There are some cars that exude a serious sense of gravitas. Then, on the opposite end of that spectrum, there's the 2017 Nissan Juke. One look tells you this is a utility vehicle with a keenly developed sense of humor.
First, there's this quirky compact crossover's funky design. Love it or hate it, you're unlikely to meet anyone who feels ambivalent about the Juke's unconventional design cues. Then there are the components available in contrasting colors that reinforce the idea that this is a car that could disgorge a dozen brightly costumed circus performers at any moment.
Those clownish aesthetics aside, the Juke also expresses its fun-loving personality via driving dynamics that are among the most entertaining in the segment. From its lively 188-hp, turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine to its sport-tuned suspension, the Juke definitely has the potential to put a smile on your face. The Juke's EPA fuel economy ratings, which range from 29 mpg combined (28 city/32 highway) for the aforementioned base engine to 26 mpg combined (25 city/29 highway) in the high-performance Nismo RS model with all-wheel drive, should only add to that grin.
In terms of everyday drivability, the 2017 Nissan Juke's ride quality is firm by comparison to many rivals, especially in the sportier Nismo and Nismo RS trim levels. The standard six-speed manual gearbox is a good one, with smooth, easy shifts. The available continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) performs well enough but takes some of the fun out of the overall driving experience. Front-wheel drive is standard, and an available sophisticated all-wheel-drive system and a relatively generous amount of ground clearance give the Juke added flexibility.
Of course, the Juke's small size means it has some very definite limitations when it comes to passenger-hauling. While the Nismo model's front seats are supportive and comfortable, the rears leave something to be desired in terms of both head- and legroom. The front door openings are wide enough to provide for easy entry and exit, but the short rear doors can make getting in and out a challenge. Limited visibility out the back is enough of an issue that we recommend springing for the SV trim level's Tech option package that includes a handy 360-degree, around-view camera system.
The Juke is similarly challenged when it comes to cargo space, with just 10.5 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats. That room grows only marginally to 35.9 cubic feet with those rear seatbacks folded down, a number that makes it among the smallest cargo holds in the class.
Other downsides include an overly stylized interior, with cheap-feeling materials and limited storage space for small items without the optional center armrest. The curious decision to combine the drive-mode selector with the climate controls makes both harder to use than they should be.
Despite these shortcomings, the 2017 Nissan Juke does a fine job of delivering on its ultimate promise: to be a crossover that combines a fun-loving personality with a dose of utility. Let Edmunds help find the right Nissan Juke for you.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.