You'll often find one in many families; the non-conformist rebel that follows his or her own path in life. These are the rule-bending/breaking types that are far removed from the mainstream.

In automotive terms that pretty much describes the Nissan Juke.

Anyone who believes that all-weather vehicles must be big and bold to pass muster really need to adjust their thinking. The Juke displays some rough and rugged off-roader looks, but has been shrink-wrapped into an efficient and practical size.

Clearly the Juke's design shares absolutely nothing with any other Nissan vehicle. The front end sports a pair of audaciously shaped fenders that dominate the overall design. The headlights are countersunk into the nose between the bumper and the grille, while the integrated turn-signal pods are positioned high up on either side of the hood.

For the 2015 model year, the Juke receives a minor front and rear facelift, although it's difficult to spot the changes. The headlights are now of the projector beam sort and the boomerang-shaped tail lamps now use bright and fast-acting LEDs.

Unchanged are the rear doors that are so well concealed that you'll have to strain your eyes to spot the secret latches that are integrated into roof pillar. In back, the unusually shaped liftgate also carries over.

A peek into the Juke's five-passenger cabin confirms more freeform sculpting, especially the brightly painted center console that's designed to resemble a motorcycle fuel tank. Elsewhere, the dual primary gauges are oversized, the front seats are well bolstered and the split-folding back seat can be flattened to maximize cargo room, which is a good thing since there's limited stowage space behind the rear seat back.

The Juke is actually 20-inches shorter overall than the next largest Nissan Rogue, however a relatively generous width provides sufficient shoulder room for adult riders.

The music for the Juke S, SV, SL and NISMO emanates from a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder that makes 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. That's the same as for previous years, but the engine now produces lower emissions and slightly improved fuel efficiency (28 mpg in the city and 32 on the highway for front-drive Jukes, up from 27/32).

A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is standard with most models, although a six-speed manual is basic to the Juke NISMO and NISMO RS (the CVT is optional for both).

The turbo 1.6 in the NISMO RS with the manual gearbox increases output to 215 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque, but 211 horses and 184 pound-feet of torque when the CVT is specified.

The all-wheel-drive system that's available across the line splits the torque up to 50 percent between the front and rear wheels and can also direct up to half the available rear-axle torque to the outside wheel in a turn for greater cornering stability.

With a starting price of $21,100 including destination charges, the base Juke S now comes with the addition of push-button start, rearview camera and a five-inch control display screen. That's in addition to multi-adjustable manual front seat adjustment, six-speaker audio system with redundant steering-wheel controls, Bluetooth networking and generously sized 17-inch wheels. Front-drive Jukes have special storage areas beneath the rear seat that would otherwise be consumed by the extra AWD hardware.

A wide assortment of extra-cost features - many of which are installed on up-level trims -  include a power moonroof, keyless entry and start, leather-covered seats, navigation system and premium sound package. 

Nissan also sells an Integrated Control option (I-CON) that operates the automatic climate control and adjusts the CVT and electronic steering and throttle response to Normal, Sport (performance) or Eco (maximum fuel efficiency) settings.

The quirky Juke won't make the cut on every buyer's short list, but for daring types who resist following the herd, your ride awaits.


What you should know: 2015 Nissan Juke

Type: Four-door front- /all-wheel-drive sub-compact tall wagon

Engine (hp): 1.6-liter DOHC I4, turbocharged (188/215)

Transmissions: Six-speed manual (NISMO only); continuously variable (CVT)

Market position: The Juke is one of a rapidly expanding class of compact and sub-compact tall wagons that come with small, but powerful and fuel-efficient engines along with available four-wheel-drive setups.

Points: Imaginative and wholly original styling; Small-displacement turbo four-cylinder is ideal for this class; Those wanting greater box-like space utilization might be disappointed; Sporty NISMO models add a measure of performance; Juke's popularity doesn't appear affected by added competition; A car with this much chutzpa is a treat.

Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.

MPG (city/hwy) 28/32 (FWD); Base price (incl. destination) $21,100


By comparison

Jeep Renegade
Base price: $19,000
New small Jeep matches the Juke in head-turning looks. Should sell well.

Chevrolet Trax
Base price: $21,000
Less costly relation to the Buick Encore is surprisingly roomy for its size.

Subaru XV Crosstrek
Base price: $22,450
Hiked-up Impreza hatchback offshoot has standard all-wheel-drive.

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