Scott has been driving his Nissan Juke for about 10 years, but it is time for a replacement. He loves the fact that the car looks different, but he’s having difficulty finding something that isn’t the same old crossover or compact. What car should he buy?
(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. )
Here is the scenario:
I’ve had my Nissan Juke for almost a decade now, and I’m looking to replace it sometime in the summer of 2022. One of the main reasons I got the Juke last time around was that it actually looks unique, which brings me to my current problem. It seems like every damn car/truck/SUV on the road looks EXACTLY the same right now. Nissan has even replaced the Juke with the MUCH more vanilla (and boring) Kicks. I’m wracking my brain to research cars that have at least something unique in their appearance, but so far I’m coming up empty. Do you know of anything I’m missing or just not noticing?
I don’t need a lot of space as it’s usually just me in the car or perhaps one other adult. Sometimes I bring my medium-sized dogs for a ride. I really want something with good gas mileage and I am looking to spend up to $30,000.
Budget: Up to $30,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Wants: Funky, Unique, good MPG
Doesn’t want: Another Nissan
Scott, I am also a fan of the Juke and for a moment considered buying one but it proved to be too difficult to find a manual car in my area. That car was certainly one of Nissan’s more interesting executions and I agree that the Kicks is not quite the same.
Both the Hyundai Venue and Kia Seltos are sort of different with their styling elements and fit within that same subcompact crossover-ish category. But it seems like you want something that really stands out and that may require looking into a different segment.
You mentioned a need for good fuel economy, which brings me to an EV or PHEV. You need a BMW i3. BMW’s small EV doesn’t look like anything else on the road and like the Juke elicits a polarizing reaction to the styling.
Even though I feel like I’ve recommended the i3 many times here on WCSYB, it fits your criteria perfectly. It’s a car that won’t blend in with the crowd and will substantially reduce your fuel costs. You will probably want to get a Range Extender version if you are worried about losing juice on long drives. These aren’t easy to find in OK, but you can get newer versions that have a longer range, versus the earlier models, for around $25,000.
Scott, I commend you for your long-lived tenure with your Nissan Juke. I almost went with the Toyota C-HR because it kind of reminds me of the Juke, but trying to recapture what was cool about your Nissan is the wrong way to go. Let’s try for something different, and by different I mean a segment that many drivers and carmakers have lately turned away from: the sedan!
I’m recommending the 2021 Subaru Legacy. This is the other Subaru, the one most people overlook because the Outback blinds everyone to how cool the Legacy is. I’ve known exactly one Legacy driver, while I’ve known countless Outback owners. Every time I see a Legacy sedan in the wild, which is not very often, I get excited. The Legacy is a very handsome car and I would put it against any Mazda, Honda or Toyota in terms of value.
The car starts at $22,895 new, and gets good gas mileage both on and off the highway, even with its all-wheel drive. You mentioned that you don’t need much room, but this sedan could comfortably carry both your occasional passenger and your dog. You could even spring for the turbocharged boxer for just slightly more than your budget.
Scott, good on you for appreciating the Juke. It was one of the earliest examples of the funky, modern small crossover, and one I’m also saddened to see it hasn’t been followed up with anything similarly left-field in the market. Of course, the second-gen Juke looks the part, but we don’t get that one here.
Anyway, you could go in many directions with your decision, and I was actually struggling to hone in on a vehicle until I saw that there are a fair number of lightly-used or new Mazda CX-30s in your whereabouts, all priced under $30,000 in both front- and all-wheel drive guises. Here’s an AWD model with a shade under 7,000 miles on the clock, and it comes certified pre-owned. Considering you’re looking for fuel economy, you might prefer to go the FWD route, which will give you slightly better efficiency — 25 MPG city and 33 highway, versus the 24/31 rating of the AWD flavor.
Either way you’re getting a distinctive-looking (but still attractive) taut and well-trimmed small crossover — a car our Bradley Brownell called “a lower budget Porsche Macan” in his first drive.
While not as funky as the Juke ( I don’t think anything will ever be that funky again), I’d suggested the Kia Niro. It’s a crossover, but also looks as though it could be a slightly tall wagon as well if you wanted a unique aspect about it. That’s on top of having two pretty fuel-efficient versions.
There’s the standard hybrid model that starts just under $25,000. It gets 53 in the city and 48 mpg on the highway. Or if you want the best of both worlds, you could go the plug-in route with the Niro PHEV. It gets 105 MPGe and when the electric juice runs out, the gas engine will still give you a combined 46 mpg. And it starts at just over $29,000. Don’t forget the room for your dogs. With the seats folded, it has almost 55 cubic feet of cargo volume.