Nissan Juke: ‘Out there’ the way buyers want

Staff reports
Farm Forum

I last drove the Nissan Juke at its introduction back in 2011. My first impression: small, fun-to-drive, with wild styling. Recently, I drove the 2015 edition. Second impression: small, fun-to-drive, with styling that’s even more “out there.”

The design of the 2015 edition is still dominated by an “in-your-face” face. With its split headlights and dual grilles, Juke’s front end looks like a cross between a rally car and a dinosaur. Pretty, it is not. Attention-grabbing, it is, and buyer feedback told Nissan that’s just the way they like it.

The envelope is pushed further for 2015, with projector beam headlights, LED accent lamps, and a split grille that incorporates Nissan’s V-Motion theme. The sawed-off, side-on look of the hatchback remains the same, save the addition of LED turn signal repeaters in the mirrors. Boomerang taillights echo the 370Z, and the flared haunches borrow from its Murano sibling, in three-quarter scale.

Three new colors are added to the charts for 2015, making a total of nine. Buyers can further customize their rides with Nissan’s new Color Studio program. Choosing from eight hues and 12 accessories, accents can be added outside and in. Nine of the 12 accessories can be retrofitted to older models.

The Juke lineup includes five models: S, SV, SL, NISMO, and NISMO RS. Each is available with front- or all-wheel drive. Prices range from $20,250 to $30,020, plus $825 for destination and handling.

All models have a 1.6-liter, turbocharged, direct injected four-cylinder engine. Horsepower (188) and torque (177) ratings are the same as previously, but peak torque now occurs at 1,600 rpm, yielding better low-end acceleration. EPA fuel economy estimates are 28/32 (FWD) and 26/31 (AWD) — both plus 1 (city) over the outgoing model.

Only NISMO and NISMO RS models with FWD are offered with a manual transmission. Otherwise, it’s Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission throughout the model range.

The Gen2 four-cylinder feels lively in the Juke. Push down hard on the throttle and when the turbo engages, the 1.6 responds quickly (and a bit loudly, with some torque steer). The car’s tight chassis and small footprint give it a point-and-shoot kind of feel; especially fun, when the roads turn twisty.

Juke’s target market makes it more of a city dweller than a trail basher — “off-road” isn’t likely to be in its job description. The available, AWD system has the capability to channel power not only front to rear, but also side to side across the rear axle, as needed to maximize the vehicle’s grip on the road. Traction is improved on wet or dry roads, and the only drawback I see with the AWD is that it isn’t offered with the manual transmission on any model — a disappointment, for shift-it-yourself enthusiasts.

A dash-mounted, drive mode selector on Xtronic-equipped cars allows drivers to choose Normal, Sport, or Eco settings. Each carries different mapping for transmission, throttle, and steering response.

The most noticeable feature of the interior is still the center console, the shape of which resembles a motorcycle’s gas tank. The dash view features a set of deep-dish dials for speedometer and tach, with a wedge-shaped insert in between, housing the gas and water temperature gauges, and programmable readouts.

Wide, C-pillars cast blind spots on the three-quarter rear view, so drivers must resort to the large, outside mirrors to keep tabs on close traffic. Newly standard on all models are Rear View Monitor, Nissan’s Intelligent Key with push button ignition, a USB port, and Bluetooth hands-free phone system.

NissanConnect with mobile apps is now available on all models. The package includes a 5-inch color display, hands-free text messaging, and Bluetooth streaming audio. NissanConnect with navigation and apps features a 5.8-inch touchscreen, voice recognition for audio and navigation, and Sirius/XM Traffic and Travel Link.

Standard on SL-level Jukes, it’s also bundled into the Tech package ($1,490), along with an Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection, and the Rockford Fosgate ecoPunch audio system.

The front row will hold 6 footers easily. With his much space up front, however, there’s very little legroom left in back. The smart move is therefore to fold the rear seatbacks forward and leave them that way, so you expand the modest cargo capacity (10.5 cubic feet) to a more usable, 35.9 cu.-ft.

If — as Nissan’s research indicates — Juke buyers love to stand out, then the latest edition gives them more of what they’re looking for. New colors, personalizing options, and that in-your-face face give the agile, little crossover a distinctive personality.