2016 Nissan Juke Review

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Kirk Bell Kirk Bell Editor
June 27, 2016

A sporty alternative to a growing list of subcompact SUVs, the 2016 Nissan Juke is part rambunctious rally-racer, part defiantly different crossover, but it lacks the space and fuel economy of most rivals.

If you're looking for a sporty small car, and you think that standing out from the crowd is a good thing, you'll want to consider the 2016 Nissan Juke. The Juke has always been an outsider—a small crossover, with its priorities in a very different place than pretty much every other model on the market.

That has become more apparent with the recent additions of several competitors to the subcompact crossover segment, including the Honda HR-V, Chevrolet Trax, Fiat 500X, Jeep Renegade, and Mazda CX-3. Those models are all much more mainstream, while the Juke is quirky and sporty. But with its bold styling and a competitive feature set, we think the Juke will continue to find a lot of buyers willing to make some sacrifices for a vehicle that looks, feels, and is surprisingly edgy.

The Juke remains a genre-bender, blending a portion of adventurous urban crossover with a pinch of unusual performance car, seasoned with many dollops of wild design verging on modern sculpture. While it's nominally a subcompact hatchback with optional all-wheel drive—rally-racer inspired in some ways—it's also pressed to its hot-hatch potential in top Nismo RS form. And lest you forget, it's still pretty practical.

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The Juke's exterior still seems futuristic several years on. The slanted-back roofline and pert tail design all add up to a vehicle that can look coupe-like from some angles, thanks in part to the "hidden" rear door handles.

Inside, the motorcycle-inspired gauges, shiny nylon upholstery, and colorful inserts bring a look and feel that's also quite out-of-the-ordinary. To some it's those details, and the color-shifting seat upholstery, for example, that are verging on the gimmicky and cartoonish. That said, the layout and switchgear are straightforward.

With subcompact proportions and a taller roof, you might think the Juke would pack in some useful space, but there's simply not as much passenger or cargo space as that exterior suggests. It's not any more useful than a lower-riding, mainstream hatchback. The front seats have a nice, upright driving position despite the somewhat confined quarters, but in back space is extremely tight even for two (officially there are three seating positions). Those back seats are probably best left folded down to open 35.9 cubic feet of cargo space. Overall, we find the interior to be price-appropriate, though the very firm ride and still rather noisy cabin make it an acquired taste.

Like the looks, performance is tough to pigeonhole. It's part crossover permanently hamstrung by a teensy cockpit and a stiff, almost sports car ride. But it's also a far more practical take on what the younger set wants in a coupe, a step more practical than the (three-door) Hyundai Veloster.

All these contradictions keep coming in the driving experience. Most versions are powered by a 188-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4, with either front- or all-wheel drive, and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). A 6-speed manual is also offered. Keep in mind the all-wheel drive here isn't for off-roading, rather for performance, handling, and all-weather traction.

The powertrain, with the CVT, can be oddly ponderous for use around town, but drive it hard and the combination somehow adds up to something more rewarding. Beware, however, that gas mileage isn't anything to beam about. The Juke's handling—and more specifically, its light, quick steering—redeem the package, provided you're into the performance side. If you're not, we could see the Juke's rather hard ride, which bounces and bounds at times, easily becoming a reason to pass in favor of one of the Juke's softer (and blander) rivals.

Those who want to get the most amped-up version of the Juke should go for the Juke Nismo or, better yet, the Nismo RS—with both of those performance versions still offering a manual gearbox. The Nismo RS gets a top-performance version of the same engine, making 215 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. Nismo models also add nearly 100 other revised components, including exclusive lightweight alloy wheels, a specially tuned suspension, more downforce, and more aggressively bolstered sport seats.

All but the base Juke S include Nissan's I-CON control system, which lets you choose drive modes affecting the attitude for steering boost, throttle response, and CVT behavior (if so equipped) to either improve fuel economy or make it more responsive. Climate controls are changed with the same screen, and it works quite well, as do all the controls in general. Overall, the materials and design are sharp and modern, with price-appropriate—though plasticky—finishes.

