Can you name an SUV or a car for that matter that is being sold today that is as polarizing and unique to behold as the daring 2014 Nissan Juke? Even the bizarro Nissan Cube with its asymmetrical angles and oddball details doesn't hold a candle to the unique set of thought that went into creating the Juke. But is it Nissan's greatest SUV triumph or an epic fail that just so happens to also look like an endangered Amazonian river toad? Let's have a closer look, shall we?
There are currently three different trim levels of 2014 Nissan Juke available and starting prices for the basic S models start at $18,990 with that amount getting you standard air conditioning, power windows, door locks, Bluetooth, an AM/FM/CD audio system with 6-speakers and USB/i-Pod connectivity, steering wheel mounted audio controls, cruise control, 17-inch alloys and a CVT automatic transmission. Additionally, if you need the security of torque vectoring all-wheel drive which can apportion power individually to wheels that lose traction in inclement weather, this option adds $2,000 but also gives the Juke a fully independent rear suspension which increases handling capability.
Our favorite model is definitely the mid-line 2014 Nissan Juke SV as it comes very nicely equipped at $20,990 to start and can be ordered with front wheel drive and a manual gearbox that gives the Juke the control and motoring moves of a hot hatch. Standard extras for SV include automatic climate controls meshed with an engine/throttle mapping alteration system with controls in the dash called i-Con, a power moonroof, premium cloth upholstery, a leather wrapped steering wheel, push button start, keyless entry and tinted glass. Add all-wheel drive and the CVT to the SV and the price goes to $23,680 and that's before you are tempted by the $1,170 Navigation Package which adds in-dash navigation, a back-up camera and a Rockford Fosgate audio system with upgraded speakers and XM Traffic.
This then leads us up to our top of the line trim known as the SL which comes with leather seating surfaces, the premium Rockford Fosgate audio with 8 inch amplifier as standard, heated front seats, in-dash navigation, a back-up camera, a CVT automatic all for a price starting at $24,290 for front-drive and $25,990 for all-wheel drive models. In addition, each trim level can be ordered with the $1,200 Midnight Edition Package which adds 17-inch blacked out alloys, black side mirror covers and a black rear roof spoiler.
The first design feature of the 2014 Nissan Juke that most people notice or comment on is the look of the reptilian headlamps and the abruptly pert appearance of the posterior. People say it looks like a bug, a monster with big eyes, an artistic work worthy of the painter Salvador Dali but they never claim that the headlamps were "inspired by rally cars" as Nissan does on its website. Yes, we are serious.
We suppose that Nissan's marketers and PR department had to think of some way to explain that which needs or supports no explanation or definition. The 2014 Juke looks like no other SUV before it but somehow it makes all of the madness that is part of its stylistic recipe work for it, much like a very expensive and quirky Italian tailored suit. It is not an SUV for everyone but it makes a bold design statement and in the end it is actually quite a cohesively attractive one.
Within the cabin of the 2014 Nissan Juke, things are far more normal and conventional barring a long piece of red or silver painted metal running down the center driveline tunnel as an homage to a motorcycle's gas tank. We are not sure why the Juke's designers felt the need to do that but it is a nice splash of color against the dark grey cloth or black leather upholstery based on which trim you chose. Otherwise most of the controls and switches come directly out of the Nissan parts bin so there are few surprises and impressive build quality throughout.
The only tip of the hat to wacky is the dual mode climate control/i-Con integrated control system which uses the same buttons and screen to control the vehicle's interior temperature and also your settings for turbo boost, steering feel and other driver presets. You can pick either Comfort, Normal or Sport depending on how you plan to drive and then press a button to turn the control panel back into your automatic climate control display. It sounds unnecessarily complex but it is simple and it works. Plus, it is a feature that will wow your friends and the i-Con choices do make a difference in driver feel.
