When categorizing the 2014 Nissan Juke, much second-guessing is going on. Part hatchback and part small SUV, this feisty little crossover has some seriously polarizing styling, making it a car in a league of its own. 

On one hand, the Juke offers the functionality of a hatchback. On the other, it delivers a fun-to-drive experience thanks to a turbocharged engine, precise steering and a sport-tuned suspension. Add a nice dose of cutting-edge electronics features and you have a CUV intended for a more youthful set. But surprisingly, Juke sales have gone to people of all ages.

For those who appreciate the Juke's qualities, there's one more that may help seal the deal: affordability. The Juke has a base price that starts around $20,000, which is lower than most small crossovers. For everything it has to offer, that's a bargain.

What's New for 2014?

The Juke NISMO model tops the performance end of the Juke lineup, with a new Midnight Edition and Sport Package rounding out the changes for 2014.

What We Like

Quick-footed handling; responsive engine; available all-wheel drive; comfortable seats 

What We Don't

Limited cargo space; some cheap interior materials; lack of rear-seat headroom; love-it-or-hate-it styling 

How Much?

$19,800-$29,345 

Fuel Economy

The 2014 Nissan Juke has a 1.6-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine. Output is 188 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. Energy is channeled to the front wheels by either a 6-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The Juke also offers all-wheel drive, but it's available only on CVT-equipped models. On the high-performance NISMO model, horsepower bumps up to 197 with 184 lb-ft of torque.

The Environmental Protection Agency's fuel economy estimates for the front-wheel-drive Juke are 27 miles per gallon city/32 mpg hwy with the CVT and 25 mpg city/31 mpg hwy with manual transmission. The all-wheel-drive Juke's fuel economy ratings are 25 mpg city/30 mpg hwy. The NISMO earns 25 mpg city/31 mpg hwy with the manual and 25 mpg city/30 mpg hwy with the automatic.

Standard Features & Options

Nissan offers four trim levels for the 2014 Juke: S, SV, NISMO and SL. Front-wheel-drive SV and NISMO models offer a 6-speed manual, while all other trims come only with the CVT automatic. All-wheel drive is available on all trims.

The Juke S ($19,800) includes a CVT automatic transmission, power windows, locks and mirrors, a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary input port, Bluetooth, cruise control, tilt steering wheel with audio controls, trip computer and 17-inch alloy wheels. 

The Juke SV ($21,800) adds a 6-speed manual transmission, premium fabric, I-CON multifunction controller, automatic climate control, USB/iPod control, a power sunroof, rear privacy glass, SiriusXM satellite radio and Nissan Intelligent Key with push-button start. 

The Juke NISMO ($23,800) brings a more powerful engine, sport tuning for the suspension and steering, lowered ride height, 18-in wheels and unique NISMO exterior and interior treatments. 

The Juke SL ($25,100) is loaded with navigation radio, Rockford Fosgate ecoPUNCH audio with powered subwoofer, rear backup camera, leather upholstery, heated front seats, fog lights and auto on/off headlights.

All-wheel drive adds $2,000 to the bottom line, while the CVT costs an additional $1,050. The Navigation Package (navigation, Rockford Fosgate audio, backup camera and USB/iPod interface) can be added to the SV and NISMO trims, while the SV trim can add a Sport Package that includes stainless steel exhaust, roof spoiler and Gunmetal alloy wheels. 

Safety

Standard safety features for the Juke include ABS, traction control, stability control, active front head restraints and six airbags -- front, side and head curtain.

In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests, the government gives the 2014 Nissan Juke four out of five stars overall, with three stars in the front-end crash test, five stars in the side-impact test and four stars in the rollover test.

The Juke earned the highest crash-test ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, earning it a Top Safety Pick award.

Behind the Wheel

Foremost, the Juke's turbocharged engine delivers a healthy dose of exhilaration. Both off the line and in mid-sprint, this energetic little hatchback has plenty of get-up-and-go. Passing is especially fun, as those you overtake are sure to give it a look that says, "What in the world is that thing?"

To customize the driving experience, Nissan equips the Juke with its Integrated Control System (I-Con), which allows the driver to select among three operating modes: Normal, Sport and Eco. Each mode alters throttle response, steering speed and transmission settings based on your preferred driving style.

The Juke is an agile handler, benefiting from a precise steering system and a firm suspension. It's particularly nimble in corners, remaining stable and well planted even at higher speeds. And like most good sports cars, its performance seems to tighten up more as it's pushed harder.

The Juke is also maneuverable at low speeds. Its small footprint and tight turning radius make it easy to navigate through city streets and crowded parking lots.

Add all-wheel drive and the Juke becomes a capable 4-season vehicle. When there's no snow or mud to tread through, you can apply the all-wheel drive to a performance-oriented drive on a curvy country road.

Although the Juke is biased toward handling, its overall ride is, mostly, comfortable and compliant. It may not be as plush as some rivals, but it's certainly adequate for daily commuting and longer road trips. 

Other Cars to Consider 

Kia Soul -- The Kia Soul offers much more cargo-carrying capacity, but the Juke is lot more powerful and a lot more fun to drive. Both vehicles have a descending roofline that compromises rear-seat headroom.

Scion xB -- Like the Juke, the Scion xB is both stylish and tech savvy. The xB pulls ahead on cargo room, but the Juke wins on sportiness and performance.

MINI Cooper Countryman -- The Juke and the Countryman are comparable in performance, but the Countryman is a good deal more expensive. 

AutoTrader's Advice 

The mid-level 2014 Nissan Juke SV makes the most sense to us. You'll get a nice array of features without paying the premium that the up-level SL requires. The two main things you'll miss are leather upholstery and heated seats. We recommend you add the optional Navigation Package, which includes a navigation system with real-time traffic, an upgraded sound system with subwoofer and a USB interface, and a backup camera. For those living in colder climates, all-wheel drive is suggested. All others will be perfectly content driving the CVT-equipped front-wheel-drive Juke.

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