The Nissan Juke gets a revised front and rear appearance and added features for the 2015 model year. When the quirky Juke subcompact sport-utility was introduced for 2011, it had little competition in North America.
Four years later, however, this refreshed 2015 Juke faces competition from several interesting new entries, including the Chevrolet Trax, Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V, and Mazda CX-3. All are small crossover utility vehicles (CUVs) derived from subcompact cars.
Juke comes standard with front-wheel drive but offers the option of all-wheel drive (AWD).
With quirky styling, good performance and decent cargo space, the Juke is nearly as practical as it is fun to drive. The name Juke suggests flitting around town, as a boxer might juke around the ring, and that’s just what it does: The Nissan Juke is a great car for running errands, hauling small stuff, jumping in and out and parking in tight places. With responsive steering, it hugs twisty roads, though with its short wheelbase and big 17-inch wheels, you do feel the bumps.
Nissan calls the Juke a sport cross, meaning a blend of sports car and crossover utility vehicle. Built on the Nissan Versa platform, Juke is seven inches shorter and three inches wider than the Versa hatchback. Its polarizing, mutant-insect appearance isn’t for everyone, but it’s a hit with buyers who appreciate unusual, eye-catching design in a convenient runabout.
That appearance hasn’t changed much until now, but for 2015 Nissan Juke gets new front and rear fascias with Nissan’s V-Motion grille, projector-beam headlamps and LED front accent lamps complimented in back by revised (Nissan 370Z-like) boomerang taillamps with LED accents. The 2015 Juke also gets LED turn signal repeaters on its outside mirrors, a host of new features, and three new colors (Super Black, Solar Yellow and Cosmic Blue).
Newly standard for 2015 are a RearView Monitor camera, Nissan Intelligent Key with Push Button Start, Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System and Hands-free Text Messaging Assistant, while NissanConnect with Navigation and Mobile Apps and an Around View Monitor (AVM) with Moving Object Detection are newly available.
The second-generation 1.6-liter 16-valve DOHC Direct Injection Gasoline (DIG) turbocharged aluminum four-cylinder still makes the same 188 horsepower and 177 pound feet of torque, but with improved fuel efficiency and responsiveness along with lower emissions for 2015.
The new Juke Color Studio program enables buyers to choose custom colors for the front and rear fascia, headlamps, side sills, door handles, mirror caps, rear roof spoiler, and the 17-inch alloy wheels along with select interior pieces including the heater vents. With eight available colors from which to choose, you can match the colors of your favorite sports teams or create your own personalized look.
A performance-oriented Nismo model with a more aggressive exterior, stiffer suspension on 18-inch wheels, a rear spoiler, red-stitched synthetic suede interior trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob was added in mid-2013. And that was followed in spring 2014 by a higher-performance Nismo RS, elevating the model count to five: Juke S, Juke SV, Juke SL, Juke Nismo, Juke Nismo RS. All offer a choice of front- or all-wheel drive.
Most models come with Nissan’s 6-step Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) with Manual Mode and D-step Logic Control, which simulates shifts to make it feel like a conventional automatic. Nismo models offer a choice of a 6-speed manual with front-wheel drive or a NISMO-tuned Xtronic CVT with all-wheel drive. The torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system divides torque up to 50/50 front-to-rear and can split the rear portion side-to-side to enhance cornering stability.
Juke can seat five, though we don’t think many adults will want to ride in the rear-center seat for long. It’s more comfortable for four. The comfortable front seats are covered in sporty fabric in the Juke SV, leather in the Juke SL, or synthetic suede in Juke Nismo. The distinctive center console is designed to look like a motorcycle gas tank with its hard plastic trim painted glossy silver or metallic red. Folded flat, the standard 60/40 rear seat provides good cargo space behind the front seat.
Fuel economy for the Juke CVT FWD is an EPA-estimated 28/32 mpg City/Highway, or 30 mpg Combined (up one mpg from 2014) and 26/31/28 mpg for Juke CVT AWD. The more powerful 2015 Juke Nismo RS is rated at 215 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque (or 211 hp and 184 lb-ft with AWD), down slightly from 2014. The slightly larger but lighter 1.4-liter turbocharged Chevrolet Trax is similarly rated at 26/34/29 mpg with its 6-speed automatic and front-wheel drive, 24/31/27 mpg with AWD.
Juke’s CVT is a good one. It can be used like an automatic, shifted into Drive and forgotten, or (unlike some) shifted manually through its six speed ranges. The 6-speed manual available on front-wheel drive Juke Nismo models is more fun, especially on the Nismo RS, but power-on torque steer can be annoying.
Nissan Juke is a functional, practical, compact package that stands out in the crowd for its styling. Heavy on the humps, it can’t be called pretty, but it definitely turns heads. Some think it’s cute, in an ugly duckling sort of way. Nismo models, especially the higher-powered Nismo RS versions, look more aggressive.
