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Nissan stays jiggy with Juke for 2016, but competition’s heating up

What changes will make it different?

Just when we thought this subcompact crossover’s styling could get no more radical, a model-year 2015 revamp of the nose and tail proved it could. That freshening will hold it until the next all-new version arrives, likely around model-year 2018 looking even more polarizing.

Why should I wait for the 2016?

Perhaps to judge it against a fresh crop of mini-crossover rivals, including the new Honda HR-V and Jeep Renegade. Neither of those, however, can match this little four-door’s attitude. With introduction of the second-generation Juke still several years off, the ’16 model will look current for some time. For some, this is a good thing; for others, the unique styling is part of the vehicle’s charm. Some stunning design drawings have been floating around for a while, though other renderings border on the frightful. The ’16 will not, however, likely to deviate from the basic underskin design that debuted with the original edition of this adventuresome crossover in model-year 2011.

Should I buy a 2015 model instead?

If you’re a fan, then there’s little reason to put off buying one. The ’15 model has enough upgrades to differentiate it from the 2014, and you’d be hard-pressed to tell if from a 2016.

Will the styling be different?

No change from the 2015 updates that brought a new look to the front end, revised taillamps, and additional bodyside cladding. The automaker could, though, continue to push a new initiative that frees buyers to create their own color combinations by mixing interior and exterior hues and trims.

Any mechanical changes?

Nothing worth waiting for. Expect the sole engine to again be a 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder with 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. Look for the front-wheel-drive model to be available with a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The all-wheel-drive version should remain available only with the CVT. Also returning in both front- and all-wheel drive will be the amped-up JUKE NISMO version. It features nearly 100 revised components, including a Nissan-racing-division-tuned suspension, aero body add-ons, specially bolstered front seats, red accents inside and out, and lightweight 18-inch alloy wheels. NISMO models get the 1.6 bumped to 197 horsepower, while the all-out NISMO RS is stretched to 211 horses, both with 184 pound-feet of torque.

Will fuel economy improve?

This vehicle has been well-received since its launch, and its decent gas mileage hasn’t hurt. Still, with new competition in the class, engineers might try to find a way to improve on the latest-available ratings, which had the front-drive version at 25/31/27 mpg city/highway/combined with manual transmission and 27/32/29 with the CVT and the AWD version at 25/30/27.

Will it have new features?

It already is reasonably well equipped, with features such as 17-inch wheels, a decent sound system with auxiliary input and Bluetooth, power locks, mirrors and windows, keyless entry and a split-folding 60/40 rear seat. Expect the carmaker to again keep things relatively simple by limited options to just a few well-considered packages. For example, expect a Navigation Package to include a 5-inch color touchscreen and rearview monitor, SiriusXM radio, and a Rockford Fosgate audio upgrade with USB iPod interface. Look also for the return of such packages as the Midnight Edition, with black exterior accents and unique 17-inch black alloys.

How will 2016 prices be different?

There was only a very small increase in the Juke’s base price between the 2013 and ’14 model years, and although model-year 2015 prices were not released in time for this report, we expect that trend to continue. The automaker’s been trying to keep the entry-level model under $20,000, including the destination fee. But that may not be possible much longer; expect a model-year 2016 base-price range of roughly $20,500-$29,200.

When will it come out?

Around November 2015.

Best competitors

Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Kia Soul, Mini Cooper Countryman

What change would make it better?

This is a love-hate car, so what one person views as a deficiency another looks at as a strength. If you don’t like the styling, only a complete overhaul of its bug-eyed style will suffice. Perhaps the only thing that everyone would agree on is that the gas mileage must be upped.

Quick hit

Nissan’s design boss, Shiro Nakamura, said about the Juke to a European car magazine, “It’s a love-it-or-hate-it car, but we want that to carry on. The next Juke will be a bigger transformation than the one we have just done with the first-to-second-generation Qashqai.” Nakamura, however, said that almost a year ago, and we haven’t seen or heard much more since then from the Japanese automaker. The styling is really the main reason to buy this vehicle, meaning an overhaul in that department would be a roll of the dice.

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]