large Nissan Altima sedan. The relatively light weight, rapid steering, and firm suspension combine with the advanced engine to give the Juke a sporty feel--but if you're looking for more crossover-like compliance in its ride, you're just out of luck.

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In the cabin, an LCD screen houses the I-CON control system, which remaps throttle and transmission controls to improve fuel economy or sharpen handling; the climate controls are also found on-screen. Overall materials and design are sharp and modern, with price-appropriate finishes. Optional navigation and other features can push the price toward the $25,000 mark, however.

Crossover features in subcompact proportions lend the Juke to urban uses and sensibilities, but interior room is tight for any more than two adults. With a four-passenger capacity (five can fit in a pinch), 35.9 cubic feet of cargo space (with the seats folded down), and a relatively high driving position, the Juke doesn't feel as small as it is--or as it parks--until you try to wedge in a maximum passenger count.

Updates for the 2013 model year add a new Midnight Edition accessory package, a rearview monitor on navigation-equipped vehicles, revised Rockford Fosgate ecoPUNCH sound system on SV and SL models, and a trio of new color choices. A new model, the Juke Nismo, is also due for release later this year, bringing with it more dramatic sport-themed looks and improved performance.

While the Juke certainly isn't for everyone, its unique look, compact dimensions, and sporty feel may make it just the ticket to challenge more mainstream offerings from other brands. Is this the future of the crossover? Perhaps.

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2013 Nissan Juke

Styling

The 2013 Nissan Juke turns heads--both approvingly and otherwise.

Living up to its name, the Nissan Juke zigs where the rest of the subcompact crossover market zags, and, depending on your point of view, either breaks free for the score or ends up behind the ball, wondering what happened.

The look of the Juke is all hips and bulges, swells and angles. It could even be called cartoonish. The tall, swooped fenders up front, the low-mounted headlights, blade-like turn signals, the predatory grille. Inside, it's more of the same with motorcycle-inspired gauges and shiny nylon upholstery.

But despite these odd choices on Nissan's part, there are many who love the Juke's look. It's irreverent, alternative, funky, and futuristic. There's an element of alien or insect organic inspiration throughout, at times edging up to superhero-like self-parody.

New for the 2013 Juke are three colors likely to make the offbeat design pop even more: Atomic Gold, Brilliant Silver, and Pearl White.

It's weird, it's small, it's sporty, and it's a Nissan. Consider us Juked.

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2013 Nissan Juke

Performance

More fun-to-drive and sporty than most subcompacts, the 2013 Nissan Juke lives up to its name.

With a single engine and a choice of manual or continuously variable (CVT) transmissions powering either the front or all four wheels, the Nissan Juke is a relatively simple vehicle to configure. But there are a few subtleties to its performance--some that might not be noticed even by a more experienced shopper.

The engine powering the 2013 Nissan Juke is a 1.6-liter turbocharged in-line four-cylinder, rated at 188 horsepower. Given the Juke's relatively compact size and light weight, the engine actually feels quite punchy, especially when paired with the six-speed manual transmission. The shifter in the manual is slick and positive, but manual-equipped Jukes are relatively rare.

Instead, the CVT-equipped Juke is the common model, and that's not a great thing for performance, as it tends to feel sluggish in the Juke, and the nature of a CVT holding the engine right around the middle of the rev range means it sounds a bit bizarre, too. Nissan has programmed some steps into the CVT's function to make it feel a bit more like a traditional automatic transmission, but the enthusiast won't like it any more for that.

Both transmission variants (in SL and SV models) come with the I-CON adjustable steering and transmission response system, which offers Eco (sluggish), Normal (well, normal), and Sport (which actually feels sporty). Sport mode raises the idle speed, reduces turbo lag, and sharpens steering, but it takes a bite out of the Juke's already somewhat lackluster fuel economy.

But what about that all-wheel drive system? It's not really meant for off-loading (or even soft-roading); in fact, it's barely suited to a steep driveway covered in snow. Instead, it's a performance option for street use, bringing with it independent rear suspension instead of the front-drive model's torsion-beam rear. That would make it the enthusiast's choice despite the added weight, complexity, and cost--except that it means you can't get the six-speed manual transmission at all, as it's only available in front-drive Jukes.

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2013 Nissan Juke

Comfort & Quality

With seating for four--if it must--and no surplus of cargo room, the subcompact Juke isn't spacious.

Is the 2013 Nissan Juke a subcompact hatchback or a pint-sized crossover? It's both, in a way, but the combination isn't as magical as you might hope.

The high driving position is nice, giving the Juke a commanding view of the road not common in cars of similar size. On the other hand, the small exterior dimensions translate to small interior dimensions that can leave you feeling cramped.

