Is the Juke a mini-sized crossover? Or is it a rather tall hatchback? Ever since its debut for 2011, this distinctive compact people-carrier has been tough to categorize. Nissan dubbed it a “sport cross,” which doesn't exactly clarify the quandary.
Whatever it’s called, the Juke stands apart in the defiant good-looks department, while delivering surprisingly feisty performance -- especially considering its price. This segment has been growing lately, with new entrants like the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3.
What's New for 2016
Largely a carryover for 2016, the Juke sees only minor updates related to personalization and technical integration. New Siri Eyes Free provides turn-by-turn directions when using a compatible Apple device. The optional Personal Package comes in Black or Yellow Stinger, featuring a distinctive yellow center console, plus yellow interior stitching and seat inserts.
Choosing Your Nissan Juke
the Juke one of the more distinctive small vehicles on sale. Hidden rear door handles help, too. Inside, the center console was inspired by a motorcycle’s fuel tank. Jukes also get a sport-tuned suspension.
Even though a Juke might not hold as much cargo as other small hatchbacks, it definitely delivers the goods in performance. A turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with direct injection makes 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque.
Most models use a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which works like an automatic. The gearless, belt-operated CVT has a D-Step sport mode that provides simulated shifts like a conventional automatic. Some trim levels can have a six-speed manual gearbox as an option.
Front-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive is an option. The standard Juke is impressively quick for its class, capable of accelerating to 60 mph in about 7.3 seconds. According to the EPA, fuel economy with the CVT is estimated at 28 mpg in city driving and 32 mpg on the highway (26/31 mpg with all-wheel drive). With manual shift, the front-drive estimate is 28 mpg city/34 mpg highway.
The Nismo (or NISMO) version gets the same engine as other Jukes; but the Nismo RS, aimed at enthusiasts, gets a more potent rendition that makes 215 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque. (With CVT, output is 211 hp and 184 pound-feet.)
The Juke is available in five trim levels:
The Juke Color Studio lets buyers select various interior and exterior color packs for a highly customized appearance.
Both the S and SV trim levels provide a fine balance of affordability and standard features. We'd pick the SV, since its upgrades add only $2,050 to the price. The SL is for buyers with a more emphatic taste for luxury amenities. Nismo models appeal to enthusiasts who crave all the performance that can be extracted from a Juke -- especially the RS.
The Juke doesn't fit neatly into any vehicle category, which has always been part of its charm. You can think of it as a mini crossover or a stylish hatchback with guts. What we know for sure is that the Juke offers a lot of looks and performance for the money.
Pricing and Equipment
The Juke is available in the typical Nissan trims, plus sporty NISMO variants:
The entry-level S comes decently equipped with a rearview camera, keyless ignition, a six-speaker sound system, and 17-inch alloy wheels for $20,250.
The $22,300 SV carries an upgraded interior, a sunroof, and selectable driving modes. You can add a $1,490 Tech package with audio upgrades and navigation, and a $250 Cold Weather package with heated seats and mirrors.
The high-trim SL ($25,240) comes standard with the SV's options, plus a leather interior and a Rockford Fosgate sound system.
Starting at $24,830, the NISMO gets the full sport treatment, including aggressive suspension tuning and summer performance tires. Other equipment is similar the SL.
The NISMO RS ($28,020) gets a boost in horsepower, additional chassis bracing, and upgraded brakes.
Every Juke gets a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder that makes 188 horsepower (or 215 in the NISMO RS only). All-wheel drive can be added to any model for about $1,700.
Performance highlights include:
Transmissions: A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is used on most models. NISMO and NISMO RS models without all-wheel drive get a six-speed manual.
Steering/Handling: Thanks to the standard sport-tuned suspension, the Juke offers athletic handling from the start.
Acceleration: The Juke scoots from zero to 60 mpg in 7.3 seconds, which is downright fast in the world of small hatchbacks and crossovers.
The sporty suspension makes for a firm ride, which can get annoying on long commutes.
The CVT feels indecisive at times, requiring a stomp on the pedal when you need more power.
Buyers drawn to the Juke's feisty looks will feel right at home inside, where the theme is equally youthful and irreverent.
The tall driver seat provides a commanding view of the road, a benefit we didn't expect in a car this size.
No amount of clever packaging can disguise the fact that the Juke is small inside. The backseat isn't really useful for adults, and cargo space trails what you'll find in conventional hatchbacks.
With its liberal use of color and curves, the interior might be too hipster for the mass market.
The Most Pleasant Surprise
The Juke delivers a blend of performance and features that's mighty rare in this price class.
The Least Pleasant Surprise
In around-town driving, we could do no better than 24 mpg. That might sound fine if you're in the market for a sporty car, but abysmal if looking at hatchbacks of similar size.
The Bottom Line
If style and performance are your top priorities, you'll find the Juke's shortcomings easy to overlook.
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