2015 Nissan Juke SL AWD CVT

There is no car on the market that has more character than the Nissan Juke.

There is no car on the market that has more character than the Nissan Juke. And character, that notion of personality, is one that is polarizing for many people when it comes to this car. As in love or hate or confusion.

Especially confusion. As in having someone say, “Er, that’s a, um, ah, [cough-cough], nice car?” And they’re trying to make a statement, not ask a question.

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This is a car that has an overall design, from front to back and all points in between, where it is highly evident that it has been designed. This is a car that has an overall design, from front to back and all points in between, that is more characteristic of something that you’d see at an Autorama than in a dealer’s lot.

It is exotic. Rare. Unusual.

Look at it this way: Last year in the U.S., Nissan delivered 38,184 Jukes. It delivered just 7,984 fewer LEAFs—and that’s an all-electric vehicle.

It is somewhat surprising that there aren’t more cars like the Juke. I don’t mean cars with comparatively low sales—there are plenty of cars with low sales (heck, the Juke outsold all of the cars from Mitsubishi in 2014, 33,521)—but I mean cars that have outré styling. After all, modern manufacturing practices make it more practical for economic low-volume production, so why worry about the most common denominator?

There were three things that surprised me about the Juke.

· The price

· The powertrain

· The interior

And not in particularly good ways.

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The base MSRP for this Juke is $26,940. Yes, it has AWD. But the base for a Jeep Renegade Trailhawk is $25,995, and you can climb a mountain with that thing, should you be so inclined.

The vehicle is powered by a 1.6-liter, direct-injected, turbocharged engine that produces a more-than respectable 188 hp. But the vehicle is also equipped with a continuously variable transmission, like most Nissan cars are nowadays. While there are those who don’t like CVTs, I am not one of them. Nissan has done a good job, by and large, with them. But I was astonished that when I had a cold start of the vehicle—and I am talking above freezing—the powertrain was woefully unresponsive: It was like driving an automatic in low gear. In fact, on more than one occasion when pulling out of a subdivision onto a surface street I looked at the shift selector to make sure that I didn’t have it in low, which is a selection that doesn’t exist on a CVT. Disappointing.

Then the interior. One of the options to that aforementioned MSRP is $250 for a center armrest. One of the standard features is heating for the leather-appointed seats. The switches to turn the heating on and off happens to be located under the center armrest. Which means that if you’re driving the Juke, access is not something you’re able to achieve to turn that on or off. Consider that a design flaw. Then there is the fact that it seems as though the Juke is where all of the hard plastics that are pretty much gone from the Nissan lineup have gone. And when’s the last time you saw a 2015 model car with a giant door scribed into the plastic of the instrument for the passenger’s side airbag? And at the risk of piling on to all this, remember how car’s used to have “mouse fur” headliners? If you’re at all nostalgic, get inside the Juke.

The vehicle does offer a lot in the way of technology, from LED accent lights to the Nisan Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection and more.

But you’ve really got to love the exterior looks, I think, to make it a consideration.

Selected specs

Engine: 1.6-liter turbocharged I4

Material: Aluminum block and head

Horsepower: 188 @ 5,600 rpm

Torque: 177 lb-ft @ 1,600-5,200 rpm

Transmission: Continuously variable

Steering: Electric power assisted

Wheelbase: 99.6 in.

Length: 162.4 in.

Width: 69.5 in.

Height: 61.8 in.

Coefficient of drag: 0.35

Curb weight: 3,209 lb.

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 26/31/28 mpg