I believe the direct competitors to the Juke are the Suzuki SX4 Crossover, Toyota Matrix, Subaru Outback Sport, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, and the Mini Countryman. We were looking for the smallest car we could get with AWD and a hatchback body style. Those vehicles appear to be the only choices in the US.
I tested all those cars except the Mini. It was a bit too pricey for my liking and there weren't any available to test anyway. Besides, at the top of the range, it's not as much value for the money.
The Outlander Sport had a sharp cabin and plenty of room. It's more on the SUV side than Juke or the others. It drives OK I guess, but when the makers of the EVO put the word sport on a car you expect it to mean something. Ride was OK but the car is very underpowered. So much so that it has a system that makes electricity while you brake so the car can shut off the alternator as much as possible to reduce the drain it puts on the engine. Yes, it's as bad as it sounds. Nothing sporty about it at all and it is at the top of the range price-wise behind the Mini Countryman. Not much bang for the buck here. For what it's worth, it does have the most ground clearance, which is good.
Next we have the Subaru Outback Sport. Room is good, engine is good. Cabin isn't as nice as the Mitsubishi and the styling inside and out is very plain but it's very functional. It's AWD system is great. My only complaint was that it sits a lot lower to the ground and has a large overhang in the front. Ride was good for the most part, a bit on the noisy side.
The Toyota Matrix is very similar to Juke in price. Plenty of room as it has a slightly bigger and more boxy physique. Drives good and has some vigor but I'd stop short of calling it sporty, even though with AWD model has the same engine as the XRS sport model. It is much more car-like than any of the others and also sits very low to the ground. My biggest complaint was it was so low slung and sporty (with a large overhang up front with low air dam) the AWD is sure to be mainly for show. I'm not saying it wouldn't help, but I don't think it could navigate down our alley in the winter when the snow turns to ice and is deeply rutted.
Then there is the SX4 Crossover. It's very cheap and feels cheap. That said, it drives good, maybe not as good the others, but definitely acceptable. Not alot of extras, but a good value. An excellent choice for a young couple just starting a family. As you might have guessed, nothing here to set your pulse racing. I liked the ride height when compared to the Matrix and Outback Sport, but that was about all.
Then we heard about the Juke. We both thought it was beautiful (oddly enough on both counts) but were skeptical that it would be right for us. Then we drove one "just for fun" before biting the bullet and buying a Matrix, just so that we could say that we had explored all of our options.
What a difference! The car was poised, precise, very agile and eager, with plenty of grunt! Best ground clearance, wheels, horsepower, AWD technology, braking technology, creature features, short overhangs, you name it! It was a little smaller inside, but it came standard with many features. In the middle trim with AWD was outfitted much better than you'd expect for the price. I drove it again to make sure I just wasn't dazzled by the fender lights and all the technical gizmos. I liked it even more on the second drive, and when I got out I felt two things. At first I felt kinda like we didn't have any right to have that much car for the price, like there was some sort of mistake and the car was really supposed to be priced higher. After confirmation of the price I started to feel sort of betrayed, like everyone else could have offered us a better car and just didn't.
We decided on the Juke.