Pro’s: Highly styled little sport cross that handles great and is a hoot to drive.
Con’s: Average fuel economy, tight on interior room and storage, CVT transmission.
Final Thought: A good ride for those with an outdoor lifestyle that want a fun sporty little vehicle that offers good preformance with optional all-weather capability at a price that’s competitive with others in its class.
When the Nissan Juke first hit the streets people simply didn’t know what to make of it. Was it a crossover, an SUV or just some funky looking little transportation device that came out of Japan. Nissan classifies it as an “Urban Sport Cross”, which actually fits as I found out after spending a week with this little guy. Right off the bat you know the Juke is different, I mean just look at the thing. Big bug-eyed headlamps sit beneath a blacked out mesh grill giving the Juke a look like nothing else on the road. Look above and you’ll notice sculpted marker lights that flow into the overly curvacious hood. The Juke was designed at the Nissan Design Center in London and brings with it a very organic vibe. High wheel arches, a chopped roof line and highly stylized tail lamps round out what is truly a nifty little vehicle.
As mentioned, I spent a week with this thing and in that time I was trying to figure out who exactly the Juke would appeal to. You see this is not a big vehicle. In fact its interior dimensions are smaller than both the VW Tiguan and Hyundai Tucson, both (as I see it) direct competitors to the Juke.
Climbing inside reveals a nicely designed cabin that provides its driver and passengers with basic comfort and amenities. Cruise control, power windows and door locks, hands free phone, sun roof and push button start were all included as part of the “Comfort and Convenience” package that our Juke SV came equipped with. However when it came to actual interior dimensions, I have to say I was a bit disappointed. If you’re over 6-foot tall then let it be known that anyone who attempts to sit behind you will be very uncomfortable as rear seat room is limited. Seats are comfortable enough with 6-way manual adjustments for the driver and 4-way for the passenger. Seats were OK but I felt that the cloth material covering them was somewhat lacking in quality.
Then there was the issue of storage, or in this case, lack-thereof. No center console meant no place to put things like cell phones, pens, maps and or loose change. There is a small bin at the back of the console but from a usability standpoint it was positioned to far back to access easily. The Juke’s glove box was big enough, however opens directly onto the passengers knees which when driving makes it difficult to access its contents. Door panels do provide storage slots, but they’re down low and not overly useful.
Rear cargo room is decent but not great when compared to others in its class. Pop open the rear tailgate and you’ll find a paltry 10.5 cubic-feet of storage with the rear seats up and 35.9 with the seats folded down. In comparison the Volkswagen Tiguan shows a larger 23.8 / 56.1 cubic-feet of storage. Now while I think the Jukes styling is top notch, I feel the vehicles overall interior dimensions have suffered greatly because of it.
As mentioned this particular Juke was a pretty low optioned model, but even so, features like the climate control, cruise and stereo with satellite radio worked just fine and were all easy to use.
Get past the interior gripes and you’ll begin to notice that on the road is where the Juke really shines. Our tester was equipped with front-wheel-drive and Nissan’s CVT transmission. However let it be known that you can option out the Juke with a 6-speed manual and all-wheel-drive if you so choose.
Powered by a 1.6-liter direct injected and turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, the Juke pumps out 188 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. It’s no rocket, but acceleration is brisk with power being usable throughout the rev range. Stomp the gas from a dead stop and the little 4-banger will rev to the moon as the CVT transmission tries to get you up to your desired speed. It’s not my favorite transmission mind you, but it does work. The trouble with a CVT though is that unless you keep your foot out of the throttle, you’re fuel economy will suffer greatly. For instance, I was only able to get 260 miles out of my first full tank of fuel. Mind you the Juke only has a 13.2 gallon tank, but still, only 20 mpg in combined driving was pretty bad. Nissan rates the Juke at 27 mpg city/ 32 mpg hwy, but you’d REALLY have to keep your foot out of it to achieve those numbers.
The Jukes handling was the biggest surprise. Throw it into a corner and you’ll be rewarded with a little Sport Cross that has the ability to surprise a few sport sedans. In fact I found myself barreling down some tight twisty back roads at speeds that would embarrass most drivers. The steering is nicely weighted with great input and feel and the brakes provide neutral feedback through a firm pedal. This was a fun little vehicle, but I would’ve really loved to have sampled a Juke equipped with a manual transmission and all-wheel-drive.
So, with all of the above being said, we must now address the original question – who does the Juke appeal to? In my opinion we’re looking at 20-somethings with an outdoor lifestyle, that want a fun, sporty vehicle that offers good preformance with optional all-weather capability at a price that’s competitive with others in its class.