2011 Nissan Juke Review and Prices

Last Updated: Jan 11, 2011

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2011 Nissan Juke Buying Advice

The 2011 Nissan Juke is the best car for you if you want a condensed crossover with some wicked curves.

The 2011 Nissan Juke is an all-new model that blends a compact hatchback with a small SUV. Higher riding than a car but less bulky than compact SUVs such as the Honda CR-V, the 2011 Juke is Nissan’s entry a burgeoning category that may as well be called the subcompact urban-crossover class.

Should you buy the 2011 Nissan Juke or wait for the 2012 Nissan Juke? Buy the 2011 Juke. The 2012 Juke is unlikely to get any meaningful changes, and adventurously styled youth-oriented vehicles like this tend to have a flavor-of-the-week quality: they stay hip until attention shifts to the Next New Thing. And that next thing could very well be the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, 2011 Mini Countryman, or possibly subcompact urban crossovers rumored from Ford, Chevrolet, and Volkswagen, among others.  

2011 Nissan Juke Changes back to top

Styling: The 2011 Nissan Juke is designed to project lots of attitude, in part to compensate for its diminutive size. It’s notably smaller than the run of compact crossovers typified by the Nissan Rogue, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4. The idea is to create a sexier, SUV-flavored alternative to subcompact cars such as the Nissan Versa, Honda Fit, and Toyota Yaris. Indeed, the Juke borrows its underskin engineering from the Versa. That’s what qualifies it as a “crossover,” though Nissan coins the term “Sport Cross” to suggest Juke’s lively nature.

The 2011 Juke is a five-passenger, four-door hatchback. Its ride height elevates your line of sight above car-level traffic but actual ground clearance is a middling 7 inches. Blistered fenders mark it as an SUV, but a low roofline tapers to the rear like a sporty car’s. Overall, the effect is a jacked-up coupe ready for the mean streets rather than a cargo-friendly crossover headed for Sam’s Club. Note that this same basic Versa/Juke design also underpins the funky Nissan Cube, evidence enough that Nissan’s not afraid to stretch the bounds of conventional taste. The 2012 Juke comes in three models, S, midlevel SV, and top-line SL. All have 17-inch alloy wheels so the main styling differentiator is the standard fog lamps exclusive to the SL.

The 2011 Juke isn’t expansive inside, though there’s good room in front for two adults and sufficient space for another pair in back, as long as they’re on the short side of 6 feet. Little of this interior is devoted to cargo space. Behind the rear seat there’s just 10.5 cubic feet of luggage volume -- less than the trunk space in some compact cars. Folding down the 60/40 split-bench rear seat opens a useful 35.9 cubic feet, but that’s still 14.5 cubic feet less than the maximum available in the Nissan Versa hatchback. Small-items storage is a sore spot, too. There is no center console, just a tunnel with cupholders. This is clearly an urban errand-runner, not a long distance cargo hauler.

The 2011 Nissan Juke’s instrument panel layout is refreshingly simple and attractively arranged. Main gauges are in sporty circular pods, and the climate and audio controls are neatly contained and easily reached at the dashboard’s center. Cabin materials consist mostly of hard plastic, though the SV enriches the S model’s plain cloth upholstery with a suede-type finish while the SL comes standard with leather seating surfaces.

Mechanical: The 2011 Nissan Juke comes with one engine and it marks the debut of the company’s 1.6-liter turbocharged direct-injection four-cylinder. It’s rated at 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. Thanks to the turbocharger, those are good figures for an engine this size. Juke SV and SL models are available with a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The S model comes only with the CVT. A CVT performs the duties of an automatic but with a rheostat-like delivery of power rather than a set number of individual gears.

Acceleration is plenty strong enough for around-town duty, but Juke’s no fireball in highway passing and feels taxed in long uphill climbs. CVTs are designed to keep the engine within its most efficient rpm range. One effect is that when you summon acceleration, the transmission sends the engine to that range and holds it there while actual vehicle speed builds more gradually. Juke’s CVT does its job admirably, some high-rpm engine buzziness notwithstanding. The manual transmission has long, light throws and a clutch that has a too-light take-up feel. Unless driving a manual is a must for you, the CVT should suffice just fine.

