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Top 12 Things to Know Before You Buy a 2015 Nissan Juke

What’s new for 2015?

Revised styling freshens this kooky crossover while additional standard equipment makes it a better value. The styling changes are subtle: slightly reshaped nose and tail, updated headlamps and taillamps, and mirrors with LED turn-signal repeaters. Amenities such as remote entry with pushbutton start, rearview monitor, and Bluetooth phone and text-messaging are now standard on all models. Unaltered are the dimensions or basic shape of this four-door subcompact hatchback. It again targets a youth niche with polarizing looks. The fender-mounted running lamps, for example, aim to conjure the image of a partially submerged alligator. Every Juke again has a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. The lineup reprises mainstream S, SV, and SL models, plus the sporty NISMO and performance-enhanced NISMO RS specialty editions, named for the company’s Nissan Motorsports division.

How much does it cost and what sort of deal can I expect?

The S, SV, and SL models have a base-price range of $21,075-$26,065 with front-wheel drive and $22,925-$27,765 with all-wheel drive (AWD), including Nissan’s $825 shipping fee. That undercuts rivals such as the Mini Cooper Countryman. But Juke’s narrow appeal apparently doesn’t give buyers much negotiating room. Using as an example the most popular trim, the AWD SV, pricing service TrueCar.com reports the average transaction is just $86 below the $24,975 manufacturer’s suggest retail price. NISMO versions are priced at $25,655 with front-drive and $28,055 with AWD, the NISMO RS at $28,845 and $30,845, respectively. TrueCar reports average transaction prices for some NISMO versions exceed MSRP. Dealers of course may be open to haggling, but don’t expect much if any factory cash incentives on a ‘15 Juke.

When will the next big change be?

Juke debuted for model-year 2011 and the ’15 updates mark its first substantive changes. The next all-new version probably will come as a 2018 model and some reports suggest designers are aiming for an even more radical look than this first-generation. Meanwhile, Nissan is likely to roll out additional opportunities for personalization, such as the Color Studio program introduced for model-year 2015. It offers wheels, mirrors, side sills, door handles, spoilers, and cabin panels in matching or contrasting hues.

What options or trim level is best for me?

With this year’s added standard equipment, the S model no longer is a bare-bones entry choice. But most buyers will find a nice balance of features and value with an SV. Juke isn’t an off-road vehicle, so if you don’t need the snow-region traction of AWD, a front-drive SV is an attractive proposition. The $23,125 base priced includes a continuously variable (automatic) transmission (CVT), automatic climate control, power windows, locks, and mirrors, premium cloth seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power moonroof, rear privacy glass, satellite-capable radio, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Another $2,790 moves you into an SL with leather upholstery. But the SV’s $1,490 Technology Package gets you key SL features, including 5.8-inch touchscreen navigation, Rockford Fosgate-brand premium audio, and Nissan’s 360-degree bird’s-eye Around View monitor. Tack on $250 to match the SL’s heated front seats. True extroverts will love one of the NISMOs, which gild the Juke with aggressive front air intakes, bulked-up fenders, pinstriped body skirts, unique 18-inch alloys, and a louder exhaust. There’s nothing else quite like them on the road.

What engine do you recommend?

With 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, the S, SV, and SL are impressively quick and furnish better throttle response than most four-cylinder/CVT combos. It helps that Nissan dials in six simulated gear ratios, controlled with the floor-mounted shift lever. The NISMO uses this engine, but with front-wheel drive it’s available with a six-speed manual transmission, adding a big dose of fun. AWD NISMOs get at CVT with seven simulated ratios and paddle shifters. The NISMO RS is pumped to 215 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque with front-drive and manual transmission and to 211 and 184 with AWD and an “eight-speed” CVT. It’s a wild hare of a hot hatch.

How is the fuel economy?

Good, especially for this level of performance. S, SV, SL, and NISMO models rate 30 mpg combined city-highway with front drive and 28 with AWD. That’s equivalent to the typical compact car, which doesn’t have this much, uh, personality — or available AWD. The NISMO RS rates 27 mpg combined with both front- and all-wheel drive, again very good for its punch.

How does it handle?

A nimble manner and quick steering, plus the visibility advantages of elevated seating, help Juke put the fun in funky. S, SV, and SL versions handle like well-sorted compact cars, while NISMOs edge into territory occupied by the likes of the Subaru WRX. They share racing-inspired body and chassis reinforcements, wider-profile tires, and performance calibrated AWD settings. Suspension upgrades include a lowered ride height on the RS. Most important, they replace the mainstream Jukes’ prosaic torsion-beam rear axle with an independent rear suspension, just like in the best hatchbacks. It’s a boon to control in corners that true gear heads appreciate.

Are the controls easy to use?

Yes. The dashboard employs a fair balance between style and function, with clearly presented main gauges and easy-to-reach audio and climate controls. A downside is the infotainment screen. At just 5.8-inches in diameter it’s puny. And with relatively primitive graphics, it’s not very engaging. It is the venue for the available surround-view video, which is a parking aid. And the climate-control screen located below doubles as a driving-mode display. You can toggle between normal, sport, and economy programs and see detailed representations of torque output or fuel consumption, for example. It’s a little hokey, but diverting. The NISMO RS’s cabin is dressed out in red stitching and has suede and simulated carbon-fiber details.

Is it comfortable?

About as accommodating as a subcompact car. Front seaters enjoy good room and comfort. NISMO RS versions excel for support and panache thanks to genuine Recaro-brand buckets. You sit rather upright in the rear seat but there’s no excess legroom, and headroom is tight if you’re over 5-foot-9 or so. The rear doorways are small, hindering entry and exit. Wind and road noise are nicely managed in S, SV, and SL versions, which do a decent job absorbing most bumps. Sharp potholes and prominent pavement seams can pound through, however, an issue amplified to occasional discomfort in the stiffer-sprung, slightly noisier NISMOs.

What about safety?

All Jukes come with the safety basics, including head- and torso-protecting side airbags and a rearview camera. And AWD is an asset in slippery conditions. But you won’t find the latest driver aids available in some like-priced small cars, such as lane-departure and blind-spot warning. And Juke doesn’t excel in third-party crash testing. It rates four of five possible stars overall for occupant protection in government testing. In tests by the influential, insurance-industry-funded Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, it earns the highest “Good” ratings for side and roof protection, and a “Good” in the moderate-overlap front test, as when two vehicles collide front-corner to front-corner. But it gets the IIHS’s lowest “Poor” rating for occupant protection in the small-overlap front test, as when a vehicle’s left-front corner strikes a pole or tree.

How’s the reliability and resale value?

Owners of new Jukes give it high marks for performance, design, and initial quality but don’t report the best experience with reliability. That’s the takeaway from owner surveys compiled by J.D. Power, the leading automotive-consumer-assessment firm. J.D. Power rates both the Juke the Nissan brand slightly below average for predicted dependability. As for resale value, the ‘15 Juke is about average, scoring three of five stars for depreciation from the residual-value-tracking firm, ALG. Intellichoice, which tracks cost of ownership, says Juke will retain 49 percent of its value over five years.

Is it better than the competition?

With its jiggy design and performance attributes, Juke is almost in a class by itself. The Mini Countryman appeals to the individualist and offers AWD and similar turbo power. But it costs more similarly equipped. Various compact hatchbacks offer Juke-like attributes, but most are visual wallflowers compared with this Nissan. On the horizon are a slew of subcompact crossovers, including the Fiat 500X and its Jeep Renegade design cousin, the Mazda CX-3, and the Honda HR-V. None, however, promises quite the mix of love-or-hate emotions stirred up by the Juke.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]