2011 Nissan Juke

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Key Specs
Our Take
Road Test
Photos
Reviews
Safety & Recalls
Warranty & CPO
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Key Specs

of the 2011 Nissan Juke. Base trim shown.

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Handling
  • Interior controls
  • Well-equipped base model
  • Brake-pedal feel
  • Advanced AWD system

The Bad

  • Firm ride
  • Small backseat
  • Small cargo area
  • Automatic can be unresponsive
  • Uncomfortable driver's seat

Notable Features of the 2011 Nissan Juke

  • New for 2011
  • Turbocharged four-cylinder
  • Available six-speed manual transmission
  • Standard iPod connectivity
  • FWD or AWD

2011 Nissan Juke Road Test

Kelsey Mays

It seems fitting that Nissan, the automaker behind everything from the toylike Cube to the shield-your-eyes Infiniti QX56, is also responsible for the Juke, a tiny crossover with a turbocharged engine, limited utility and exterior styling that's as bizarre as it gets. This thing fits the automotive landscape like an Idaho farmhand would fit in "Jersey Shore."

The situation, if you will, turns out hit-and-miss.

The Juke is more fun to drive than most small crossovers, but shoppers will have to justify their purchase in the face of a lot of shortcomings.

In ascending order, trim levels for the Juke are the S, SV and SL; click here to compare them. Transmission choices are a six-speed manual or a continuously variable automatic. All-wheel drive comes only with the automatic, a pairing I tested in the Juke SV.

Stylized & Small

The Juke's face is hard to characterize. Fang-shaped parking lamps sit atop the hood; the portals below them appear to have fog lights, but they're actually the headlights. The grille meanders about the midsection, and a plastic garnish underneath houses a row of Swiss-cheese holes, which suffice for the lower air inlet. As you might have guessed, I never did warm up to the look. One passer-by said he loved it, but added it's not the sort of design he thought would age well. Other Cars.com editors' opinions ranged from cold to lukewarm; one editor said his wife likened the face to a Dodge Neon gone horribly wrong.

Sharing its pl...

It seems fitting that Nissan, the automaker behind everything from the toylike Cube to the shield-your-eyes Infiniti QX56, is also responsible for the Juke, a tiny crossover with a turbocharged engine, limited utility and exterior styling that's as bizarre as it gets. This thing fits the automotive landscape like an Idaho farmhand would fit in "Jersey Shore."

The situation, if you will, turns out hit-and-miss.

The Juke is more fun to drive than most small crossovers, but shoppers will have to justify their purchase in the face of a lot of shortcomings.

In ascending order, trim levels for the Juke are the S, SV and SL; click here to compare them. Transmission choices are a six-speed manual or a continuously variable automatic. All-wheel drive comes only with the automatic, a pairing I tested in the Juke SV.

Stylized & Small

The Juke's face is hard to characterize. Fang-shaped parking lamps sit atop the hood; the portals below them appear to have fog lights, but they're actually the headlights. The grille meanders about the midsection, and a plastic garnish underneath houses a row of Swiss-cheese holes, which suffice for the lower air inlet. As you might have guessed, I never did warm up to the look. One passer-by said he loved it, but added it's not the sort of design he thought would age well. Other Cars.com editors' opinions ranged from cold to lukewarm; one editor said his wife likened the face to a Dodge Neon gone horribly wrong.

Sharing its platform with Nissan's Cube and Versa hatchbacks, the Juke is thoroughly compact. Its overall length — 162.4 inches — is about even with a Honda Fit and nearly 7 inches short of the Versa hatch. Size notwithstanding, the Juke has a burlier stance: It's a few inches wider than both those cars, and despite standing just a smidge taller than the Fit and its ilk, the Juke's extended fenders, dark lower cladding and raised rear stance suggest a ruggedness the other cars lack.

Appealing Controls

Inside, the Juke's inventive design is more impressive than its quality; similar money will fetch richer cabin materials in other vehicles, but the Juke does have some tricks up its sleeve. The center console area is finished in an appealing glossy paint that Nissan says is supposed to mimic a motorcycle's fuel tank. In SV and SL trims, the center controls have nifty, interchangeable backlighting to switch from climate settings to Nissan's Integrated Control system — essentially three drivetrain modes you can toggle among. The center display shows countless informational screens, from a lateral G-meter to your gas mileage history, and the backlit buttons flanking it have an upscale piano-black finish.