Enhancing Juke’s sporty appeal is something Nissan calls the Integrated Control drive-mode selector, or I-CON. Standard on SV and SL models, I-CON adjusts throttle response and steering feel and on CVT-equipped models, remaps transmission behavior. It has three driver-selected settings: Normal is for everyday driving, Sport delivers more performance feel, and Eco maximizes fuel efficiency. Using a central dashboard screen, I-CON adopts different display colors and functions depending on how it is being used. In Climate mode, the display shows the interior temperature settings and enables air flow adjustment via electronic “buttons.” In “D-Mode,” the buttons change to the three driving modes and the display shows engine- and drive-related dials and information, including lateral g-forces achieved in turns.

Every 2011 Juke model is available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD). The AWD models come with the CVT. Front-wheel drive places the weight of the engine over the wheels that propel the car, enhancing wet-weather traction. It also concentrates drivetrain components in the nose, freeing up maximum space for passengers and cargo.

Juke makes no pretense of off-road prowess, so its AWD system is a fairly basic type – with one exception. Like most crossover AWD systems, Juke’s normally operates in front-wheel drive and automatically reapportions power front-to-rear to sustain traction. It doesn’t have low-range gearing, but slippery-surface traction is enhanced by computer controls that can split torque 50/50 front/rear to minimize wheel slip. The system includes a feature of the sort normally found on more expensive or performance-oriented crossovers. Nissan calls it torque-vectoring and its purpose is to enhance on-road handling. Sensors monitor such factors as vehicle speed, steering angle, and gear position and can send up to 50 percent of the engine’s power to either rear wheel to help counteract noseplow in fast cornering.

Juke’s goal is affordability and that means reusing a slightly shortened version of the fine substructure that serves Versa. The front suspension is an independent strut layout with a stabilizer bar. Front-wheel drive Jukes have a rear torsion bar with integrated stabilizer bar. AWD models have an independent rear multi-link suspension with stabilizer bar. The power steering system is electric, and while most low-cost crossovers have front-disc/rear-drum brakes, Juke has four-wheel discs. All models also come with generously sized-for-the-class 17-inch alloy wheels and tires. Antilock brakes for more controlled stops and an antiskid system to mitigate sideways slides also are standard.

All this adds up to a little runabout that handles more than competently in any situation, though some drivers may feel Juke doesn’t acquit itself with complete grace when rushed through exceptionally fast corners. Body roll is evident in most quick changes of direction. Ride quality is stiff though never punishing and won’t tire you out on a long highway drive.     

Features: The subcompact-crossover field is unexplored territory in the U.S., and Juke’s arrival means Rogue no longer is Nissan’s entry-level crossover. That frees the slightly larger SUV to aim for young families while Juke is targets singles and youthful marrieds still early in their career climb. Thus, Juke’s standard equipment list includes such Gen-Y enticers as a driver-information display with outside-temperature indicator, Bluetooth hands-free cell-phone connectivity, and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. All Jukes gets six speakers and an auxiliary port for digital audio devices; SV and SL models have XM satellite radio. Remote keyless entry is standard and SV and SL models add Nissans Intelligent Key keyless ignition with pushbutton start.

Not many small crossovers offer a navigation system but one is standard on the 2011 Juke SL and optional on the SV. It comes with a modestly sized 5 inch dashboard screen and isn’t voice-activated, but it includes XM NavTraffic with real-time traffic information if you sign up for an XM subscription. The navigation system brings with it upgraded speakers, a Rockford Fostgate-powered subwoofer, and a USB iPod interface.

Standard equipment on every 2011 Nissan Juke includes cruise control and power locks, mirrors, and windows with one-touch up/down on both front windows. The steering column tilts and the steering wheel on SV and SL models is leather-wrapped; a leather-wrapped shifter compliments the SV’s standard leather seating surfaces.

2011 Nissan Juke Prices back to top

The 2011 Nissan Juke base price range is $19,710-$25,300.That sub-$20,000 start is good for advertising and snaring Internet searches based on price, but it’s for the entry-level front-wheel-drive Juke S model, which will account for only a small percentage of sales. The 2011 Juke S model with AWD is priced at $21,210. (All base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandatory destination fee; Nissan’s fee for the 2011 Juke is $750.)

