Polarizing Purple Frog Hauls but Can't Haul
When it comes to polarizing crossover looks, the 2015 Nissan Juke is unmatched, especially in the shockingly purple exterior color of our test car. Odd exterior design aside, our AWD-equipped Juke comes packing lots of punch courtesy of a 188-hp, 1.6-liter turbo-four with 177 lb-ft of torque. (AWD NISMO RS models are rated at 211 hp and 184 lb-ft respectively.) We spent a week with the purple frog to see if one of the first baby crossovers to hit the market can still compete in a fast-growing segment.
One of the Juke’s greatest strengths is that it’s fun to drive, even when you don’t go for one of the NISMO versions. Driving down Mulholland Highway, our AWD-equipped tester handled well and felt right at home on the twisties. (A CVT is the only transmission on AWD Jukes.) On the figure eight, the Juke pulled an average of 0.67 g and completed the course in 27.1 seconds. For a tall vehicle, the Juke doesn’t have much body roll and feels well-planted. However, even with the four-wheel independent suspension in AWD-equipped Jukes, the ride is jittery and bouncy, especially over rough surfaces. The suspension has a harder time dealing with smaller bumps, and the bounciness gets so bad that it feels like being shaken inside a tin can. Additionally, there’s quite a bit of road noise when you’re on the highway, and it becomes even louder over less-than-perfect pavement.
At the track, the Juke SL AWD went from 0-60 mph in 7.4 seconds and completed the quarter mile in 15.8 seconds at 88.9 mph. Both times are unsurprisingly slower than the manual-transmission, front-drive Juke NISMO RS we tested, which got to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 14.9 seconds at 94.8 mph. When it’s time to slow things down, the Juke comes to a halt from 60 mph in 119 feet. The Juke doesn’t feel underpowered on the road, and a well-calibrated CVT keeps the engine in its sweet spot and eager to rev. Thanks to the torquey, 188-hp turbo-four you don’t have to mash the accelerator when trying to overtake slower traffic. Compared with other small crossovers, only the Mini Countryman and Paceman in S or JCW guise can match the Juke’s straight-line performance and handling.
The EPA rates the Juke with AWD at 26/31 mpg city/highway, but in Real MPG testing, we were able to eke out slightly better fuel economy at 26.1/32.2 mpg. It’s relatively fuel efficient, but the 11.8-gallon gas tank in AWD Jukes (FWD models get a 13.2-gallon tank) means that you have to stop more often to refuel, especially during long road trips.
And although the Juke is technically a five-seat crossover, it’s best viewed as a car for two with room for four in a pinch. Despite the acceptable legroom back there, headroom is an issue for taller adults due to the sloping roofline. Even though the front seats offer decent levels of comfort and support, the lack of a telescoping steering wheel means it’s nearly impossible to find an ideal driving position. Compared to the Recaro bucket seats found on the Juke NISMO RS, the ones in the non-NISMO Juke provides better comfort with more cushioning and padding.
Fit and finish inside the Juke’s cabin isn’t very impressive, especially considering our purple Juke’s as-tested price of $28,225. Interior plastics are hard and look like they came out of the Versa. Our particular test vehicle also suffered from plenty of squeaks and rattles in the driver’s seat, sunroof, and on the front passenger’s side. On the plus side, our Juke came with plenty of standard features, including navigation, Nissan’s multi-camera Around View Monitor, a Rockford Fosgate audio system, leather upholstery, heated front seats, and a sunroof.
The Juke’s interior lacks useful storage cubbies or places to store small items such as phones and wallets. Even though the center stack controls are easy and straightforward, the dated graphics and small 5.8-inch touchscreen show the infotainment system’s age. That infotainment touchscreen and the smaller, lower screen for the driving mode selector and climate controls are hard to see, especially when there’s too much glare. At night, the center stack buttons are lit in an orange hue reminiscent of the ’90s, making the Juke’s interior feel even older.
If you’re looking for a small crossover that can successfully haul your Ikea or Costco shopping, the Juke isn’t it, because there’s only 10.5 cubic feet behind the split-folding rear seats. When the second row isn’t in use, there’s up to 35.9 cubic feet of cargo space, which is about 15-20 cubic feet less than what you’d find in a Honda HR-V and Jeep Renegade. A sticker in the hatch warns of large baggage not fitting in the cargo area with the seats up, showing how much space is lost due to the car’s funky exterior design.
The Juke is a great choice for those looking for a fun-to-drive small crossover. However, if you need space for adults and cargo-carrying capability, then you’d be better served by traditional hatchback or wagon, such as a four-door Volkswagen Golf and Golf SportWagen or newer small crossover entries such as the Honda HR-V. Space and usability are sacrificed in favor of polarizing style and driving fun in the Juke, making it one of the least practical entries in the small crossover segment. Once you get behind the wheel and drive, though, all the thoughts of impracticality and polarizing looks magically disappear, replaced by the fun-to-drive nature and engaging on-road performance.
|2015 Nissan Juke SL AWD|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$28,225|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||1.6L/188-hp/177-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSION||Cont. variable auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,178 lb (60/40%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||162.4 x 69.5 x 61.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.4 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.8 sec @ 88.9 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||119 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.85 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.1 sec @ 0.67 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||26/31/28 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||130/109 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.69 lb/mile|