A navigation system is standard on the SL; it's an affordable $800 on automatic SV models. It's based on an SD card, though, not a full-fledged hard drive. Experience shows that SD-card-based navigation systems can run a bit slower, and the Juke's 5-inch screen is a bit small. On the plus side, Nissan's system is among the first I've tested with intuitive map scrolling. You swipe the map left or right, much like on a touch-screen smartphone, rather than holding your finger in one corner and waiting for the cursor to move there. Alas, the map has far too few street labels.

Seats & Storage

Crank the standard height-adjustable driver's seat up, and the Juke offers a view of the road that's more akin to a crossover than a small car. The smallish cabin minimizes the distance between you and the windows, and the side mirrors are blessedly large. As bizarre as they look from the outside, the parking lights atop the hood clearly mark where the Juke's corners are; thick C-pillars, conversely, make over-the-shoulder visibility a problem.

It goes downhill from there. The front seats offer little lateral support, and their lower cushions aren't particularly long, so taller adults' thighs will hang out ahead of them. The Juke lacks a center armrest and telescoping steering wheel — two important features widely available in other $20,000 cars. With the seat at a comfortable height for my 5-foot-11 frame, headroom in our moonroof-equipped model was tight. (Lose the moonroof, and you get another much-needed inch of space.) What's more, the driver's seat has limited rearward travel. I moved it all the way back and could have used another inch or so.

Of course, that would make things even tighter for those in back. As it stands, the front seats have a sort of Death Star-garbage-compactor relationship with the rear. Legroom is tight back there — my knees dug into the front seatbacks — and headroom is only adequate. Nissan's compact Sentra sedan has more than 2 inches more legroom in the backseat, and the Versa hatch has nearly 6 inches more. I sat in both cars back-to-back with the Juke at last year's New York auto show, and there's a world of difference. As backseats go, the Juke's is a joke.

So is the cargo area. The crossover's descending roofline and forward-arching hatch remove any chance of having serious cargo space, and the remaining area measures just 10.5 cubic feet. Other tiny crossovers, like the Mini Cooper Countryman and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, beat the figure: The Countryman has 12.2 cubic feet, and the Outlander Sport has more than 20 cubic feet. Hatchbacks like the Fit and Versa are similarly voluminous. Even with the the Juke's 60/40-split rear seat folded down, its maximum cargo volume of 35.9 cubic feet trails the competition — in some cases by more than 10 cubic feet.

How It Moves

Our all-wheel-drive tester had enough power to reach cruising speeds with little struggle, even with three adult occupants on board. On SV and SL models, the Integrated Control system's three modes — Eco, Normal and Sport — alter the responsiveness of both the accelerator and (if equipped) the CVT automatic.

The drivetrain personality of each was distinct, particularly between the Eco and Sport extremes. In Eco mode, the CVT automatic transitions slowly to the engine's stronger revs, resulting in underwhelming takeoffs when the light turns green. (It does allegedly help gas mileage a bit, but Nissan had no estimates as to how much.) Sport mode hastens the transmission quite a bit; I found it punchy enough, though several editors still deemed it unresponsive — especially given the engine's penchant for brief turbo lag.

The sole engine, a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, makes 188 horsepower and 177 pounds-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive trims about 200 pounds off the Juke's curb weight, which should translate to even better performance.

That said, many will find the Juke's ride too harsh. All-wheel-drive models swap the front-drive model's semi-independent, torsion-beam rear suspension for a fully independent setup, but it delivered  poorly cushioned response over riddled pavement. Get on the highway, and the chassis picks up nearly everything going on under the car: expansion joints, grooved pavement and more. Combine that with a lot of noise — road, wind, suspension — and the Juke is a fatiguing car to take on an interstate trip.

It didn't need to be this way. Affordable hatchbacks, from the Mazda2 to the Subaru Impreza, offer decent handling and reasonable ride comfort, but the Juke is more one-dimensional. Hard corners do bring noticeable body roll, but it feels less top-heavy than many crossovers. The steering exhibits decent precision, and it's a well-rounded setup. At lower speeds, the wheel turns with light effort; at higher speeds, it settles in with little power assist and good overall tracking. I noticed little difference between the Integrated Control system's modes, which allegedly alter power steering assist levels, too.

