Small hatchbacks and crossover SUVs typically prioritize mundane things such as practicality and fuel economy. But these days, there are choices on hand to satisfy car shoppers with more whimsical leanings. One of the more dramatic examples is the Nissan Juke.
This four-door cross between a hatchback and small crossover SUV has no shortage of personality. It all starts with the Juke's polarizing styling. 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. But with endearing attributes such as brisk performance and sharp handling, you may find yourself falling for this funky ride.
Current Nissan Juke
The Nissan Juke is similar in size to Nissan's smallest hatchback, the Versa Note. But with its tall profile and available all-wheel drive, it finds itself competing against other manufacturers' small crossover SUVs.
Under the skin, the Nissan Juke packs a few surprises. A small 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is standard, but thanks to turbocharging, it cranks out a strong 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. The sporty Juke Nismo RS is equipped with the same engine, but it has been tuned to produce 215 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque. Transmission choices are either a six-speed manual or a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). With the optional all-wheel-drive system, the CVT comes standard.
The Jukes comes in five trim levels: the base S, the well-equipped SV and SL, and the sport-themed Nismo and Nismo RS. Standard equipment on the entry-level S model includes 17-inch wheels, air-conditioning, keyless entry and ignition, full power accessories, cruise control, a tilt-only steering wheel, Bluetooth, and a six-speaker sound system with Siri Eyes Free functionality. The midrange SV adds a sunroof, heated side mirrors and front seats, automatic climate control, upgraded seat cloth, configurable drive settings (the Juke's I-Con feature) and satellite radio.
The SL offers all of these features plus leather upholstery, automatic headlights, foglights, the Around View 360-degree parking camera, and an upgraded touchscreen Rockford Fosgate stereo with navigation. SV models offer a Tech package with navigation, upgraded speakers and the Around View camera, as well as a specially painted Black Pearl Edition. There are no option packages for the S and SL.
The Juke Nismo gets most of the features found in the Juke SV plus a sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch wheels with summer tires, unique exterior and interior styling details, front sport seats, and navigation. The Nismo RS ups the ante with more power, specially tuned shock absorbers, Recaro front seats, and upgraded upholstery and trim.
In reviews, we've found the Nissan Juke is good fun to drive. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine is energetic and capable of brisk acceleration, and the Nismo RS version is a veritable rocket ship. Using the available I-Con settings, the driver can greatly vary the engine and CVT's responsiveness. Get the Juke on a serpentine stretch of road and it's in its element, happily shooting from corner to corner thanks to its sporty suspension tuning and big (for a car this size) tires.
On the downside, the Juke gives away some practicality in its quest for style and performance. On rougher pavement, the Juke feels a little stiff-legged compared to its family-oriented rivals, and the Nismo models have an even firmer ride. The cabin also fills with a fair amount of wind and road noise on the highway, though most buyers should find it tolerable enough.
There's also a cargo-capacity deficit to deal with because the Juke has much less room behind the second row than most other small crossovers or wagons you might consider. Additionally, its sloping roofline translates into tight headroom for backseat passengers and poor outward visibility.
Ultimately, though, young drivers (or the young at heart) who are less concerned with practicality than having fun should find a lot to like in the Nissan Juke.
Used Nissan Juke Models
The Nissan Juke debuted for the 2011 model year, and changes since then have been minimal. In 2013, Nissan brought a revised Navigation package that added a rearview camera and Rockford Fosgate audio. And in 2014, a 197-hp Nismo model was introduced. In 2015, the Nismo was split into two models; the Nismo reverted to the regular Juke's 188-hp engine, while the new Nismo RS got a power bump to 215 hp.