A customizable compact crossover that responds to your team and the road.
I recently had the opportunity to spend a week in the well-priced Juke compact crossover and it was a week of pure, sweet fun.
First, let’s talk about the obvious elephant in the room
The Nissan Juke I test drove was bright yellow. And I have to say, I would never buy a bright yellow car. But it’s nice to know that you can if you want to. The Juke “Color Studio” line made me ask: What other colors does it come in, and how creative can you get with it?
The answer: pretty much any color, or color combination, you might want. Enthusiastic University of Florida fan? You can order it in Florida Gator orange and blue. Spend your weekends rooting for the University of Michigan? Go for blue and maize. If you’re like my household, riding the roller coaster of wins and losses between the hedges at the University of Georgia, you can get it in Bulldog red and black. Or, if you’re a Georgia Tech fan, then you can get it as pictured here in Yellow Jacket yellow (being a UGA alum, I would never order it in yellow).
You can also express an ironic sense of humor, be the best dressed car at ComicCon, adopt the palette of your business logo, or put a little badass spin on this badass little car.
Nissan is SO into the fan thing that the company just launched the Diehard Fan app that allows you to scan your face with your smart phone and ‘paint’ it with the iconic colors and designs of your favorite team. You can create a photo or a short video and share it with friends.
More fun for front seat passengers than those in the rear
Driving around my Connecticut town for a week was fun; carpooling in the Juke was not. This is a car intended for drivers who only need the back seat as an occasional convenience, like when it’s your turn to be the designated driver or when the kids beg to go with you to the mall because they think you’re in a spending mood. The back seat is small and while it seats 5 (technically), with two passengers in the front seat, leg room in the back seat is shallow. The one exception might be having very small passengers in the back—ones who don’t need much leg room. Of course, there is a latch system for car seats and one would fit just fine, and while two would be tight, they would fit, too (though the cargo space is on the small side, so other baby gear would have to be compact—such as an umbrella stroller).
This car is for drivers who:
- Don’t need to haul other passengers regularly
- Like to have flexibility to haul cargo
- Like a car that expresses personality—theirs or the car’s
- Value the design inside the car as much as the design of the exterior
- Appreciate a fun, peppy performance
- May need all wheel drive occasionally
What drivers who look at this car should consider:
- The flexible space inside the car can mean making compromises
- The front seats have a single arm rest between them front
- The arm rest has to be up to put drinks in the cup holders
- Could be a good car for families with a baby or two
- A smallish back seat can be tight for third and fourth passengers
- The Juke’s peppy performance may be too tempting for young drivers to drive fast
A peppy, sporty ride
But I digress; driving the Juke was a lot of fun, and I have to confess, it was all I thought it would be and more. The Juke is peppy, with a 1.6 liter/188 horsepower engine and a driver feedback system that helps you get the most performance from it, whether driving in eco mode— as I usually do because I love to get the most MPG— or driving in sport mode, which for most Juke drivers is the point: getting the greatest TPM (thrill per mile). On that front, if I had a teenage son (which I don’t) and I was buying a car (which I’m not) this one would be a sure-fire hit.
A little more peace of mind for parents
The Juke offers NissanConnect, which has some of the ‘parent comfort’ things that we love including Boundary Alerts, Curfew alert and Max Speed alert; these let you know when the car has left a designated area, is out past a set curfew or exceeds a set speed limit. It can also make an emergency call with the push of a button or if the airbags deploy, locate the car if it’s lost or stolen, and remote lock or start it. NissanConnect requires a smartphone, an app and relies on your data plan, however; it is not hard-wired into the car.
The seating in the Juke helps parents feel better, too; studies have shown that each additional teen in the car increases a teen driver’s chance of having a crash by 100%. With the limited leg room in the back seat, your teen is less likely to go out cruising with a car full of kids.
A compact crossover: Best of both worlds
Then, there are other things that the Juke brings to a young driver that would make it worthy, too: first, as a crossover it has a slightly higher stance off the ground (7 inches, versus 5.4 inch ground clearance of the Nissan Altima) that makes it easier to get around in snow, on rough roads or in challenging weather conditions, but it’s not so high off the road that it feels as if it might roll over as you round the corner of your cul-de-sac. As a parent, this raises my comfort level.
A car that grows along with your teen
We want our teen’s first car to be one that will guide them from the safety of our home to the independence of college and beyond. The Juke’s flexible space and size are great for this: when he’s ready to drive himself to college, he can load his car loaded with stuff for the dorm: the rear seats fold to create 36 cubic feet of cargo space (10.5 with the rear seats up).
And the Juke will make the transition nicely when your teen is ready to take that first job in Boston or San Francisco (because of course, your kid is brilliant and headed for a high-paying tech job): it’s thoughtfully designed on the inside, and since it’s on the small side, it’s easy to park.
What We Loved
- Cute, personality-filled compact crossover
- All wheel drive capability
- Flexible storage
- Fun to drive
- Driver feedback systems
- Storage compartment in the arm rest
- Cup holders under the arm rest also make a great handbag storage spot
- A small storage spot just under the center console in front of the gear shift; a rubber mat keeps your key or phone anchored so it won’t slide off when you round a corner
What You Need to Know
- Only one USB port
- Bottle holders in the door panels, too
- Base price: about $20,000; price of the model we drove: $28,225
- Gets 26 MPG city/31 MPG highway
- NissanConnect connected car services may require a subscription after the initial subscription expires
- NissanConnect services require a smartphone with a data subscription
Disclosure: Nissan loaned us the Juke for our test drive; opinions expressed here are all my own.