The Juke is offered in S, SV, SL, Nismo, and Nismo RS models. Pricing for the S model starts at about $22,000. Standard features include 17-inch wheels, an AM/FM/CD sound system with auxiliary input, Bluetooth, Intelligent Key with keyless ignition, rearview camera, 60/40-split rear seat, and the NissanConnect system with Mobile Apps and a text message assistant. For 2016, it also adds Siri Eyes Free control of iPhones.

Both Juke Nismo models add sport bucket seats, sport trim throughout the interior (with a different shift knob and door switch panels, for instance), red stitching for the rear seats, a black antenna, 18-inch wheels, and lots of other Nismo-exclusive aero and cooling improvements for the body. The Nismo RS tops off the lineup, at abut $31,000 in all-wheel-drive form. It steps up to four-wheel vented disc brakes, a helical limited-slip differential for front-wheel-drive models, Recaro sport seats, special upholstery with leather and synthetic suede, and carbon fiber interior trim.

Factory options for the 2016 Nissan Juke are limited to an SV Technology Package (the upgraded infotainment, surround-view camera system, and Rockford Fosgate audio), an SV Cold Weather Package (heated front seats and mirrors), and premium paint.

Nissan also offers a long list of port-installed options, including gunmetal or black 17-inch alloy wheels, a rear roof spoiler, a stainless exhaust finisher, an interior illumination package, and front-seat armrests.

The Juke isn't as frugal as you might be thinking. Official EPA numbers for the Juke and Juke Nismo are 28 mpg city, 32 highway, 30 combined for a front-drive model with the continuously variable transmission, and 28/34/30 mpg for a front-drive model with the 6-speed manual. Adding all-wheel drive drops those numbers to 26/31/28 mpg.

In our experience, those figures have been tough to achieve in real-world conditions. The Juke's busy turbocharger consumes more fuel than we anticipated.

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2016 Nissan Juke

Styling

Boisterous and aggressive, with a front end inspired by rally cars, the Nissan Juke definitely stands out.

The Juke ties in the rough-and-ready looks of an amped-up rally racer with some of the utility and styling of today's smallest crossovers. Nissan calls it "a bold urban sport cross," and that's right in sync with what we see. It's futuristic, and polarizing, yet it's gained a loyal following.

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, and the predatory grille all add up to something completely different than what's offered elsewhere on the market. The slanted-back roofline and pert tail design create a vehicle that can look coupe-like from some angles, thanks, in part, to the "hidden" rear door handles.

Inside, the design features motorcycle-inspired gauges, shiny nylon upholstery, and colorful inserts. In total, the look is quite out of the ordinary. To some, those details, and the color-shifting seat upholstery verge on the gimmicky and cartoonish. That said, the layout and buttons are straightforward.

Nissan also offers a Juke Color Studio program that gives buyers more ways to customize their vehicles, with bright colors for the wheels, rear spoiler, door handles, headlamp trim, side sills, and fascia trim. These trims are sold individually, at the dealership, but can be included in vehicle financing.

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2016 Nissan Juke

Performance

The Juke is the sports car of crossovers, and NISMO models turn up the fun even more.

The 2016 Nissan Juke looks part playful and part menacing. Those impressions, quite appropriately, extend to the way it performs, rides, and drives. It's a stronger performer than other pint-size crossovers, though it doesn't feel refined or mature.

You might sit quite high up in the Juke, but this is by no means a vehicle that ever feels tipsy or top-heavy. It feels like you're sitting high, over a low, well-balanced chassis. What really redeems the package, to us and to anyone who considers this vehicle as a sporty alternative, is its steering, which is quick, responsive, and surprisingly well-weighted, with more road feel and feedback than most small cars or other vehicles with the Nissan badge—short of the Z or GT-R sports cars.

However, its odd combination of a very firm suspension tune with quite a bit of suspension travel underneath it all adds up to a vehicle that's eccentric. Push the Juke a little too hard and it bounds and bounces. It's not all that happy with rough roads under any sort of driving.

