What’s Hot: Refined and perky engine, out-there looks (love ‘em or hate ‘em), neat handling.
What’s Not: Rear seat is tight, poor rear visibility, requires premium fuel.
X-FACTOR: Conformity be damned, this is one SUV that escapes the well-worn box-on-wheels paradigm.
Vehicle Style: Compact SUV
Price: $23,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 85kW/190Nm 4cyl turbo petrol | 6spd manual
Fuel Economy: claimed: 5.6 l/100km | tested: 7.5 l/100km
The looks may not be to everyone’s taste, but you’ve gotta admit the Nissan Juke is really… well, it’s really something. Exaggerated proportions, pouncing silhouette, and bug-eyed front-end.
Should you hug it or throw a bag over it? It can be a bit hard to decide...
And the light refresh it got earlier this year didn’t make it any less ‘out there’ (in fact, you might not have noticed). But, there’s a couple of new competitors on the scene since the Juke first arrived in 2013, so Nissan made a few adjustments to keep it fresh with buyers.
Nothing too major mind you; externally, the new bumper, stronger grille and reworked tail-lights are the most obvious. What might make the biggest difference though is the addition of a new 1.2 litre turbo engine in the ST manual.
That’s the one we chose for this review.
So, armed with nothing but a cheerful disposition, TMR hit the road in the new Juke looking for adventure and a taste of life with Nissan’s oddball little SUV.
Quality: Jump into the driver’s seat of the Juke and the lustre of that kooky exterior fades. Inside, age and cost-cutting let the Juke down.
The ST might be the entry level model, but the $23,490 (plus) price isn’t exactly cut-throat, so finding a dated centre stack and steering wheel staring back isn’t so great.
Hard plastics make up the dash surface, but they’re pretty well finished and don’t seem out of place. The centre console is supposed to resemble a motorcycle fuel tank - it comes with a glossy finish and is sorta cool, maybe.
The flimsy-feeling climate controls however feel a bit low-end; those same buttons double as the drive-mode controls. It’s a clever concept but the execution is laggy and the placement so low in the centre stack it makes the telemetry-style readouts redundant.
The seats wear a flash looking cloth trim, but the seat covers themselves felt loose and baggy. Something that’s only going to become worse the more they’re used.
Comfort: Thanks to some aspects of that unique exterior, the interior fit is a bit of a mixed bag. Up front the Juke feels cozy, but far from claustrophobic.
Headroom is generous, and despite the feeling of a lofty seating position it isn’t really all that high.
Move to the back and the rear bench is more cramped, the sloping roof and rising window line really close things in. The tight knee room and duck-for-entry rear doors mean that the Juke is best used for occasional, short trips.
Equipment: Standard fare for the ST packs in cloth trim with a leather-look steering wheel and gear-knob, cruise control, speed limiter, trip computer, single-zone climate control, power windows, rear privacy glass and remote central locking.
Your tunes will come courtesy of a single CD, AM/FM radio and MP3 compatible audio system that also includes Bluetooth phone and audio and USB auxiliary input pumped through four speakers.
Storage: Thanks to a thorough reworking of the Juke’s rear, boot space in the ST (and 2WD Ti-S) now measure a handy 354 litres (up a considerable 40 percent) and features a dual-level floor and split folding rear seats to boost versatility.
Cabin nooks include open pockets in the centre console, but no lidded bin or armrest; there’s an anti-slip space for your phone under the centre stack and a bottle holder in each door, plus front map pockets.
There’s some useful storage spaces but nothing very large, and certainly not a patch on the Holden Trax and its cargo pants-like array of cabin storage.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The real headline act for the Juke - we reckon - isn’t the engine at the top of the range, but this one at the bottom.
Pair a manual transmission (now a six-speed) with your Juke ST and you’ll find a new 1.2 litre turbocharged petrol engine under the bonnet.
It generates 85kW at 4500rpm and 190Nm of torque at 2000rpm, and is a little gem.
Auto models make do with a carry-over naturally aspirated 1.6 litre engine.
For comparison sake, the turbo 1.2 makes 1kW less power but a very handy 32Nm of extra torque available 2000rpm earlier.
Zipping around town requires less effort than before. The gearbox still needs to be worked fairly feverishly for the best results, but the pay-off is well worth it.
Below 2000rpm, you will find the Juke feels a little weedy, but once the tacho swings beyond that point everything falls into place. Keep the motor working higher in the rev range and the Juke becomes a whole lot of fun.
Away from town, as speed builds, the 1.2 litre turbo is well up to the task, but for hills and overtaking you’ll need to pick a lower gear and give it plenty of welly.
Yet again, working through the gearbox pays the best dividends and makes the Juke a more involving drive.
A debit on road is that due to the rather unique shape of the Juke, visibility to the sides and rear is compromised. You need to keep a close eye on your blind spots in this one.
Refinement: At this lighter end of the SUV spectrum refinement isn’t always a given, but in the Juke engine noise and vibration are very well suppressed.
At idle the engine is barely perceptible and trundling around town the only real giveaway is the sneeze and hiss of the turbo piping between gear-shifts.
Escape the city and things aren’t as cultured, a fair amount of road and wind noise permeates the cabin. Rear passengers in particular found tyre roar to be a real problem at highway speeds.
Ride and Handling: Nissan has positioned the Juke as a bit of a funster, so it comes with a firmish ride to control body roll. You’ll still feel some lean through the corners, but it is surprisingly composed - for a small SUV - through a set of bends.
Around town the firmer suspension is evident with a more terse ride. You’ll feel bumps and potholes in the Juke that softer SUVs, like the Honda HR-V, would simply glide over (but it won’t rattle your fillings out).
It also has enough ground clearance to keep its nose out of trouble on rougher roads, unlike a Trax or CX-3 which tend to dip their front lip into the pavement from time to time.
Braking: Four wheel disc-brakes, with vented front rotors take care of pulling up. The brake system feels well and truly up to the job, with progressive stopping in town but a firmer bite should you need to stomp the pedal in an emergency.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 33.03 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABD, EBD, brake assist and tyre pressure monitoring are all standard. Six airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain) provide passenger protection along with front seats equipped with active head restraints and load-limiting front seatbelt pretensioners.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Service costs: Capped price servicing sees Juke 1.2 turbo servicing prices range from $269 up to $520 for the major 120,000km service (slightly more than the non-turbo 1.6). Intervals are set at 10,000km or 12 months, whichever occurs first.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Mazda CX-3 Maxx ($22.390) - Mazda’s CX-3 delivers sharp looks with frugal engines and decent equipment. Inside it slays the Juke for interior presentation.
The Maxx is one step up from base and lines up neatly with the Juke ST (there’s also a cheaper Neo) but provides Mazda’s top-notch MZD connect touchscreen infotainment system. The atmo 2.0 litre engine provides more power but similar torque however doesn’t quite feel as perky. (see CX-3 reviews)
Holden Trax LS ($23,990) - Holden’s small SUV looks and feels a half-size bigger and has one of the most practical interiors in terms of small item storage. The myLink infotainment system is a breeze to use too.
On the road the 1.8 litre engine can feel a little dozy but the five-speed manual is pleasant enough to use and the Trax fields a strong equipment list. (see Trax reviews)
Renault Captur ($22,990) - The Captur opens up a range of personalisation options missing elsewhere in the class, so you can tailor yours to look just the way you like.
With a 0.9 litre three cylinder turbo doing the heavy lifting the Captur is a little more leisurely but still a decent drive. The upside is a miserly thirst. (see Captur reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
If the Juke excels at any one thing, it’s forcing an opinion out of people. The looks invite comment, so, if you’re thinking of buying one, you might want to keep that in mind.
But don’t let it deter you; for daring to be different with this fun Juke, Nissan deserves a pat on the back.
But more than that, but they’ve put together a decent little SUV here, with a charming engine and useful six-speed manual.
Young driver’s should get to know the Juke, it works as statement, but at the same time makes a decent conveyance. It’s a little selfish thanks to a tight back seat, but for hauling sports gear, beach paraphernalia, or picking up a flat-pack, it’s a handy package.
For some, the need for premium unleaded may be a bit of a burden. While most service stations carry the required 95RON fuel, the price premium at every fill might be a turn off.
There’s no denying that better compact SUVs exist, but unique ones are harder to find. There’s definitely a place for the Juke - in a market awash with conformity and ‘safe bets’ it really stands out.
That alone is worth something.