Juke the latest oddball design from Nissan
Nissan’s Juke is unusual looking!
You’ll probably substitute your own word for “unusual”, but there will be no argument that it looks like no other car on the road, but then neither did the Nissan Cube, which has been discontinued, or the late Pontiac Aztek.
For lack of a better descriptor, I’d say the Juke has bug eyes, or possibly a frog-faced nose. Some call it youthful, some funky. But it’s no Kia Soul, which exudes cute and trendy.
Plus the unique Juke has been around now for several years, so it’s not a newcomer to the market. It does offer all-wheel-drive, which is a plus in its favor, plus decent gas mileage and in the tested SL AWD model, heated front seats. That was especially nice on several sub-zero days during my drive.
Its other major plus, other than being a hatchback, is its lithe nature and easy sporty handling. It’s fun to drive with mild steering effort and responsive handling with little lean in turns. In that way, it feels much like a Jeep.
Sadly it feels Jeep-like in ride, which is to say choppy over Wisconsin’s rough roads. The front MacPherson struts and rear multi-link suspension, both with stabilizer bars, shocks and springs, delivered a bumpier small sport-utility truck type ride than many folks may enjoy and I found myself trying to dodge any road imperfection to ease the jostle. Blame much of that on Juke’s short, 99.6-inch wheelbase.
Acceleration is mild too, sometimes bordering on weak. The Cosmic Blue (dark blue bordering on purple) Juke’s 1.6-liter direct-injected 4-cylinder with turbo was slow from a stop and if you mashed the gas pedal to get the turbo to jump in, the engine groaned pretty loudly. Nissan claims 188 horsepower and 177 lb.-ft. of torque, but it doesn’t feel that strong in normal driving.
Nissan’s seamless CVT (continuously variable transmission) is still a winner, and helps the small car earn a 26 mpg city and 31 mpg highway rating from the EPA. I managed just 23.3 mpg in the frigid weather and about 70% city driving. I would expect 3-4 more mpg in warmer weather.
Braking from four wheel discs is good and the AWD makes the Juke more attractive for Wisconsin winter driving. I felt some wheel slippage on a light dusting of snow one morning and Nissan gives the car a couple settings for the AWD, plus you can switch it to 2-wheel-drive. For the record, the car has 7 inches of ground clearance, so will wade through a bit of snow without bogging down.
Pricing remains attractive on the Juke, even if its funky nose is an acquired taste. The base S model with front-wheel-drive starts at $21,075, including delivery, while an AWD model is $22,925, including delivery. That’s a good price for an AWD car.
The test car was the SL, starting at a more robust $26,940, plus $825 delivery charge. Only two small options were added, an armrest for $250 and carpeted floor and trunk mats for $210. That left the total at $28,225. Compare that with many other small sport-utes that deliver more interior space and better overall ride dynamics for less. A Subaru Forester, is one that comes to mind.
However, there are some pluses with the SL, including two-level heated front seats, leather seats, a Rockford Fosgate premium sound system and a sunroof.
Inside, the test Juke featured black perforated leather seats with red stitching and red that barely shows through the perforations. There also are red door armrests and console and black and red cloth door inserts to liven up the otherwise black interior. Most trim on the gauges, steering wheel hub and air vents is matte silver. Doors feature chrome look door releases.
Folks comment on the interior styling and its roomy enough for four adults. Headroom is generous up front and legroom decent front and rear, if the front seat folks are not long legged. Knee room is a little tight up front though as the console and door trim press slightly against a short driver’s knees.
Seats are fairly comfortable and moderately contoured with a pump handle on the driver’s seat to boost its height. Seats are all manually adjusted, which is best accomplished before shutting the doors as it’s a tight space for hands between the seat and door. The seats’ butt pocket also is just a touch snug.
Rear seats are split so you can fold them down for extra cargo space. There’s only 10.0 cubic feet of space behind the seats, but that grows to 35.9 when the rear seat is down. The load height is conveniently high under the hatch too, partly due to a full-size spare resting under the cargo floor.
Juke’s dash is easy to figure out, the main gauges being white numbers on a black background with a digital orange trip computer between the tachometer and speedometer. There’s the usual power door locks, windows and mirrors, but oddly the Juke offers only a tilt steering wheel. Most vehicles now come with tilt-telescope wheels.
There’s a touchscreen radio/navigation screen, but it’s on the small side. Plus radio buttons on the screen are itsy bitsy and the five programmable buttons are all grouped tightly together in the upper left quadrant of the screen. They are impossible to use if a driver is wearing gloves and hard to hit individually, even with bare hands.
You can use an iPod if you’d like though, as there are the correct ports. Plus the Rockford Fosgate audio system sounds good. Climate control knobs are big with good-sized air directional buttons. The dual cupholders are easy to get at, but the fold-down armrest, which is optional, folds over the front seat heat buttons. So you must fold the armrest up to adjust the seat heat.
Dash buttons, such as the rear defroster are backlit red, which is nearly impossible to see in daylight. So the first day or so I was guessing what some of the buttons did until I could study the buttons when it was dark out. I also found it very hard to reach the seatbelt which gets trapped between the door and seat every time you enter or exit the car.
Overhead the test car included a sunroof and solid visors that did not slide, but included small extenders. And the SL comes with push-button start.
Juke is fun to drive, but the ride and its looks put me off. Plus there are a lot of good riding and handling small SUVs with more power, interior space and cargo room at this price. Folks looking for a unique looking vehicle though may have found their next purchase.
FAST Stats: 2015 Nissan Juke SL AWD CVT
Hits: Sporty handling hatch with AWD and a youthful interior with sunroof and room for four adults. Heated front seats and rear window wiper too.
Misses: Rough small SUV Jeep-like ride, plus an overall odd look, especially the headlights. A tilt-only wheel, seats are snug and manually adjusted, plus heat is slow to come on. Engine growls an awful lot under normal acceleration and tiny touchscreen’s buttons are itsy-bitsy. Washer fluid did not squirt in sub-zero temps and red dash button lights hard to see during day. Seatbelt very hard to reach and pull out from between seat and door frame.
Made in: Japan
Engine: 1.6-liter DI 4-cyl. turbo, 188 hp
Transmission: Xtronic CVT w/manual mode
Weight: 3,209 lbs.
Wheelbase: 99.6 in.
Length: 162.4 in.
Cargo: 10.0 cu. ft (35.9 cu.ft. rear seat down)
MPG: 23.3 (tested)
Base Price: $26,940
Dealer’s Price: $26,390 (includes delivery)
Carpeted floor/cargo mats, $210
Center armrest, $250
Test vehicle: $28,225
Sources: Nissan, www.kbb.com