When it first appeared as a 2011 model, the brazenly-named Juke looked like a candidate for rebellious fun – an offbeat approach to subcompact crossovers. Arguably the sportiest of the lot, it’s served as a refreshing alternative in this era of relative sameness in the crossover field.

Pricing and Equipment

Starting at $21,190 (destination charge included), the Juke comes in five trim levels: base S, midrange SV, SL, Nismo, and Nismo RS. Most Jukes contain a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 188 horsepower, coupled to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Front-drive is standard; all-wheel drive a $1,850 option. The Nismo RS gets a stronger, 215-hp turbo engine. Both Nismos, if equipped with front-drive, have a standard six-speed manual gearbox.

Juke SV ($23,490) includes:

  • Front-wheel drive
  • 1.6-liter inline-four and CVT
  • Rearview camera
  • 5.0-inch infotainment touchscreen
  • Moonroof
  • Automatic climate control
  • Satellite radio
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel
  • 17-inch alloy wheels

A Black Pearl Edition is available during 2017, in limited numbers, for $1,190 above the SV price.

Performance Pros

Nissan Juke
  • Turbocharged engine delivers spirited acceleration, even with the CVT. A Juke can reach 60 mph in about seven seconds.
  • Adaptive steering is extraordinarily sharp and quick, standing well above the small-crossover pack.
  • Three-mode (Eco/Normal/Sport) transmission operation is standard. Unlike some vehicles with a choice of modes, Sport actually does induce somewhat sporty behavior.

Performance Cons

  • Ride quality can turn bouncy, causing the Juke to bound forward rather than coping effectively with pavement flaws.
  • Gas mileage isn’t exactly thrifty by today’s standards, despite small-car dimensions. With CVT and front-drive, the Juke is EPA-rated at 28 miles per gallon city and 32 mpg highway.
  • Oddly, the Juke can feel a bit ponderous in urban traffic. Push the gas hard and it takes off swiftly, but also somewhat noisily.

Interior Pros

  • Outward visibility is fine – better than expected for such a stylized vehicle, in spite of thick rear pillars and smallish side windows.
  • Plenty of personalization options are available, through Juke Color Studio.

Interior Cons

  • Cabin is cramped, less functional than some competitors, and also feels low-budget.
  • The Juke’s stylish, coupe-like roofline shrinks rear-seat space, to the point that it appeals most to passengers of shorter stature. Both headroom and leg space may be in short supply.
  • Shiny, color-changing seat upholstery is a bit excessive, and won’t appeal to everyone. Hard plastic pieces and cheap-looking buttons definitely don’t suggest refinement.
  • Meager cargo space: only 10.5 cubic feet with rear seatbacks upright. With seats folded, it expands to 39.5 cubic feet, which trails some rivals.

The Most Pleasant Surprise

Few other vehicles convey such distinct character. Even after seven seasons, the Juke comes across as freshly playful, with a hint of menace that younger drivers tend to appreciate.

The Least Pleasant Surprise

Crash-test scores have been weak. NHTSA gave the Juke a four-star overall score; and worse yet, a mere three stars for frontal crash protection. IIHS testing resulted in a Poor rating for their small front-overlap crash.

The Bottom Line

Despite its age, the Juke still looks fresh and frisky, if not futuristic, though it might qualify as the least practical small crossover. Not many vehicles deviate so strongly from the visual norm, but it’s hard to dismiss those distressing crash-test figures and a few additional demerits.