Full 2011 Nissan Juke Review
What's New for 2011
The Nissan Juke is a new model for 2011.
When the designers took pencils in hand for the 2011 Nissan Juke, they evidently set out to create some buzz. Though much of said buzz has been questionable -- the Juke has been described as looking like a bionic frog -- this subcompact hatchback certainly stands out in a segment where that's not easily done. And once you drive the Juke, you may find yourself falling for this funky ride.
Under the skin, the 2011 Nissan Juke packs a few surprises. A small 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is standard, but thanks to turbocharging and direct injection it cranks out 188 horsepower, more than the normally aspirated 2.5-liter engine in the Nissan Rogue. Connected to a manual transmission or an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT), the four-cylinder turbo makes the Juke one of the quickest small cars around while still being pretty frugal with gas. The Juke also boasts a sport-tuned suspension, quick steering and an available torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system that combine to provide entertaining handling.
The Juke's underlying structure is related to Nissan's other small cars, the Nissan Cube and Nissan Versa. Because of the Juke's sloping roof line, you don't get as much rear headroom in this crossover as you would in the small Nissan sedans. But you do get plenty of high-end features such as standard Bluetooth and iPod integration and available keyless ignition/entry, leather upholstery, heated seats, a navigation system and a back-up camera. The Juke is also available with an instrument display similar to that in the Nissan GT-R supercar; it lets you adjust the calibration of throttle action, steering assist and transmission shift schedule as well as seeing various readouts like turbo boost or lateral g.
Young drivers (or young at heart) should find a lot to like in the 2011 Nissan Juke. Compared to other small hatchbacks like the 2011 Kia Soul, 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport and 2011 Scion xB, it offers a considerably higher fun factor. Of course, one might also consider the new 2011 Ford Fiesta, which isn't as quick or as accommodating yet still fun to drive, and costs less besides. There's also the 2011 Mini Countryman, which is more expensive but similarly a hoot to drive. When it comes down to it, though, we're quite impressed with the Juke. Hopefully its bionic frog styling will become an acquired taste.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Nissan Juke is a four-door hatchback available in three trim levels: base S, well-equipped SV and leather-lined SL.
Standard equipment on the S includes 17-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, cruise control, keyless entry, air-conditioning, 60/40-split-folding rear seats, a tilt steering wheel, a trip computer, Bluetooth connectivity and a six-speaker stereo with CD player, iPod integration, an auxiliary audio jack and steering-wheel-mounted controls.
The SV adds a sunroof, rear privacy glass, keyless ignition/entry, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, upgraded upholstery, satellite radio, automatic climate control and the Integrated Control (I-Con) system. I-Con allows one to select Normal, Sport and Eco (Economy) settings for throttle, steering and transmission (with the CVT) response.
The SL adds automatic headlights, foglights, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an upgraded audio system (with a subwoofer and a USB jack), a rearview monitor and an SD-card-based navigation system with real-time traffic.
Option highlights for the S include a Sport package (rear spoiler, stainless-steel exhaust outlet and unique wheels), a Chrome package (door handles, mirrors and side molding) and an Interior Illumination package (accent lighting and illuminated door sill plates). The SV can be had with those options as well as a Navigation package (navigation system plus the upgraded audio system). The SL likewise offers the Sport, Chrome and Interior Illumination packages.
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2011 Nissan Juke is powered by a turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-4 engine that sends 188 hp and 177 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. A CVT is standard on the S trim. The SV and SL offer a choice of either a six-speed manual or the CVT. All three trims can also be had with all-wheel drive (in which case the CVT is the only transmission available).
In Edmunds testing, a front-wheel-drive Juke with the CVT went from zero to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds, an impressively quick time for this class of car. The Juke's EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings (depending on drivetrain) range from 24-27 mpg city and 30-32 mpg highway.
The Juke's standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, active front head restraints, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, the Juke stopped from 60 mph in 123 feet, an average distance for a small car.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2011 Nissan Juke's interior styling is a bit more restrained than the exterior, with pleasingly rounded forms such as those seen on the dash top and the door release levers. Silver accents brighten things up but hard plastics abound. For example, the door armrests aren't exactly user-friendly -- up front they're thinly covered in cloth while in back they're just naked plastic. On the upside, the various controls feature large knobs and intuitive operation and there's a useful amount of storage space.
The front seats are well-bolstered and the steering wheel tilts but doesn't telescope. Despite the minimal available adjustments, we found that most staffers could find an ideal driving position. In back, the seats are also well-shaped and high enough to provide ample leg support even for taller passengers. However, those over about 5-feet-9 might find rear headroom tight due to the Juke's sloping roof line.
With the rear seats up, there's about 10 cubic feet of cargo space available but it's useful only for shorter items due to the tapering roof. Flipping those seats down expands cargo capacity to 36 cubic feet; that's about 10 more cubes than a Ford Fiesta but only about half the capacity of a Scion xB.
The 2011 Nissan Juke's energetic little four-cylinder feels more like a larger, non-turbocharged engine in that it provides a broad spread of power. The CVT works quite well and makes the most of the engine when quick acceleration is needed.
Turned loose on a twisty road, the Juke is in its element, happily bounding from corner to corner. The well-weighted steering and buttoned-down suspension provide crisp response and sure tracking through the corners, while the big (for a car this size) tires hang in there as you push it harder.
Over broken pavement, the Juke's firmer underpinnings still manage to provide an agreeable balance between handling prowess and ride comfort. While cruising at higher freeway speeds, road and wind noise are noticeable, though not loud enough to be intrusive.
Read our Nissan Juke Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test