The design shouts originality. Raked windshield, high beltline, broad shoulders, roundish nose, low bugeye headlamps inspired by rally lights, with round foglights in the lower front fascia. Amber running lights and turn signals are slapped onto the arched fenders, a brilliant effect like it or not. Rarely have turn signals so shaped the look of a car. The taillights borrow their boomerang shape from the Nissan 370Z sports car.
High ground clearance hints at monster truck. Vertical door handles hide in the pillars, so it looks like a two-door. Aggressively edged fender flares hang over standard 17-inch wheels that don’t fill the wheel arches, though the 18-inch wheels with summer tires on Nismo models do.
The Juke offers more comfort and space than its compact exterior suggests. The seats are just right in the standard rugged fabric, and marvelous in the Nismo’s simulated suede. The fabric looks best in dark charcoal, and SL models’ leather is terrific in rich brown. There’s good bolstering to keep you in place, although the suspension allows upper body sway.
Overall, it’s a nice driver’s cabin. The gearshift and seat are high, making the car feel bigger than it is and enabling you to see over the tops of the big round fenders with their bugeye turn signals. There’s more good visibility in the mirror, as the rear glass looks small from the outside, but it fills the rearview mirror.
There is not much rear-seat legroom, just 32.1 inches. The Juke is a 5-seater, so three people in the back seat will be squeezed, but it works great for one or two people with the 60/40 seats folded flat and the rear doors handy for accessing cargo. The six-inch-longer, four-inch taller Chevrolet Trax offers a roomier rear cabin.
There’s 35.9 cubic feet of cargo space with the 60/40 rear seat folded flat, which it does with one touch. That’s less than the Mini Countryman at 41.3 cu. ft. and quite a bit less than the Chevrolet Trax (48.4) or the Kia Soul (50.4). But with those seats up, there is just 10.5 cubic feet of cargo space under the hatch, comparable to a fairly small trunk.
Front-wheel-drive Jukes have a couple more cubic feet of storage in a bin under the load floor, but this space is used by suspension and drive bits in all-wheel-drive models.
The door panels and dash are covered in hard, scratchy plastic, but the hard glossy accent trim, painted silver or candy-apple red, looks great and has been well-received.
The speedometer and tachometer have clear black faces with white lettering, red needles and brushed-aluminum-like surrounds. Trip info is digitally displayed in a little window between them, but to scroll through the items you have to reach around behind the steering wheel to a small dial, which can be distracting; some drivers will stick an arm through the steering wheel to reach it.
The center stack is big and wide with rounded corners. At the top sits the audio system or the five-inch navigation screen. The buttons, knobs and dials are all easy to use, including climate control on base models, or the I-CON (Integrated Control) system on all other Juke models. I-CON is like a central command, with different display colors and functions, depending on the mode it’s in, and a screen showing questionable information, from cornering g force to eco scorecards.
We think the center console, inspired by a motorcycle gas tank, looks good and adds contour and color to the interior. The console is a shapely tube, painted rich and glossy in candy-apple or silver. Sharing the space between the seats is a parking brake lever, two cupholders, a coin holder and a stash bin.
The Nissan Juke steers with accuracy and quick response in most conditions, and with standard 17-inch wheels wearing large-footprint 215/55R17 tires, it hugs every bit of the road. The turbocharger seems to cut in and out at times during mid-rpm cruise, but the 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinger accelerates convincingly up to 6400 rpm before the rev limiter gently chokes it. There’s an exciting surge at 3500 rpm but less available torque down low. With a tall sixth step in the CVT transmission, 80 mph is a casual 2600 rpm. By comparison, the 1.4-liter turbocharged 2015 Chevrolet Trax is equally athletic.
The CVT is fine for around town, with smooth kick-downs and six sharp steps in manual mode, though the gap between second and third seems a bit too tall. It’s not terribly obedient in manual mode, and a bit slow to figure out your driving technique in changing conditions, but it work well for a CVT. In Nismos, however, it steals some life from the spirited engine. We recommend the 6-speed manual to maximize driving fun.
The I-CON system, standard in all but the Juke S, offers Normal, Sport and Eco modes that change the settings for engine, CVT and steering response. Sport mode makes the gas pedal more responsive, sharpens the CVT and quickens the steering. Eco mode gives much less response while the CVT works to optimize fuel economy and the steering gets duller. Don’t expect quick acceleration in Eco mode, but it’s great for light-footing around town or humming along at 65 mph on the freeway with cruise control set.
Any car with a short wheelbase will feel the bumps, and the Juke is no exception. Bumps generally not sharp or harsh, but they are plentiful, and the ride can be jouncy on even surfaces. A couple of hours on an uneven freeway, and you’ll know it. But overall, the Juke rides reasonably well for its size and weight and is not uncomfortable on rough roads.
The Nissan Juke is a compact sport crossover utility with distinctive styling, sporty performance and fairly useful cargo space. It comes standard with front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is available, providing wintry weather capability. The interior is youthful and tidy with comfortable seats in rugged standard or premium fabric, leather or (in Nismos) simulated suede. The zippy turbocharged 1.6-liter engine delivers 25-28 real-world mpg.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Gary Witzenburg reported from Detroit; with Sam Moses reporting from the Pacific Northwest.