The all-wheel-drive system sends more power to the outside wheel during cornering, which theoretically benefits handling balance. That's a pretty advanced feature at this price: Acura and BMW employ the technology on $30,000-plus luxury cars. Alas, temperatures at our Chicago offices hovered below freezing when we had the Juke, so we couldn't toss the car around enough to properly evaluate the all-wheel drive. I did put the Juke through its paces on the snow- and ice-covered streets, though, and the driveline sent power to all four wheels pretty seamlessly, with none of the spinning tires and lagging power transfers I've experienced with some all-wheel-drive systems.

Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes are standard. Pedal response is nice and linear: It's easy to smooth out your stops, and overall response is strong.

Front-drive CVT models are rated 29 mpg in combined city/highway driving. The stick-shift, front-drive Juke and the all-wheel-drive CVT model both return 27 mpg. Those are impressive figures: The front-drive Juke falls just 1 or 2 mpg short of what many entry-level hatchbacks achieve. Alas, Nissan recommends premium fuel, which diminishes the mileage figures' appeal.

Safety & Features

As of this writing, the Juke has not been crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Standard safety features include six airbags, active head restraints, antilock brakes and an electronic stability system. Click here for a full list.

About $19,000 gets you a front-wheel-drive Juke S. That's in the neighborhood of small crossovers like the Outlander Sport, the Kia Sportage and the Hyundai Tucson. It comes nicely equipped at that price: The CVT automatic, power windows and locks, 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, cruise control and an iPod-compatible stereo with steering-wheel audio controls are all standard.

The better-equipped SV and SL trims have manual transmissions, though the automatic is an affordable $500 on each. All-wheel drive runs another $1,500 — also pretty affordable — but it requires the automatic. Other available features include a navigation system, heated leather seats, a backup camera and a moonroof. The Juke SL comes fully equipped; with an automatic and all-wheel drive, it runs about $25,000.

Juke in the Market

It's clear the Juke wasn't built for mass appeal. It rides too firm for some, and the cabin is too small for many. Driving fun, a few well-executed controls and reasonable value offer some vindication — probably enough to earn the Juke a niche group of buyers.

However, Nissan makes three other hatchbacks or crossovers whose prices overlap the Juke's, and there are literally dozens more alternatives across the industry. Whether the nameplate can garner a few rabid enthusiasts — and establish Nissan's performance heritage among affordable cars — is the automaker's gamble.

Send Kelsey an email  



2011 Juke Video

From the 2010 New York auto show, Cars.com's Mike Hanley takes a look at the 2011 Nissan Juke.

Latest 2011 Juke Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.6)
Performance
(4.6)
Interior Design
(4.3)
Comfort
(4.0)
Reliability
(4.4)
Value For The Money
(4.4)

What Drivers Are Saying

(5.0)

Fun to drive

by MLL on August 17, 2018

So much fun to drive and handles awesome. Really like all of the features for the reasonable price. Does have some blind spots. Has a great manufacturers warranty. Read full review

(2.0)

Transmission lasted 3 hours after purchase

by Anonymous from Indianapolis on August 5, 2018

I love the style and design of this car however I had a poor experience after purchasing an older model with high mileage. I do still like the design of this car I just wouldn?t purchase another one ... Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2011 Nissan Juke currently has 3 recalls

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2011 Nissan Juke S

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Other

Roof Strength
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
good
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
acceptable
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Manufacturer Warranty

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    36 months / 36,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    60 months / 60,000 miles

CPO Program & Warranty

Certified Pre-Owned by Nissan

Program Benefits

24 Hour Emergency Roadside Assistance, Towing Assistance, Trip Interruption Benefits, 3-month free subscription to SiriusXM Satellite Radio on properly equipped vehicles, Complimentary CARFAX® Vehicle History Report™ and 3-Year CARFAX® Buy Back Guarantee

  • Limited Warranty

    7 years / 100,000 miles

    7-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty from original in-service date; $50 deductible
  • Eligibility

    Under 6 years / 80,000 miles

    Vehicles receive a 167 point inspection and reconditioning.

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Juke received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker