2011 Nissan Juke Review

Updated June 30, 2011
2011 Nissan Juke

Critics agree on one thing: The Nissan Juke is one funky-looking hatchback. Autoblog.com reviewer Zach Bowman says the odd placement of indicator lamps above the fenders was puzzling at first, but he grew to love the quirky car, saying, "if people can welcome pug dogs into their homes, they should have no problem opening up the garage door for the 2011 Juke."

ProsFun to drive, Lag-free turbo engine, Good safety ratings, Fuel economy, Available all-wheel driveConsLove-it-or-hate-it design, Small cargo space, Limited seating room

Inside Line dubs the Juke "cool ugly," urging readers to ignore the promotional photos and see the car in person to better appreciate its unorthodox beauty. ConsumerReports.org notes the Nissan Juke's ability to "blend characteristics of multiple-vehicle categories," combining qualities of a hatchback with an SUV and wagon. And even though the Juke has a high stance like an SUV, it handles more like a sports car, says TheTruthAboutCars.com.

Based on all the reviewer feedback, one thing seems certain: with its flared fenders, high posture and small spoiler above the hatch, you'll have no problem finding the Juke in a parking lot filled with a sea of more conventional looking vehicles.

Plenty of pop underhood

The Nissan Juke's turbocharged, direct-injected, 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine coalesces with its light weight to give drivers plenty of power over 3,500. Inside Line finds "some surprising pop off the line," and Motor Trend notes that even though its acceleration to 62 mph is slightly longer than the equally new  2011 Mini Countryman's, "the Juke seldom feels slower."

There are no complaints over engine performance, and Motor Trend says it never found turbo lag to be a problem.

The base Nissan Juke features front-wheel drive with a six-speed manual transmission. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is also available and is the only transmission offered on all-wheel-drive Jukes. The AWD system is actually an on-demand four-wheel drive setup; drivers can select front-wheel drive or one of two available AWD programs.

EPA fuel economy estimates are good regardless of transmission choice. Front-wheel-drive Jukes with the stick are rated at 24 mpg city/31 highway/27 combined. The CVT does even better, at 27 city/32 hwy/29 combined. All-wheel-drive requires the CVT, and the ratings stay in the same general ballpark as the 2WD stick: 25 city/30 hwy/27 combined. TheTruthAboutCars.com observes similar gas mileage in its real-world evaluation, though several reviewers report a significant drop in fuel economy with constant flexing of the turbo.

A combination of immediatley-available power, good braking and agile handling delivers an enjoyable driving experience that is often lacking in small cars. In its head-to-head matchup, Motor Trend awards the Juke first place over the Mini Countryman, saying it's "As impractical as it looks, but freakishly fun on the streets. The Juke is no joke, but it will still leave you giggling."

Spunky Interior

The Juke's passenger cabin sports as much personality as the outside, from a console that resembles a motorcycle gas tank to the interactive, multifunction controls on the center stack. TheTruthAboutCars.coms ays that the Nissan Juke's interior trim touches and "floating hood over the instruments" help give the tiny crossover a sporty ambiance, especially with the available red accents. Bluetooth handsfree calling, a six-speaker audio system and iPod connectivity are all standard equipment.

These sporty touches create an "interior with a greater attention to detail than we're typically accustomed to from Nissan," say Autoblog editors. They also like the "sport steering wheel with contours in all the right places" and "large, easy to use buttons," but call the controls for the iPod interface "confounding."

The standout feature is the optional I-CON system (it's short for "integrated control"). The system allows a single set of controls to operate both the climate and vehicle settings Motor Trend describes the setup's operation best: "Press a D-mode switch and the A/C buttons magically change their markings so as to call up a range of sport/normal/economy settings for the steering, throttle map, transmission and air-conditioning. In this mode the HVAC screen will also toggle through turbo boost, economy graphs, trip computer and a real-time torque distribution graphic.". It's switchable, in climate mode, a small LCD display and the buttons flanking it are used to manage the heating and air conditioning. Switching to D-mode, the button icons change, and the controls let the driver manage the steering, boost and transmission settings. By using a single set of controls to manage two entirely different systems, it cuts down on the number of buttons on the instrument panel, simplifying both the interior layout and the overall ease of use.