Although the Juke looks like it might be built for occasional trail use or rutted, muddy backroads, it's not prepared for that type of duty. It's probably barely suited to a steep driveway covered in snow, and the all-wheel drive system is best thought of as 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 6-speed manual transmission at all, as it's only available in front-drive Jukes.

SV and SL versions of the Juke come with an adjustable steering and transmission response system. The Eco mode feels intentionally sluggish, to the degree that it interferes with smoothness (we tended to over-press the accelerator to get the desired acceleration, then had to back off, repeatedly). Normal mode is a good midpoint for drivability, while Sport mode actually feels sporty—raising the idle speed, reducing turbo lag, and sharpening the steering. But as we've noted in repeated drives of the Juke, it cuts even more into this model's already lackluster fuel economy.

Under the hood of Juke S, SV, SL, and the base NISMO models, there's a 188-horsepower 1.6-liter inline-4 that's turbocharged and direct-injected. In any of these models you can choose between front- and all-wheel drive.

You'd think this powertrain would yield a quick little urban runabout, yet it feels oddly ponderous in traffic with the continuously variable transmission—and rather noisy when you do want to extract all the available performance out of the powertrain. Push it hard, however, and it is quicker than the competition, accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in about seven seconds.

Those who want to get the most amped-up version of the Juke should go for the Juke NISMO RS. It gets a performance-tuned version of the same engine, making 215 hp and 184 pound-feet of torque. The NISMO Juke adds nearly 100 other revised components, including exclusive lightweight alloy wheels, a specially tuned suspension, more downforce, and more aggressively bolstered sport seats.

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2016 Nissan Juke

Comfort & Quality

Compared to other crossovers, the Juke's interior is tight, but it has much more space than sporty coupes that could be cross-shopped.

The Juke's interior materials and presentation are a mixed bag. The dashboard layout is a highlight, provided your tastes run to the slightly garish side of performance-tinged. The shiny, color-shifting seat upholstery looks a bit cartoonish, but at the same time cool. However, the plastics and buttons are unmistakably bargain-basement, but they fit together well design-wise, which make it all quite forgivable.

If you see the Juke as a sportier-flavored alternative to subcompact crossover models like the Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V, Fiat 500X, Mazda CX-3, or Subaru XV Crosstrek, you could end up disappointed with its interior space. But if you see it as a jacked-up performance coupe, its space and utility might seem quite impressive.

We tend to think the former. With all the new entries in this class, it's difficult to argue that the Juke isn't the least practical of the group.

The interior can feel significantly less spacious than that of subcompact cars like the Honda Fit or Nissan Versa Note, let alone its crossover rivals. The front seats are fairly supportive, with a height and backrest adjustable driver's seat, though again head and knee room aren't abundant, but merely adequate. The high driving position is nice, giving the Juke a commanding view of the road not common in cars of similar size.

The back seats are probably best left folded down to open up 35.9 cubic feet of cargo space. They're a bit higher than they need to be, which mashes taller occupants up against the headliner. The Juke's back seat can hold a pair of 6-foot-tall passengers, but not comfortably. If you opt for the sunroof, you'll lose even more head room. 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.

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2016 Nissan Juke

Safety

The Nissan Juke has a solid set of safety features, but its crash-test ratings may be a cause for concern.

The Nissan Juke definitely isn't the top pick in its class if safety is one of your top priorities. Its crash-test ratings may be cause for concern in some respects, but the Juke has a good, solid set of safety features.

Standard safety equipment includes dual front airbags, front side airbags, side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, a rearview camera, and tire-pressure monitors. Standard on the SL and optional on the SV is a useful (and potentially mishap-preventing) surround-view camera system with Moving Object Detection.

The crash test ratings are reasonably good in some areas and mediocre in others. The IIHS gave the Juke top "Good" ratings in every test except the small front overlap test, in which it received the worst rating of "Poor."

In federal testing, the Juke has received just three stars in the frontal crash test, and four stars (out of a possible five) overall. The feds gave the Juke five stars for side-impact crashworthiness, however, and four stars for rollover resistance.

