Yeah, I know – with a name like that you really don’t know what to expect from the vehicle.
In fact, on the flight to Vancouver, B.C. for the media launch for the new Nissan, I found myself struggling to explain the Juke to a guy sitting next to me on the plane inquiring about my trip. Realizing the challenge I was having in conveying the concept to him, it occurred to me that a lot of it stemmed from the fact that I just couldn’t quite figure out how to classify the vehicle because of its name.
My initial thought: “Is it meant to be youthful? considering ‘Juke’ puts you in the mind of a video game or some dance move pulled from the ’60s and flipped into some new trend by an artist on MTV.
Not that targeting youth is bad thing. It’s just that Nissan just rolled out a vehicle targeted at a younger demo named the Cube. So initially, I just couldn’t quite make the fit for the Juke. But now after spending a day touring Vancouver in the Juke, I think I get it.
COOL OR WEIRD?
Think Nissan “Murano-like” styling but smaller with more small car-like elements. The hatchback seeks to appeal to urban dwellers (primarily male) who are looking for vehicles that are more suitable for city living, but conceptualized in Nissan’s design DNA.
Positioned as a compact crossover, the Juke’s styling is either cool or weird depending on your taste. Whatever your opinion, it’s definitely different. But remember, so was the Murano before becoming a defining vehicle for the crossover segment.
The first thing you notice about the vehicle is the long front end or nose that with the headlights and fog lamps reminds you of some mechanical bug snatched from a sci-fi flick. Other key elements of the Juke’s design, which Nissan describes as “mechanical yet organic,” include protruding wheels, slopping roof and belt line, and boomerang-shaped taillights.
HOP IN Once you settle inside the Juke, trying to figure out the design or name really isn’t an issue. Inspired by a motorsports theme, the cockpit is simple with some cool functional details.
Interior space is comfortable as both a driver and front passenger, but tight in the back for rear passengers. Then again, the idea of a compact is to cut down on space. If rear seat space is a concern, you’ll definitely want to opt for something bigger whether it’s Nissan or not.
When it comes to hauling your things, it’s a different story. A 60/40 spilt rear bench seat and flat cargo space with nearly 40 cubic area of space with the rear seat folded gives you a lot usage of the Juke’s rear space if you need to haul stuff around.
Convenience features including heated leather-appointed seats, a navigations system and optional push button start. The crossover is also available with a rearview monitor, which comes in handy when parking any vehicle in the city where finding a parking spot is typically an issue.
However, considering that males who like sports are a primary demo for the vehicle, you’d think the Juke would have a cup holder that would hold a standard can of Red Bull. Or maybe that’s just my personal pet peeve.
JUST RIGHT Hit the gas and the Juke packs a surprising little punch for a compact equipped with a 1.6-liter engine thanks to the addition of a turbo. Nissan officials note that the turbo engine provides 2.5L performance with the 1.6L engine with 188 horsepower and 177 lb-ft. torque.
The fun factor kicks in when you pair that with the Juke’s available All-Wheel-Drive mode (FWD is standard) and the ability to select from three different driving modes for throttle, transmission and steering settings − Normal, Sport and Eco.
The system is part of Nissan’s Advanced Integrated Control (I-CON) system vehicle interface designed to provide the driver with a unique connection to the vehicle through just the right amount of control and feedback.
The Juke, available as an automatic or 6-speed manual, also features a standard vehicle dynamic control with traction control system and standard 17-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires, that you typically don’t get on a vehicle in this segment.
The Juke name was derived from the performance attributes of the vehicle.
Other standard features include iPod and Bluetooth connectivity along with standard safety features that include six air bags, VDC and active front headrests.
The crossover is available in three trim levels – S, SV and SL. The navigation system features a 5-inch color touch screen display and the Juke is also available with an optional Rockford Fosgate-powered subwoofer.
Pricing starts at under $19,000, which isn’t bad, and caps out at $24,550 for a fully loaded SL model, which is a bit pricey for the segment. The good thing is that there’s enough stuff packaged in the base Juke for what most consumers would want from a vehicle in this segment if Nissan can just convince them to get past the name.
HIGHLIGHTS • Base Price: $18,960 • MPG: 27 City/32 HWY (CVT-FWD) • Standard 17-inch alloy wheels • Available All-Wheel-Drive • Optiona l Rockford Fosgate subwoofer
Marcus Amick is a national automotive lifestyle writer and marketing analyst. He can be contacted at Marcus@Wheelside.com.