While the I-CON system adds an interesting technological component to the Juke, and reduces the overall number of buttons on the instrument panel, critics question its overall usefulness. TheTruthAboutCars.com is uncertain about it placement, commenting that the controls "might prove useful, or at least entertainingÉ [but] the screen is mounted just barely above the shifter, so far too low to be safely viewed while driving." As far as affecting performance, Inside Line notes "we didn't notice much difference between Normal and Sport while driving," though TheTruthAboutCars.com feels that the Sport setting "firms up the steering, most noticeably at highway speeds."

Limited passenger and cargo room

The Juke's compact exterior dimensions force occupants to sacrifice some interior comfort. The Juke measures smaller than the cars it shares its basic architecture with, the Nissan Versa and the Cube, at just over 162 inches. When comparing those three, the Juke has less shoulder room, headroom and cargo space.

With front seat legroom a comfortable 42.1 inches, TheTruthAboutCars.com finds "enough legroom and headroom for drivers up to 6-2, maybe 6-3," but only if you are slender. Because the backseat legroom is cut down by 10 inches, this same reviewer says, "the rear is best reserved for those 5-6 and under."

Drivers at Motor Trend feel that "though the Juke is longer, the Mini has more interior space, making it more comparable to the Rogue." Consumer Reports also finds that the "distinctive styling compromises rear-seat space, cargo room, and visibility."

Not all testers object to the size of the interior. Autoblog reports ample room inside for four adults, with a "deceptively large" cargo area. In addition, Motor Trend acknowledges that "the Juke's job is to be the smallest, cheekiest and most stylish member Nissan's extensive crossover lineup and so it's OK for it to sacrifice space for style."

The backseat can accommodate regular car seats and booster seats (there are LATCH anchors for the two outboard positions, and three top tether attachment points[APN4] ), but MotherProof.com reviewers find the Juke too small to accommodate rear-facing infant car seats. The upholstery's propensity for hiding the seatbelt receivers also makes it difficult for young riders to fasten their own seatbelt easily.

The hatchback cargo area has 10.5 cubic feet of storage space, which MotherProof.com calls "puny." For extra hauling, the review recommends folding doewn the back seats and notes that  "there is also under-floor storage in the cargo area," though it only gives this compartment a "fair" rating. TheTruthAboutCars.com mentions that in order to lay the rear seats down completely, "the front seats had to be moved forward a bit to let the rear headrests by." According to Inside Line, in comparison with the Mini Countryman, the Juke is only slightly roomier in the rear. Laying down the backseat gets you  36 cubic feet of storage in comparison to Countryman's 33 cubic feet.

Cabin noise is cited by more than one reviewer. "You will hear those P215/55R17 98V Goodyear Eagle RS-As slapping against the concrete slabs," say Inside Line reviewers, "but that's what happens when you put big wheels on an inexpensive car." Motor Trend doesn't like the "tinny characterless sound" from the engine.

In its overall assessment on the quality of the Juke, Inside Line declares, "Nissan still knows how to build fun, small cars. There's also a level of refinement here that you won't find in the Cube or Versa." However, they stop short of naming it a comparison-test winner, saying that, "on the whole, the 2011 Nissan Juke strikes us as a poor man's Mini Countryman." TheTruthAboutCars.com felt that their Juke tester's light gray velour upholstery is "out of place" in such a hip car, but likes the available black and red-black interior options better.

Safety and Reliability

The Insurance Industry for Highway Safety names the Juke a Top Safety Pick for 2011. Side airbags in the front and curtain airbags for both the first and second row help the Juke earn top markings with "a low risk of any significant injuries" in each of its tests.

