At the mid-point in our yearlong test of the Nissan Juke, we've driven fewer miles than we usually do. The greater concern, however, is how few miles we're able to drive on each tankfull of fuel. The Juke's fuel range is pretty dismal. We've managed to get more than 300 miles out of just one tank so far, which is a relatively poor statistic, although the fact that it hasn't done a whole lot of highway time may be a contributing factor. We've averaged 25 mpg for the first six months of our test, though, which is OK but certainly not great for a very small car that takes premium fuel. That's 2 mpg lower than the EPA combined rating a Juke equipped like ours, with front-wheel drive and the six-speed manual (the EPA's city/highway ratings are 24/31 mpg). We've had tank averages in the low 30s a few times, but that's been the exception rather than the rule.
Adding insult to annoyance, the low-fuel light provides relatively little warning. "I was shocked that the low-fuel light went on when the trip computer listed the fuel range at only 21 miles -- that's pushing it in many rural areas," noted one commenter. "Most cars give you 40 miles notice or more, it seems."
Senior web editor Phil Floraday agrees: "My only problem with the Juke is how quickly I use a tank of premium fuel. That's more of a self-control problem than a serious criticism of the car, though, because I really have to try to keep the speeds below 80 mph when I'm on the highway. The rather short gearing of the transmission means you're never far from the meaty part of the power band, and that kills fuel economy. I'd really have to change my driving habits if I owned a Juke, because I wouldn't want to spend so much time at the gas station refilling the tiny fuel tank."
Recently, the Juke has gotten out and about a bit more, visiting gas stations all over the Midwest, as it went to Chicago (twice) and Saint Louis. Road test editor Christopher Nelson took a roundabout route to Chicago, via Bloomington, Indiana. He reports: "Even on its winter tires, the Juke is quiet at highway speeds. The suspension is soft enough to absorb big bumps but taut enough to let some road feel come through. Its cabin is as comfortable, although it really should have a center armrest."
The longer slog to Saint Louis produced a less-rosy assessment of cabin comfort. "On a ten-hour trip, the seats were not as supportive as I'd like, and the black fabric is like a magnet for stray hair and dust." The highway manners again came in for praise, though: "smooth and quick on the highway, with lots of passing power." The Juke was also deemed "pretty fun to drive, especially in traffic."
After his weekend in the Juke, Nelson couldn't help but compare it with our Four Seasons Fiat 500. "Unlike our Fiat," he said, "there are no big blind spots and not as many kitschy styling elements in the cabin. But, of the two hyper-stylized compact cars in our fleet, the Fiat at least has some sort of fashion sense. The Juke? It's not ugly, but I think it's too far out there to be called 'stylish.' It's simply different for the sake of being different."
We'll see if we can't get our Juke out on the road some more in the second half of its year with us. Stay tuned.