Now, the Juke is stylish but not all that big of an SUV which means the driver and front passenger enjoy plenty of room while back seat riders get short changed with a dearth of legroom and rear doors (with stylish hidden handles) that make getting in and out tricky. To make matters worse, with the rear seats in place the cargo volume capacity is 11.5 cubic feet but that does grow to a nice 35.9 cubic feet when you fold those seats down flat. Quite frankly, the new Versa Note subcompact is more practical.
Hands down the entire 2014 Nissan Juke driving experience is dominated by its high strung yet surprisingly capable turbocharged and direct injected 1.6 liter 188 horsepower/177 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder which is a perfect match with the available six-speed manual transmission. However, if you opt for all-wheel drive and the CVT automatic just be sure to leave the i-Con settings to "Sport" so that you can enjoy the optimum throttle and transmission response possible. Believe us when we say that the Juke is fast enough to keep most any boy racer happy.
In addition to the frenetic powerplant, the Juke also has highly caffeinated and communicative steering that felt sporty to us but may require too much attention for some. Same goes for the suspension set-up which is seemingly designed to ape the responsiveness of a hot hatchback where a little more SUV give and take would not go amiss. At least not for most mainstream buyers who may want a calmer drive when commuting to work.
But alas, the 2014 Nissan Juke isn't for people who listen to talk radio or anything on the AM dial. It is designed for the youthful, the rebellious, the artistic and those who don't conform to the status quo. And driving this SUV is anything but the status quo which we think is what Nissan was going for with the Rogue. Now, what kind of driver are you? Actually, we think one drive in the 2014 Nissan Juke would tell you for certain what kind of driver you are and what kind of SUV you really, really want to own.
Now this is a tough one because what really can compete with the offbeat styling and unique SUV experience that is the 2014 Nissan Juke? Well, we can think of three options off the top of our head that won't lead you down the dreaded path of Toyota RAV4's, the Nissan Rogue or Honda CR-V. They are far too normal to appeal to a Juke buyer. That's why the all-new Fiat 500L, Mini Countryman All-4 AWD and 2014 Buick Encore all fit the bill to bring a fight to the Juke.
Although we think it is an adorable tiny SUV, the Buick Encore is pricey compared to the Juke and has even less passenger and cargo room. Add in a 1.4 liter 138 horsepower turbo four that strains when fully loaded and we think you might prefer the Juke. The Mini Countryman is also very pricey when equipped reasonably with the turbo motor, all-wheel drive and a couple of the more popular packages plus we think it is pig ugly compared to the rest of their lineup. Two extra doors aren't worth having a Mini that's not really all that fun to drive either.
That leaves us with the first real bogey for the Nissan Juke to compete with and that, surprisingly, is the 2014 Fiat 500L five door that we recently were fortunate enough to drive at its launch in Baltimore. Models all come nicely equipped and range in cost from $19,000 to about $24,000 fully loaded and are available with either six-speed manuals or a six-speed dual clutch auto mated to a responsive 1.4 liter turbocharged multiair 4-cylinder from the 500 Abarth. All this and it offers class leading rear cargo room and a fully flat, huge load floor when you fold the back seats. Plus, it looks cool and unique like the Juke.
What We Love
What We Would Change
- The Exterior Styling—So Sue Us
- The Quirky and Powerful 1.6 liter Turbocharged 188 horsepower 4-cylinder engine
- The Optional Manual Transmission May be the best in any SUV
- Do Not Order the Midnight Edition Package unless it Suits the Exterior Color
- The Juke Does Not Look Good in Gold
- More Rear Legroom and Cargo Room Would Help
In order to get the best sense of what kind of vehicle the 2014 Nissan Juke really is, we tested two different flavors first off a front-wheel drive mid-level SV model with a six-speed manual transmission that really upped the fun to drive quotient. It also came in a rather sedate dark metallic color as the Juke looks best is hues that don't overwhelm its already outgoing personality. Unfortunately our second tester was a fully loaded SL AWD model with the Midnight Edition (essentially styling enhancements) set off by the gaudiest gold paint job we have seen this side of the Home Shopping Network. That bad color choice really affected how much we liked the Juke's funky appearance.