Juke's better known as the word for athletes faking one direction and zipping into another. That makes perfect sense for the Juke, which Nissan pitches as a more masculine, better-handling version of the platform that underpins Versa and the softer, rounder Cube hatchback. Based on the Nissan Qazana concept from last year, the Juke gets wide hips, a wide front grille and an angular roofline, as well as some motorcycle inspired cues for its five-seat interior. Alternative is the buzzword here: the Juke is chunky, lumpy and beefy in ways you'd never expect in a class that includes the Kia Soul and Suzuki SX4.
Its most awkward angle is from the front, where the headlights are mounted so low in the bumper apron that they read as fog lamps. Above them along the fender crowns are raised clear-plastic "blades" that include the turn signals. At night, the driver can actually see the front signals flashing on their leading edges.
The beltline rises toward the rear, and with bulbous fender arches and the rear door handles hidden in the black trim of the roof pillar, the Juke combines design cues that make it a sort-of-tall-crossover, sort-of-coupe, sort-of-hatchback. It's definitely not trying to be a truck, though, which is a good thing.
We decided the Juke was probably the love child from a one-night stand between a Nissan Murano crossover and a new, young, nubile Nissan Leaf electric car. Regardless, our toll collector and garage attendant (both young men) already knew what it was, and asked a lot of questions about it--so it must be hitting its target.
Inside, the trim is largely black plastic, with a mix of soft and hard surfaces but overall, a more upscale look than we'd expected. The shift-lever surround is a contrasting glossy plastic--in our car, scarlet—that Nissan says is meant to evoke a motorcycle gas tank. The same material sets off the door inserts, which have a slick, shiny upholstery that could cover a backpack or a stuffed animal. Or a velociraptor.
Bright red panels livened up the black cloth seats and the whole cabin. Given all the red and black, we were tempted to nickname the little Juke "Spiderman". We liked the effect, though it would be less shrill in the silver tone that's available too.