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.
Combine a fairly stiff chassis with standard front and rear stabilizer bars and the torque vectoring AWD system, and you've got a little crossover that is willing to dive into corners with glee.
The Juke's somewhat stiff ride had me actively avoiding rough pavement. Fortunately, the seats provide enough support to get you through any broken city streets. The steering is Goldilocks in the middle, easy to maneuver in the parking lot while weighting up nicely at speed. I prefer more road feel in most cars, but the average driver will find the Juke's steering pleasant.
No really, what is it?
Visually, the Juke is awesomely weird. It's like the designers at Nissan got together one night, got drunk and drew their strange auto fantasies on every bar napkin they could find. Separate headlights and turn signals? Done! Raked windshield and high shoulder line? Why not? A hatchback with the roofline of a coupe? Perfection!
The Juke's look is not for everyone, and Nissan doesn't expect it to be. There are plenty of boring cars out there, and kudos go to Nissan for doing their best to push some excitement on consumers.
If you want to personalize your ride, the Juke Color Studio lets you customize your mirror end caps, door handles, and pretty much every piece of trim.
The funk continues on the inside with high gloss painted center console and door panels, and circular door handles, but the infotainment system is in desperate need of an overhaul. Our test model came with the larger 5.8-inch color touchscreen, and frankly, it's so crowded with information that I can't imagine what the standard 5-inch screen looks like. While the responsive navigation system made it easy to set my destination, Nissan needs to upgrade the whole interface. Sure, it gets the job done, but it's neither pretty to look at nor easy to read.
Below the navigation screen sits a smaller drive mode and climate screen, saving space on the dashboard by using the same six buttons. Press D-Mode and the six buttons let you choose Sport, Normal, or Eco and view a G-meter or efficiency information. Press the Climate option, and those same six buttons show climate controls.
If you routinely haul a lot of cargo, other small crossovers like the Honda HRV may fit your needs better. The Juke has 10.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up, and 35.9 cubic feet folded down.
The 2015 Nissan Juke SL is a fun little crossover that demands attention. While I will always prefer a manual transmission, the CVT in the Juke is one of the best on the market and the shiftable functionality means it can mimic a conventional automatic. However, the less-than-stellar infotainment setup may be a deal breaker for some folks.
In terms of quirky little utes, there isn't much to compare with the 2015 Nissan Juke. The Kia Soul has less power, but then it weighs less as well, with comparable fuel economy but much more useable space. The Scion Xb would be a good one to look at, but it will not be offered past model year 2015. If you're looking for some conspicuous style and aren't married to the idea of a crossover, check out the Hyundai Veloster.
The base model of the Juke starts at $20,250, and our test model here in the SL trim with AWD means you'll give up $28,225 in the US. The base model starts at £13,930 in the UK, or $26,241 in AU.