The rear seats, for instance, can hold a pair of six-foot passengers, but not comfortably. The rear seats are a touch too high, leaving headroom at a premium; knee room is okay, but just barely, even with the front seats slid forward; if you opt for the sunroof, you'll lose even more headroom.

The front seats, on the other hand, are pretty fair for the Juke's size, with a height and backrest adjustable driver's seat, though again head and knee room aren't abundant, but merely adequate.

Leaving the rear seats in place, cargo room is just 10.5 cubic feet, which is a touch smaller than a typical sedan's trunk. Lay down the rear seat and you'll get considerably more space, but still only about half of the volume you'll find in the Honda Fit.

The trim and materials in the cabin are a highlight, however, though they don't always quite hit the mark: shiny, color-shifting seat upholstery looks a bit cartoonish, but at the same time cool; the headliner feels just like what it is, namely, felt-covered cardboard; the plastics and switches across the dash and console are intelligently designed, but can feel a bit cheap. For a subcompact at a fairly affordable price point, some of these sins are forgivable, but at the same time, Hyundai and Kia do more with less.

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2013 Nissan Juke

Safety

The IIHS and the NHTSA don't see eye to eye on the 2013 Nissan Juke, but it does come with a strong set of standard safety equipment.

Though the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the 2013 Nissan Juke a Top Safety Pick, its highest honor, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) scores the Juke just three stars in frontal crash tests, and four stars overall.

The NHTSA does give the Juke a top mark of five stars in side-impact crashworthiness, however, and four stars in rollover resistance. The IIHS' Top Safety Pick designation carries with it top marks in front, rear, side, and rollover crash testing.

Standard safety equipment on the Juke includes the usual complement of gear: dual front airbags, side airbags, and side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control and stability control; as well as tire-pressure monitors that sound the horn when a tire is low.

Driving the Juke, rearward visibility is better than you might expect based on its short side windows and thick rear pillars. The small rear window gives a good view of what's following on the road, but in close quarters, the new rearview monitor included in navigation-equipped SV models can be very helpful.

7

2013 Nissan Juke

Features

Good standard features and plenty of available upgrades fit the futuristic 2013 Nissan Juke's image, but beware, the price can rise rapidly with lots of add-ons.

Despite its small size and funky form factor, the 2013 Nissan Juke is right in the mainstream of features and options, though you'll want to watch the bottom line, as it can grow as the extras add up.

The base model is the Juke S, which comes standard with 17-inch wheels, an AM/FM/CD sound system with auxiliary input and Bluetooth; power locks, mirrors, and windows; keyless entry; and a split-folding 60/40 rear seat.

Stepping up to the mid-range Juke SV, you get a moonroof; push-button start; satellite radio; the I-CON system; automatic temperature control; and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The SV upgrade costs about $1,600.

The top-trim 2013 Juke is the SL, which adds navigation; leather-trimmed seats; and an 8-inch Rockford Fosgate subwoofer with six upgraded speakers. New for 2013, a rearview monitor camera system is included on SV models. The SL upgrade adds about $2,300 to the SV's price.  

Optional extras include torque-vectoring all-wheel drive (though if you choose AWD, you'll have to take the CVT transmission that comes with it); on lower-tier models, navigation; USB input; and upgraded stereo options.

A new-for-2013 Midnight Edition Package is also available.

The 2013 Juke is packed with a solid selection of standard and available entertainment and other gear, plus a smattering of available appearance enhancements, but piling on the options can quickly push the Juke's price out of bargain territory.

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2013 Nissan Juke

Fuel Economy

The 2013 Nissan Juke doesn't boast great gas mileage, especially considering its subcompact dimensions.

The 2013 Nissan Juke isn't, strictly speaking, bad on gas mileage. It's just that it's not very good, either, especially in the real world.

While the EPA rates the 2013 Juke at up to 32 mpg highway and 27 mpg city (in front-drive, CVT trim), the manual model scores just 25/31 mpg and the all-wheel-drive Juke rates 25/30 mpg.

In our real-world experience with the Juke, we've seen average figures around 24-27 mpg in daily driving. That's well below the 27-29 mpg combined EPA rating, and not particularly strong performance for a subcompact with a 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder engine.

The Juke is, however, somewhat sporty, with 188 horsepower and a willingness to run free. Still, taken against competition like the Hyundai Accent (30/40 mpg city/highway) or the Ford Focus (28/38 mpg) the Juke falls short.

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April 29, 2015
2013 Nissan Juke 5-Door Wagon CVT SL FWD

Excellent luxary car for someone who needed a break from junk!

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I love this car. It can with so many amenities which is something I've never had before. I love my smart key and my push button start. I also like that I can fold down my seats for more space if needed. Things... + More »
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