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. 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.
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.