Standard features that assist with traction include ABS and electronic stability control. While putting the Juke through its paces, Motor Trend remarks that "it is more agile and has a better handle on canceling understeer" than the delicate steering system on the Mini Countryman, but TheTruthAboutCars.com worries that "the standard stability control has its work cut out for it with enthusiastic but inexperienced drivers."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not yet performed safety tests on the Juke, and notes only minor service bulletins to date. The car is "too new for adequate reliability ratings," according to one major consumer organization.

Research Sources

ConsumerReports.org rates the Juke against the similarly-sized Kia Sportage and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, analyzing the design, fuel economy, functionality and drivability of all three. In a side-by-side comparison, Motor Trend puts the Juke through its paces alongside a Mini Countryman. TheTruthAboutCars.com, Inside Line, Autoblog.com and MotherProof.com evaluate the Juke in multi-day test drives. The Insurance Industry for Highway Safety and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provide information on safety ratings and service bulletins, though only the former has tested the Juke as of this writing.  Environmental Protection Agency gas mileage data is sourced from FuelEconomy.gov.

Our Sources

1. ConsumerReports.org

Kia Sportage Outpoints Mitsubishi Outlander Sport & Nissan Juke in SUV/Hatchbacks Tests, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, February 08, 2011

The editors at Consumer Reports rate three vehicles that "blend characteristics of multiple-vehicle categories--SUVs, wagons, and hatchbacks." The Kia Sportage and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport were tested against the Nissan Juke for design, fuel economy, functionality and drivability.

2. Motor Trend

Comparison: 2011 Mini Countryman vs 2011 Nissan Juke, Paul Horrell, July 23, 2010

Motor Trend runs the Nissan Juke against the Mini Countryman over a German test course that includes back roads, suburban streets and the autobahn. Though they find the cargo space "comically small" and think the steering system could use improvement, the Juke rates higher overall than the Countryman for its superior handling and fun ride experience.

3. The Truth About Cars

Review: 2011 Nissan Juke Take Two, Michael Karesh, June 10, 2011

TheTruthAboutCars.com says the Juke fun is to drive with plenty of power, but did find the interior limiting and feels the handling could be improved upon. While Michael Karesh did not do a side-by-side comparison, his experience supplements his comparison between the Juke, the Mini Countryman and the Pontiac Aztek.

4. Autoblog.com

Review: 2011 Nissan Juke, Zach Bowman, January 24, 2011

Though Zach Bowman initially was not sure what to think about the Juke's appearance, the sporty handling and peppy power soon overcame his reservations. He felt comfortable with four adults and a myriad of cargo with an "interior with a greater attention to detail than we're typically accustomed to from Nissan," but didn't like the highway cabin noise or the Juke's high stance above the ground.

5. InsideLine.com

2011 Nissan Juke First Drive, Erin Riches, Jun 2, 2010

Though Inside Line doesn't test the Nissan Juke in a direct comparison to other vehicles, their review compares it against similar counterparts such as the Mini Countryman and Nissan's own Versa and Cube.

6. MotherProof.com

2011 Nissan Juke, Sara Lacey, May 24, 2011

MotherProof.com reviewer Sara Lacey takes the Nissan Juke out for a working mother's experience in the real world with car seats, warehouse club shopping and pedestrian feedback.

7. IIHS.org

Nissan Juke, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

The Insurance Industry for Highway safety tests the Juke's abilities to handle a myriad of crash tests, and names it as a Top Safety Pick for 2011.

8. SaferCar.gov

5-Star Safety Ratings, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not yet performed safety tests on the Juke, but does post two complaints and six service bulletins.

9. FuelEconomy.gov

2011 Nissan Juke, Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy

The Environmental Protection Agency posts information on vehicle fuel usage and carbon footprints and translates the information user-costs to drive. The standard 2011 Nissan Juke with a manual transmission uses 24 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway, while the automatic transmission rates at 25 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway. Both versions have a combined use of 27 mpg.