I love the Juke. Say what you want about the styling, but after a week’s worth of driving, I just can’t get tired of it. Among all the cars the revitalized Nissan has brought to market so far, this is the one that’s nailed it dead on. It’s certainly not the perfect vehicle, but it’s young, hip, and different—the very adjectives that Nissan needs if they were to stand a chance against the Toyotas and Hondas of the world. Clearly, this has none of the staidness leftover from the beige leather and fake wood; this is styled to stand out.
At first glance, it’s hard what to make of the styling. Some people have referred to the ROBIOTIC styling as outlandish or weird. I myself found the design to be a cross-breed between a Pokémon and a frog, only to be endeared to it after some time. Nissan says the radical front end is supposed to echo rally cars. Whatever, but I do admire them for this one-of-a-kind treatment. The rounded headlights are mounted low in the nose supplemented by high-mounted slash park lights and signal indicators higher on the hood edge. The rear-end is equally interesting with the boomerang-shaped taillights mounted on the trailing edge. Less talked about, but no less interesting, the slopping rear roofline and bulging fenders give an unabashedly caricature appearance capped off with exaggerated-looking 17-inch wheels. When Nissan says they’re going bold with the Juke, they mean it.
The Juke is labeled as the “sports car of the B-segment crossover”, and the cabin relays that message well. Like most crossovers, you sit relatively higher, but the way the dashboard contours around the driver is unique to it. The expansive front windshield and large side mirrors give excellent front visibility while the front seats offer good back and side support. The meaty three-spoke leather steering wheel adjusts only for tilt, but still falls nicely into hand while the pedals are positioned well. Though it sounds more like function over form, there are still some hints of wackiness like the gas tank-like center console and the floating instrument panel visor. Still, the look is somewhat subdued with the all black treatment broken up by the glossy dark gray metallic trimmings.
Personally, I love the unique Integrated Control System or I-CON in the Juke. I-CON is a versatile, multi-colored system that allows the driver to change the drive and climate modes with a single touch. The control panel, made up of two rotary dials and six buttons, are shared but thanks to a special filter and two-color LED lamps, the selection switches between climate control and drive modes. It sounds gimmicky, but I find it very intuitive and allows for the placement of larger controls that don’t sacrifice any legibility.
The Juke’s standout exterior and sporty interior does serve as the precursor to its biggest flaw: practicality or more specifically, the lack of it. When viewed from the eyes of a college kid or a regular at The Palace Pool Club, there’s nothing wrong with it. The space is good upfront and interestingly enough, despite the small footprint, there’s a copious amount of cubby holes including a lit glove box. Unfortunately, as these kids turn to parents, the Juke loses its edge. Ingress and egress is particularly hard for those in the back not only because of the “hidden” door handles and but because of the oddly cut rear doors and the roofline. The rear seat space itself is extremely tight, offering cozy accommodations even for two adults. Plus, the luggage space isn’t too big—a gym bag and a laptop bag already occupying half of its quoted 251 liters of cargo space. Again, considering its sports car labeling, I guess the rear seats and split-folding rear seats should be considered as bonuses?
So while it’s clear the Juke doesn’t score high on the practicality scale, it does manage to score well in terms of driving fun. The key here is the structure that underpins that sporty-looking body. Built to optimize rigidity and minimize weight, the Juke is the first one in its class to use a cradle-type sub-frame that dampens vibration and harshness while spreading chassis load over a wider area. Together with its nicely tuned suspension, it makes for one corner-loving crossover. Having the power served up solely on the front wheels doesn’t seem to hold the Juke back when it comes to dancing as it can negotiate through any piece of tarmac with little argument. What’s more, it’s quiet and comfortable in doing so. The tall ride height and non-independent rear suspension does serve a bit of under steer and jitteriness over some ruts, but not enough to dampen the fun. The electric power steering is nicely tuned with a good, weighty response as are the brakes with good bite.
The Juke’s chassis is so well balanced that the moment the throttle is opened, I immediately felt it could use a lot more pep. Powering the Juke is a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine good for 116 horsepower and 154 Nm of torque. Relying on atmospheric pressure (no turbo here), the Juke will almost always lose during stoplight duels. Most small cars rely on an initially strong pickup only to lose steam as the speeds goes up; the Juke is the opposite. Mash the throttle and it’ll barely chug along. Even with the drive mode set to ‘Normal’ or ‘Sport’, you’ll see just about any other motorized object overtake you. And let’s not even talk about ‘Eco’ which is simply dreadful. It’s only when the engine hits 3,300 rpm does the pace become decent enough. Surprisingly, after overcoming that initial sluggishness (thanks to its 1,332-kilogram curb weight), it’ll hit triple digit speeds easily. There’s also a missed opportunity to put in any form of manual override be it a gate on the shifter or flappy paddles since the Juke really, really needs them, especially on uphill overtakes. Still, treated purely as an urban crawler, it returns 9.34 km/L (average speed 15 km/h).
In the end, what I love about the Nissan Juke is that it’s not trying to be the crossover for everyone. Instead, Nissan grew balls and designed it to be a styling standout that’s individualistic and downright fun. It wears uniqueness on its sleeve and is totally unashamed of it. Sure, it doesn’t score high in practicality or straight-line pace, but it manages to be reasonably priced and well-loaded enough. In fact, I would say it’s the best choice so far in the B-segment crossover category. More than anything though, if it’s the Juke’s mission to get people to talk about Nissan, then it’s already comprised that. This is the sort of vehicle Nissan needs to get back on track.
2016 Nissan Juke 1.6 Upper CVT
|Ownership||2016 Nissan Juke 1.6 Upper CVT|
|Vehicle Classification||Sub-compact Crossover|
|Body Type||5-door Crossover|
|Engine / Drive||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Aspiration||Normally Aspirated, EFI|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||116 @ 5,600|
|Nm @ rpm||154 @ 4,000|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 93~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,332|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Torsion Beam Axle|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Rear Brakes||Solid Disc|
|Tires||Yokohama dB Decidel E70 215/55 R 17 V (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||No|
|Parking Sensors||No, Rear Parking Camera|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|No. of Speakers||6|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|