As a curvaceous, fashion-forward model, its expected for the Juke to have quite awful outward visibility, but that's not really the case. Most drivers should find that rearward visibility is quite good, considering the short side windows and thick rear pillars.

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2016 Nissan Juke

Features

Features are in line with pricing, and the 2016 Juke offers plenty of accessories so buyers can personalize their vehicles.

The Juke offers some of the advanced features that its sporty, fashion-forward exterior might suggest.

The 2016 model lineup consists of S, SV, and SL models, as well as the Nismo and Nismo RS. On all five trims you can opt for front-wheel drive or torque-vectoring all-wheel drive (AWD). Keep in mind, however, that even on the performance models if you want a manual transmission you'll have to forgo AWD.

Pricing for the S model starts at about $22,000. It comes standard with 17-inch wheels; an AM/FM/CD sound system with auxiliary input and Bluetooth; power locks, mirrors, and windows; Intelligent Key with keyless ignition; a rearview camera; a 60/40-split rear seat; and the NissanConnect system with Mobile Apps and a text message assistant. For 2016, it also adds Siri Eyes Free control of iPhones.

The mid-range SV adds the i-CON system, with its multiple driving modes and performance screens; premium cloth upholstery; a leather-wrapped steering wheel; automatic climate control; satellite radio; and a sunroof.

The top model in the standard Juke lineup, the SL, adds fog lamps, perforated leather upholstery, a Rockford Fosgate six-speaker audio system, and an upgraded infotainment system with navigation, voice recognition, SiriusXM Traffic info, and Sirius XM Travel Link, which includes fuel prices, weather, movie listings, and stock information.

Both Juke NISMO models add sport bucket seats, sport trim throughout the interior (with a different shift knob and door switch panels, for instance), red stitching for the rear seats, a black antenna, 18-inch wheels, and lots of other NISMO-exclusive aero and cooling improvements for the body. The NISMO RS tops off the lineup, at abut $31,000 in all-wheel drive form. It steps up to four-wheel vented disc brakes, a helical limited-slip differential for front-wheel-drive models, Recaro sport seats, special upholstery with leather and synthetic suede, and carbon fiber interior trim.

Factory options for the 2016 Nissan Juke are limited to an SV Technology Package (the upgraded infotainment, a surround-view camera system, and Rockford Fosgate audio), an SV Cold Weather Package (heated front seats and mirrors), and premium paint.

Nissan also offers a long list of port-installed options, including gunmetal or black 17-inch alloy wheels, a rear roof spoiler, a stainless exhaust finisher, an interior illumination package, and front-seat armrests.

7

2016 Nissan Juke

Fuel Economy

The Juke is fairly fuel efficient, but with more power it doesn't match most of the subcompact crossover competition.

If you gauge it against other sporty models, the 2016 Nissan Juke is relatively fuel-efficient. However, versus other tall hatchbacks or the latest small crossovers, it's surprisingly thirsty, especially in real-world driving.

Official EPA numbers for the Juke and Juke NISMO are 28 mpg city, 32 highway, 30 combined for a front-drive model with the continuously variable transmission, and 28/34/30 mpg for a front-drive model with the 6-speed manual. Adding all-wheel drive drops those numbers to 26/31/28 mpg.

The NISMO RS model is rated at 25/31/27 mpg with front-wheel drive and the manual transmission and 25/29/27 with AWD and the CVT.

In real-world driving, we've managed figures that are well below the Juke's combined EPA ratings. We've observed figures in the range of 22 to 24 mpg in city-and-commuting-style conditions. However, to Nissan's credit, it's difficult to keep restrained and not take advantage of the powertrain's potential.

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August 3, 2016
2016 Nissan Juke 5-Door Wagon CVT SL FWD

I'm very excited about this car!!

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I had been searching for the 'car, perfect for me' for over a year. I'm so happy I found the Juke, drove it and was patient with my decision! I made a wise choice for myself.
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