Steve’s Rental Car Review: Nissan Juke

It is amazing when the stars align and everything comes together. In this case, Nissan designers and engineers achieved the impossible and built a car in which they got *every single decision wrong*.

My first impression of the Nissan Juke was that it is hideous. These were my second and third impressions too. With its weird bulges and 3 separate rows of headlights, one wonders if several different people were responsible for different parts of the front of the car, and none of them talked to each other.

This front of this car is so ugly that it’s an accident prevention feature. Should a Joke go off the road, trees, rocks, and all but the least-agile buildings will move out of the way in order to avoid being hit by something so ugly.

In order to confuse people *every single time* they try to use them, the rear door handles are not in the place where they are on every other car in the world. Instead they’re hidden up high on the side of the window where you can’t find them and wouldn’t even think to look for them. As if that’s not enough, they’re the same color as the rest of the trim in that area, so they’re hidden even if you are looking for them.

Despite its reasonably large appearance, the interior of the Joke is the same size as the shell of a large walnut. This small SUV somehow has 30% less trunk space than the tiny sedan we had in Argentina (really. I looked it up). I do not understand the geometry here. Like other hatchbacks and SUVs, the trunk of the Joke goes up all the way to the roof. How is the whole thing smaller than a normal car trunk that is only half as tall? Back home our Subaru Forester, which doesn’t look much bigger than the Joke, has more than *3 times* the trunk space (I looked this up too).

The back “seat” of the Joke would be almost big enough for our kids if they had had the foresight to leave their legs at home. Unfortunately we lacked this crucial insight while planning the trip, and each kid brought both of their legs with them. Alas.

It’s not worth talking about the sight lines because there aren’t any. The car is impossible to see out of, so don’t attempt to make turns or lane changes.

The radio is inscrutable. Most of the buttons don’t appear to do anything. We’ve found that one of them helpfully tells us we need an SD card, and then offers to search the web (which doesn’t work). The radio also occasionally interrupts whatever we’re listening to so that it can play traffic alerts from Barcelona. We are 600 miles away from Barcelona; this information is not useful to us.

There is a USB port for plugging in your phone, however for maximum inconvenience it is placed directly in front of the driver’s knee. Actually using the port results in the knee smashing into and likely amputating the cable’s connector.

For reasons I have not yet divined, the Joke’s headlights point nearly straight down. At night, they illuminate only about 10 feet in front of the car. Utterly useless. The high beams do work well enough to see in front of the car, but like all high beams they annoy other drivers and cannot be used in places where there are other drivers. Like on roads.

To be fair I did find a control that purports to control the headlight angle. It is a 4-position dial cryptically labeled 0-3. After rummaging around in the manual I found a surprisingly complex table describing which setting to use depending on how many people are in the car, and where they are sitting. “Use setting #0 if it’s just the driver, use setting #1 if you have 2 people in the front seats or just the driver in the front seat with stuff in the trunk and you are driving uphill”, and so on. Inexplicably, none of the many combinations in the table recommend using setting #2.

The Joke has side mirrors that automatically fold in when parked. Ostensibly for fitting into small parking spaces and narrow city streets, this feature would be great had the engineers also thought to have the mirrors unfold when the car is started. But no. Both side mirrors have to be manually unfolded *each time you start the car.* I don’t even know where to start with this one. Did an entire design and production staff not notice this before starting production? Is it part of an exercise incentive program to make the driver walk around to the passenger side to unfold the mirror each time they want to drive the car? There must be a switch somewhere that changes this behavior, right? Right??

Eventually I found the switch. It has 3 positions. “Close”, which provides the aforementioned behavior, “Auto”, which also seems to cause the aforementioned behavior, and an unlabeled intermediate position that caused the mirrors to reopen on 2 of the 3 occasions I tried it. At least I’ll get my exercise.

Our car is a manual transmission, which I generally enjoy driving. However the engineers inexplicably put a plastic box where your left shin needs to go when operating the clutch, meaning you can’t actually shift gears because your leg and the plastic box can’t occupy the same space at the same time.

But maybe that’s ok. It’s the only car I’ve ever driven where it doesn’t matter what gear you’re in – all are equally incapable of motivating the vehicle. The engine is an engineering marvel. Inspired by a hair dryer, it so powerful the car can almost go up small hills. I will begrudgingly grant the engine is fairly smooth, but I suspect that’s because it’s not actually connected to anything.

When we picked up the car, the rental agent gave us some safety tips. He also advised us we don’t need to worry about speed limits, because the car isn’t capable of breaking any of them.

I could go on, but why bother. Clearly the Joke’s on me.

9 replies on “Steve’s Rental Car Review: Nissan Juke”

Oh my! I have enjoyed really all of your family’s blog posts to date, however this one is the funniest. Have you sent it to Nissan??


So how many of these do you want? I can probably get a Fleet price somewhere…. Or not. I’ll stick with my CRV…. Thanks for the entertainment… I can use some now and again! Great post!


Hah. ?? Best laugh I’ve had in a while. Glad you lived to tell the tale. Thank you.

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How far did you have to drive before trading this one in? I laughed and laughed and laughed….and also felt sorry for your poor leg-challenged children and your aching knees and shins.


Oh the Aztek….

Maybe this is what happened. Maybe an Aztec mated with an Acura ZDX, and out popped the Juke. It would explain a lot.


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