Full 2012 Nissan Juke Review
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Nissan Juke gets no significant changes.
The subcompact hatchback segment used to be all about mundane things like practicality and fuel economy. But these days, there are choices on hand to satisfy those with more whimsical leanings. The latest example of this is the 2012 Nissan Juke. Introduced just last year, this four-door cross between a hatchback and a small SUV marches to its own drumbeat and comes with no shortage of personality.
Undoubtedly the Juke's most endearing attributes are its sharp handling and brisk performance. The steering is quick and precise, and the sport-tuned suspension and available all-wheel drive give you rapport with the road. A turbocharged, 188-horsepower engine also helps make the Juke one of the quickest cars in its class, and it pulls this off while treading lightly at the gas pump (as long as you tread lightly on the accelerator).
An aspect of the Juke often described as polarizing is its sheet metal. Some find it sporty-looking and distinctive while others have compared it to a horned lizard. We'll leave it to you to form your own opinions. There's also a cargo-capacity deficit to deal with, since the Juke has much less room behind the second row than pretty much any of the models it would likely be cross-shopped against. Additionally, its sloping roof line translates into tight headroom for backseat passengers.
This segment is a competitive one with many solid picks that are appealing for various reasons. Choices like the Kia Soul, Mitsubishi Outback Sport and Scion xB are more practical than the Juke since they offer much greater cargo capacity, but the Nissan is more fun on the road. The Chevrolet Sonic and Ford Fiesta are also worth considering, but while they're cheaper and similarly entertaining, neither is as quick off the line as the Nissan. With the Mini Cooper Countryman you get performance and handling comparable to the Juke's, but the Countryman costs thousands more. In the end, this Nissan will appeal to those who want a small, affordable car that offers a bit more flavor than the usual suspects.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Nissan Juke is a four-door hatchback with an elevated ride height, that's 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-only steering wheel, a trip computer, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
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 you to select Normal, Sport and Eco (Economy) settings for throttle, steering and transmission (with the CVT) response. Opting for the Navigation package gets you a navigation system (based on an SD card) with a small touchscreen interface and real-time traffic, plus an upgraded sound system (with a subwoofer and a USB/iPod interface).
The SL comes standard with the above equipment plus automatic headlights, foglights, leather upholstery, heated front seats and a rearview camera.
Other options include a Sport Accessory 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).
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2012 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 continuously variable automatic transmission (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 a CVT went from zero to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds, an impressively quick time for this class of car. An all-wheel-drive model was essentially just as quick. EPA-estimated fuel economy stands at 27 mpg city/32 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined for front-wheel drive and the CVT. Opting for the manual transmission or AWD will drop those figures down a couple mpg.
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.
In government crash tests, the Juke received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, with three stars for frontal-impact protection (four stars driver, three stars front passenger) and five stars for side-impact protection. In testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Juke scored a "Good" rating -- the highest possible -- in frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Within its cabin, the 2012 Nissan Juke keeps things colorful and youthful, with lots of organic curves and body-colored surfaces. Silver accents add cheerful ambience but there's no shortage of hard surfaces. This shortcoming is most noticeable on the door grabs, which are bare plastic in the second row and covered in just thin cloth up front. To its credit, the Juke's controls are large and easy to navigate, and the cabin features lots of thoughtful storage compartments.
Though the Juke's steering wheel tilts, it doesn't telescope, which means some may find it difficult to get an ideal driving position. The front seats are nevertheless well-bolstered and accommodating, though adjustments are minimal. Some may also miss the presence of a standard center armrest. In back, the seats are also well-shaped and high enough to provide ample leg support even for taller passengers. However, those more than about 5-feet-9 might find rear headroom tight due to the Juke's sloping roof line.
Behind the rear seats, the Juke offers just 10 cubic feet of cargo space, which is much less than you'll find in rivals like the Ford Fiesta (15.4 cubic feet); additionally, the Juke's tapering roof makes the space useful only for shorter items. Flipping down the rear seats expands cargo capacity to 36 cubic feet; that's 17 cubes shy of the Kia Soul and about half the capacity of a Scion xB. Even the tiny Chevy Sonic approaches it for cargo space.
With the 2012 Nissan Juke's peppy turbocharged four-cylinder, you get an engine that feels more like a larger, non-turbocharged engine in that it provides a broad spread of power. With the different I-Con driving settings, the engine's response can also vary greatly. From fuel-sipping and pokey Eco mode to fuel-swilling and fun Sport mode, the Juke's power delivery can be changed to meet your mood.
Get the Juke on a serpentine stretch of road and it's in its element, happily bounding from corner to corner. Steering is well-weighted and the suspension provides crisp response, while the big (for a car this size) tires hang in there as you push it harder.
Ride quality remains agreeable over most surfaces; still, it's stiffer than that of many others in this segment. There's audible road and wind noise at higher freeway speeds, though it's not loud enough to be intrusive.