2011 Nissan Juke SL Road Test – Review – Car and Driver

Date: July 2011
Months in Fleet: 5 months
Current Mileage: 10,060 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 25 mpg
Average Range: 330 miles
Service: $59
Normal Wear: $0
Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $39


We try to send our long-term test cars on road trips as often as we can, but our Nissan Juke has left Michigan only once since we last wrote about it, a testament to its popularity as an in-town runabout. Or maybe it’s a statement on the lack of space behind the front seats. We were able to cram a large mountain bike in the back, but it’s a good thing we have no friends. Fitting the bike necessitated all seats but the driver’s being folded forward. Even though its cargo hold is snug, the Juke’s agile handling, slick shifter, peppy turbo, and firm steering (in sport mode) make it a convincing hot hatch, albeit a tall one.


Surprisingly for a front-wheel-drive car with a turbo, torque steer hasn’t been an issue. However, the Juke more than makes up for that with copious wheelspin. Powering out of almost any turn, the inside tire spins helplessly. We’re expecting to spend a lot of money on front tires over the course of the remaining 30,000 miles. A limited-slip differential—even a brake-based impostor—would do wonders for the Juke’s ability to make full use of its spunky motor.

You Get What You Pay For

We’ve praised the Juke’s feature-per-dollar quotient before, and we still like having a navigation system, satellite radio, leather seats, and iPod integration for less than $25,000, but the refinement-per-dollar equation doesn’t work out as favorably. Sound deadening is only adequate, the interior materials haven’t improved with age—the number of scratches on the red-painted center console suggests a catfight took place in the front seat—and we’ve scheduled an appointment to have the dealer examine rattles from the driver’s door and rear hatch.

Text, Red, White, Line, Font, Carmine, Electric blue, Symbol, Maroon, Cobalt blue,


The Juke’s Nissan Versa econobox roots show in some of its featured technologies, too. The digital lateral-g meter is positioned low enough on the dash that monitoring it during cornering would be hazardous, and if the passenger watches it, there are no units indicated anyhow—just some lights bouncing around that tell you what you can already feel with your butt. And the navigation system’s tiny screen, slow responses, and frustrating lockout make a strong case for buying an aftermarket system instead.

Cheap Maintenance

If the Juke doesn’t feel high quality, the car has made up for it by actually being high quality. Other than the minor rattles, the only issue so far has been a vibration in the steering wheel, which we cured with a tire rotation. Our only service thus far was an oil change and inspection at 7500 miles that cost $59. During that checkup, the dealer performed an ECU reflash in accordance with an outstanding technical service bulletin. We’d experienced no problems associated with the TSB, and it was performed at no cost. We did manage to shed a mud flap plowing through a snowdrift over the winter but figured we’d save the labor costs and install the $39 replacement ourselves.


In the introduction of our long-term Juke, we logged our dissatisfaction with the car’s preference for premium fuel. A few readers promptly noted that premium fuel is recommended but not required in the Juke. We always use the recommended fuel in our test cars, lest we hamper their performance or fuel consumption. Using premium petroleum spirits, our observed fuel economy has improved as the weather has warmed, despite the dearth of freeway-intensive long trips. The Juke has averaged 26 mpg over the 5400 miles we’ve covered since April, raising the running tally to 25 mpg over 10,000 miles.

We’re Still Not Calling It Pretty

One thing that hasn’t improved over time is the styling. An editor warmed to it enough to call it “ugly but charming,” but another asked, “If Nissan managed to re-create the spirit of the BMW 2002 with the 1990s Sentra SE-R, is this the company’s proposal for a modern-day Pacer?” We can’t answer that question, but we can say that we still like the Juke, which is a testament to our preference for substance over flash. Now, if only we could find a few staffers who would prefer the Juke for a long trip.


Months in Fleet: 2 months
Current Mileage: 3116 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 23 mpg
Average Range: 304 miles
Service: $0
Normal Wear: $0
Repair: $0

The 2011 Nissan Juke defines a new micro-niche: the sporty B-segment (subcompact) economy crossover. It has more ground clearance than a mainstream subcompact like the Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, or Nissan Versa (on whose platform the Juke is based), and it’s cheaper than the Mini Countryman, which is comparable in size and wears similarly polarizing sheetmetal. The Juke looks good from the side and back, but the front resembles a wide-eyed cartoon bullfrog. We can overlook a butter face for overall agreeability, though, so we ordered a Juke for a 40,000-mile test.

Tons of Goodies for the Money—Minus the Tonnage

All Jukes come well equipped, with Nissan’s new turbocharged, direct-injected, 188-hp, 1.6-liter four; 17-inch wheels; Bluetooth and iPod connectivity; cruise control; air conditioning; keyless entry; and power windows, locks, and mirrors. The cheapest Juke, the S, starts just above $20,000, but we chose the $23,300 SL, which comes with far more equipment than you’d expect in this price range. Included are automatic climate control, keyless ignition, leather seats (heated up front), a backup camera, upgraded speakers, a subwoofer, satellite radio, and navigation. Our Juke also came with splash guards ($120), illuminated door sills ($280), and mats for the floor and cargo area ($170). The makers of some of our favorite small cars force you to choose between the good options and a stick shift (the Honda Fit, for example), but not Nissan. The top-spec SL is available with a manual as long as you also spec front-wheel drive, so that’s how we ordered it. As a bonus, forgoing the CVT and all-wheel drive saves more than 250 pounds. In our initial testing, the Juke accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in seven seconds flat and went through the quarter-mile in 15.4 at 92 mph.


In the first 3000 miles, our observed fuel economy has been only 23 mpg, which is a product of the small engine’s peaky power band—max power materializes at 5600 rpm, 800 shy of redline—and our perpetually being in a hurry. In fairness, the vast majority of our driving has been around town. We hope to see better fuel economy as the Juke stretches its legs on summer road trips.

A Weird—but Winning?—Combo

Our logbook jottings praise the Juke’s seating position, ride, handling, steering, shifter, clutch, feature count, ergonomics, and even its heater. If that sounds like a long list, it is. We’re smitten with the Juke. Complaints so far center on the snug interior, some flimsy interior materials and controls, a couple of rattles, and the requirement for premium fuel. In fairness, it’s been ridiculously cold, and many cars shiver in these panel-shrinking temperatures. Our crap weather also allowed us to experience the Juke’s prowess in the snow. Equipped with a set of Michelin X-Ice Xi2 winter tires, the Juke slogged through the worst Michigan has to offer. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Good winter tires are all you need for any weather on this side of the Rockies.

As spring arrives, we’re smiling with our frog-faced Juke. We are also looking forward to another 37,000 miles in Nissan’s take on the perpetual problem of balancing versatility, fun, performance, efficiency, and price.


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