The 2011 Nissan Juke SV with front-wheel drive is priced from $21,010 with the manual transmission and from $21,510 with the CVT. The 2011 Juke SV with AWD starts at $23,010. Juke’s only factory-installed option is the navigation system for the SV model. It’s reasonably priced at $800 and includes the audio upgrades and USB iPod interface.

The 2011 Nissan Juke SL model with front-wheel drive has a base price of $23,300 with manual transmission and $23,800 with the CVT. The 2011 Juke SL with AWD is priced at $25,300.

Nissan dealers will offer a brace of port-installed Juke options, mostly dress-up packages ranging from 17-inch wheels with a “gunmetal” finish ($950), to a chrome-trim package ($540), to decorative cabin-illumination ($490), and a chrome exhaust tip ($95).

2011 Nissan Juke Fuel Economy back to top

With each of its powertrain configurations rated at 30 mpg or above in highway driving, the 2011 Nissan Juke’s fuel-economy ratings are impressive for the small-crossover class – until you realize Nissan recommends premium-octane gas for this turbo engine and that will add a dime or so per gallon at the pump.

Still, the numbers are good, with the 2011 Juke rated at 24/31 mpg city/highway with manualtransmission and front-wheel drive, 27/32 with the CVT and front-drive, and 25/30 with the CVT and AWD.

2011 Nissan Juke Release Date back to top

The 2011 Nissan Juke went on sale in September 2010.

What's next for the 2011 Nissan Juke back to top

Don’t expect much stylistic or mechanical change for the first several model years of Juke’s life in the U.S. Nissan has, however, become fond of the dressing up some of its vehicles with sporty trim and christening them Krōm editions. It’s pronounced “chrome,” and has thus far been applied to both the Cube and the Rogue. A Krōm Edition Juke is a strong possibility for model-year 2012 or 2013.

2011 Nissan Juke Competition back to top

2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport: Along with the Juke, Outlander Sport helps get the ball rolling in the subcompact urban-crossover field. It’s based on Mitsubishi’s Lancer small car but takes its name and styling inspiration from the Rogue-sized Mitsubishi Outlander compact SUV. Front- and all-wheel drive and a 148-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder are on tap. Transmissions are a five-speed manual or CVT. Outlander Sport is far more conventional-looking than the Juke and not as sporty to drive, but it is priced slightly less and uses regular-octane fuel. Front-drive models start at $19,260 and rate 25/31 mpg with the CVT. The AWD version begins at $23,760 and rates 24/29 with the CVT.

2011 Mini Cooper Countryman: Hold the wise cracks about oxymoronic “jumbo shrimp,” this is indeed a pretty big Mini and the brand’s first crossover. The Countryman is 5.5 inches longer overall than the next-largest Mini, the Clubman, and while it’s just an inch shorter in body length than the Juke, it’s a meaningful 2.6 inches longer in wheelbase. It has a four-door wagon body with a surprisingly roomy rear seat. Mini strives to keep intact the Cooper charisma with the same cheeky styling themes but with a few additional inches of ground clearance and available all-wheel drive – a Mini first – in addition to front-wheel drive. A base four-cylinder engine with some 140 horsepower and a turbocharged S version with about 180 are the underhood choices. The Countryman will chase the same style-conscious crossover crowd as the Juke, but they’ll need to be a bit further along their career path to afford the Mini’s estimated $24,000 starting price or $28,000 for the S version with AWD.

2011 Hyundai Tucson: We picked this as a Juke alternative for its similarly spacey styling, though the Tucson is really a more traditional compact-crossover SUV. It’s larger than the Juke inside and out, and buries the Nissan for cargo volume, with 25.7 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 55.8 total. Still, Hyundai’s value pricing puts Tucson in Juke’s neighborhood, with front-drive models starting around $19,800 and AWD versions beginning around $24,000. Tucson has a 172-horsepower four-cylinder and rates a best 23/31 with front-drive and 21/28 with AWD. It was all-new for model-year 2010 and won’t see any big changes for several more years.       

UPDATED BY TIM HEALEY