It’s hard to believe but the Juke, Nissan’s funky little crossover, has entered its fifth year of production. The Garage was present at the 2010 New York International Auto Show where it made its North American debut. Going on sale here as a 2011, we were quick to snap up a Juke to sample for ourselves. Five years later, it was time to see what was new with the Juke. Was it still as fun as we remembered? What’s changed?
As far as changes go, there really isn’t much to report. The Juke has exceeded Nissan’s sales estimates, so it appears the decision was made to leave well enough alone. For 2015, the Juke received a very mild (squint very hard) revision with updated grill, headlights, taillights, rear fascia, turn signals integrated into the exterior mirrors, and minor engine tweaks for improved fuel economy and throttle response.
Because the Juke was such a radical styling exercise, nothing was holding Nissan back to alter the look in any way, but five years later there is still nothing on the road that looks anything like the Juke. The front end remains the most polarizing aspect of the car, with its running lights still perched on top of the fenders offset by large, round headlights intended to mimic rally cars. The greenhouse, with large windshield that wraps to upswept side glass is meant to recall a race helmet. Still, my favorite view of the Juke remains the rear three quarters with racy taillights inspired by the 370Z and hidden rear door handles for a coupe like appearance.
Inside, the Juke is just as we remembered it, which isn’t a bad thing. Funky yet functional, the Juke’s controls are easy to use and intuitive. During our week with the Juke she was pressed hard into service, going from Connecticut to New York to Rhode Island to New York and back to Connecticut again. The Juke wouldn’t normally be my first choice for all that driving, but I was pleasantly surprised with seats that held up perfectly for the long haul. Finding a comfortable driving position was a cinch. Sometimes criticized for tight rear quarters, our back seat passengers had no complaints. If the Juke has a weak spot it is a definite lack of cargo room, even for a small crossover.
Funky styling aside, pretty much everyone is in agreement that the Juke is a very fun car to drive. Power continues to come from a 1.6L turbocharged four cylinder rated at 188hp. A continuously variable transmission is the only transmission available on regular Jukes. Buyers do have a choice of front or all wheel drive. Initially you could get a front wheel drive Juke with a six speed manual, but if you want to shift for yourself your only choice is to go for the sportier Juke Nismo or Nismo R (front wheel drive only). As always, the Juke offers plenty of pep. Thanks to its compact footprint, well-weighted steering, turbo fun and plenty of grip the Juke is a joy to point and shoot through traffic. Our all wheel drive Juke has an EPA rating of 26/31 MPG city/highway, which is pretty good, but due to a rather tiny gas tank I felt like I was stopping for fuel an awful lot.
The Juke is available in five trim levels-S, SV, SL, Nismo, and Nismo R. The Nismo Jukes have a sportier suspension, while the Nismo R kicks performance up a notch further, packing 215hp. Foreign market Jukes also offer a normally aspirated four as well as a diesel. Our all wheel drive Juke SL came well equipped with 17″ wheels, back up camera with Nissan’s brilliant Around View Monitor, leather seats, heated front seats, Rockford Fosgate audio system, NissanConnect with navigation, SiriusXM radio, Traffic and Travel Link and push button ignition. The only options on our car were carpeted floor mats and a center armrest. Including destination, our Juke retails for $28,225USD, which is not unreasonable for an all wheel drive crossover with that much content.
No, the Juke is not for everyone, but it was never meant to be. Small families looking for more room would do better looking at the slightly larger, but not as fun Rogue. In a sea of look alike crossovers the Juke not only stands out on its looks alone, but also for providing an entertaining driving experience few of its peers can come close to.