2015 Nissan Juke review: The funkiest ute on the block

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The Nissan Juke features a risky design and a CVT that's one of the best on the market. The torque-vectoring AWD system makes for an engaging drive, especially when in Sport mode.

The Bad The tiny interface and outdated graphics of the navigation screen are in severe need of an upgrade. Some may find the design a little too quirky.

The Bottom Line The 2015 Nissan Juke is a fun little ute, perfect for those who want to stand out in a crowd.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.0 Overall
  • Cabin tech 5.0
  • Design 9.0
  • Performance tech 8.0

Done with singles bars? Tinder got you tired? Well, if you're looking for a new way to meet people, just try driving a Nissan Juke around town for a few days. At stoplights, parking lots, even sitting in traffic folks wanted to talk to me about this weird looking crossover

Always a polarizing choice in the automotive world, you either love the Juke's risky design, or you think it looks like a frog crossed with a dune buggy...and not in a good way.

Though the footprint remains the same for 2015, the Juke gets a few cosmetic upgrades, with refreshed front and rear fascias, new color options, and many items once optional, such as push-button start and hands-free text messaging are now standard across all trim levels. New tech for the 2015 model year includes Nissan's slick Around View Monitor, an unexpected feature in this segment.

It's all about that turbo

Under the hood we get a tiny 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, but thanks to some decent turbocharging, that engine is good for 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. Power goes to all four wheels through a continuously variable transmission, or you can opt for the front-wheel-drive version. EPA fuel ratings are 26 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway, and 28 combined.

On a quick banzai weekend trip to Los Angeles from CNET HQ here in San Francisco I netted a better-than-predicted 32.6 mpg.

The Juke has always been one of my favorite small cross-overs, and getting back into this little guy after a year away reminded me how much of a kick it is to drive. The Juke comes standard with three driving modes, Normal, Sport or Eco, adjusting throttle, steering, and transmission.

My buzz down to LA was done in Normal mode, but the Juke really shines in Sport. Throttle response is sharpened, steering is a bit heavier and the transmission will stay in the higher revs, as much as a CVT can. A quick cruise on the infamous Mullholland Drive in Los Angeles proved that the Juke is ready and willing to attack the back roads, and maybe even squeal a tire or two.

But be warned: eco mode's obsession with giving you the best fuel efficiency sacrifices anything fun or engaging. In this mode, the Juke has to be threatened with bodily harm to bring the revs past 2,000, but you are rewarded with a little graph indicating your level of green. If you're goal oriented you might find yourself watching the graph, going for the five-star rating of eco-compliance.

Transmission, choice of one

A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is never an optimal choice for sport driving, but of all the CVTs on the market, Nissan has managed to engineer its transmission to be responsive and relatively quiet. It's certainly less whiny than Honda's version, and it's shiftable to boot. Just move the stick to the left and the transmission will stay in one of seven predetermined ranges. It's a slick way of imitating a standard automatic.

Purists might remember that previous Juke models offered a six-speed manual transmission with the front-wheel-drive drivetrain. Alas, that is no more, but you can upgrade to the Juke Nismo to row your own. If you want more horses, look at the Juke Nismo RS for 211 of them. Either way, the manual is only available in front-wheel drive.

The Juke's all-wheel-drive system can deliver 50 percent of available torque to the rear wheels and torque vectoring also splits it across the rear. This means the Juke can send up to 50 percent of its power to one rear wheel in hard cornering or if you get stuck in the snow.

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