By Robert Nichols
After driving the 2015 Nissan JUKE SL AWD for a week I have come away impressed. Unlike the vast majority of CUV’s in the market the JUKE is fun to drive and nice to look at. Almost every review I have read about the JUKE uses the word “funky” to describe the looks. To me the small CUV has a sporting look about it. The coupé like roofline and steeply raked windshield and rear window add a sense of style to what could easily have become just another box.
I was rather surprised by the amount of pointing and long gazes the JUKE drew, especially from women. I’m serious guys; the JUKE would give a puppy a run for its money.
The front seats are fantastic. The bolstering is spot on, and although they have few adjustments, every single person, regardless of how big or small found them comfortable. The rear seats are tight, but I managed to wedge my nearly 6’3” body in, only after my wife had the driver’s’ seat set to her driver position. As the test vehicle I had was the top of the line fully loaded version, the seating was clad in leather, and both front seats were heated. The rear seats are 60/40 split fold downs, with the anchors required for child seats. Lift the hatch and you will find by a space that narrows considerably near the top due to the sloping rear window. When the rear seats are folded flat, there is ample room (39.5 cu.ft.) but with the seats up it is still large enough for the weekly shop (10.5 cu.ft.).
The 2015 JUKE I tested had a 5.8” satnav/radio touchscreen with Sirius XM satellite radio. The touchscreen is easy to read in all lighting and the navigation system, with voice recognition, works very well. A nice feature is the real time traffic information. The system highlights roads in one of three colours depending on the amount of traffic congestion. If the road is green then traffic flow is normal; yellow represents slower than average and red means traffic has come to a grinding halt. The satellite based system will also provide you with up to date local fuel prices, weather, stocks and even movie listings. Sharing the screen with the Navi is the Rockford Fosgate stereo. If you are the sort of person who can only enjoy your music loud, then you will relish in the crisp highs and deep rattle free bass. The Rockford Fosgate stereo is standard in the SL, Nismo and Nismo RS models, and for a true audiophile, worth the extra cost of admission.
Below the sat nav/audio system you will find what Nissan refers to as the Integrated Control (I-CON) system. This system has two functions. The first function controls the drive mode. There are three modes to choose from and each alters the throttle/transmission/steering response settings. I drove in all of the settings equally but found myself in Normal for the bulk of the time. Eco was great at keeping fuel use down once you were at cruising speeds, which is great as the turbocharged engine likes premium fuel. It also made sense in stop-and-go city traffic by having a leisurely response to throttle application. I found traffic would be pulling away from me by the time I started to move, leaving a nice gap between me and the car in front. Sport is exactly the opposite; the throttle response is immediate and the engine and CVT try to remain in the upper rev range keeping the Juke excitable. I found this setting too much for city traffic, especially when the driver ahead was dawdling about.
The second function of the I-CON system is for the climate controls. What impressed me was the system uses the same 6 buttons to control both functions. The buttons are laid out equally on each side of a small colour display screen. Above the screen are two buttons; Climate and D-Mode. Push D-mode and the buttons read: Normal, Sport, Eco on the left and Setup, Drive info and ECO Info on the right. In sport mode the screen displays a turbo-boost gauge and if you press the Drive Info button (while still in Sport) a G-meter comes up. While this is by no means a sports car, I am not proud to admit this G-meter provided me with an extended period of giddiness as I tried to max out the meter in all four directions (Left, Right, Stopping and Acceleration).
When you press the Climate button above the screen, the 6 buttons flanking it change. They read A/C, Off, and then display four pictures to represent the various vents from which the heated or cooled air will be distributed. What I liked about this is the simple layout, the clever use of space and the ease of operation. The use of actual buttons and knobs didn’t hurt either.
The 2015 model year will be the first to receive, the NissanConnectSM with Mobile Apps system as standard equipment on all JUKE models. It makes use of a 5.0-inch colour display, and offers audio streaming via Bluetooth, and Hands-Free Text Messaging. This helps make the $20,498 base price a bargain.
Adding to the fun to drive spirit is the second generation 1.6L turbo-charged DIG (Direct Injection Gasoline) engine. The eager aluminum alloy inline 4, with dual over-head cams provides 188 horsepower and 177 lb-ft. The power output has remained the same as the previous version, but the latest iteration has better fuel economy, emissions and responsiveness. If you will only drive a vehicle with a manual transmission you will have to buy one of the two Nismo models; otherwise you are left with no alternative but the CVT that is standard across all other models. The CVT has been programmed to simulate a proper transmission with real gears; so instead of holding a constant high rpm during acceleration it simulates shifts. Obviously I am not a fan of CVT’s, but I understand why they are becoming more common. A CVT offers seemingly endless gear ratios, making it the best design to achieve better fuel economy. Nissan claims the JUKE AWD can deliver 8.8/7.5/8.2 L/100 km (city/highway/combined). I averaged 8.4L/100 km during my week which leads me to believe Nissans estimates are accurate.
The AWD can be controlled by a three position switch to the left of the steering wheel. The driver can select front wheel drive, AWD with torque vectoring, and AWD. The torque can be split 50/50 between the front axle and the rear but also split side to side across the rear axle. For example if you were driving in an exuberant fashion on a twisty section of road the AWD system can send 50% of the torque to either rear tire; depending on the direction you are turning, to eliminate understeer. I played with this and found the vehicle felt more confident over the same stretch of road in the AWD with Torque vectoring mode than it did in FWD. Helping to add a confident feel to the JUKE are the standard Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and Traction Controls (TCS).
The JUKE is one of those vehicles that despite its limited power, is an absolute joy to drive, especially if you compare it to the competition. The nimble handling and ease of maneuverability have convinced me the JUKE is perfect for any city dweller. Parking is a snap, especially with the surround view camera showing any and all possible dangers. With this bird’s eye view you can parallel park within an inch of the curb every time and never scrub the wheels, nor will you worry about bumping a car behind you. The overall shortness of the JUKE also helps (as few parking spots will be too small) and the turning radius is fantastic.
As if the JUKE wasn’t unique enough already, Nissan offers a further way to express one’s individuality. Through what Nissan calls JUKE Colour Studio, owners can choose 1 of 8 colours for the outside rearview mirror caps, headlamps, side sills, rear roof spoiler, door handles, front and rear fascia, and the 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. The interior can be also accessorised to match with the exterior colour on the dash vents and speaker surrounds. My Pearl White tester had all the above mentioned optional accessories painted in a black-purple; other colours include: Red, Orange, White, Matte Black, Carbon Fibre, Yellow, and Blue.
Nissan has endeavoured to blend a sporty feel with the ground clearance and a bit of the utility of an SUV. By incorporating the tail lights from the latest 370Z, the coupé roofline, and nimble handling, Nissan has delivered a fun to drive CUV that stands out from the crowd. The well thought out interior, although a bit small for some, was a nice place to spend many hours thanks to the easy to use equipment and very comfortable seating.
Base Price for Tested Model: $30,178 (not including the cost of all the black-purple accessories which are purchased ala carté)
- Fun to drive
- Stands Out in a crowd
- Nimble handling
- Small size limits storage and rear seat space
- CVT is standard
- Gets pricey in the top trim
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