What’s Hot: New 1.2 turbo engine is a sweet one, long feature list, still 'young fun'.
What’s Not: 1.2 litre not available with an automatic, interior a tad cheap.
X-FACTOR: Head-turning design for a modest amount of money, the Juke definitely knows its niche.
Vehicle Style: Compact SUV
Price: $23,790 - $33,490 (plus on-roads)
85kW/190Nm 1.2 litre turbo petrol four | 6sp manual
56kW/158Nm 1.6 litre petrol four | CVT automatic
140kW/240Nm 1.6 litre turbo petrol four | 6sp manual or CVT automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 5.6 l/100km (1.2 manual), 6.3 l/100km (1.6 auto), 6.0 l/100km (1.6 turbo manual), 6.5 l/100km (1.6 turbo auto) | tested: 8.3 l/100km (1.6 turbo manual
The styling is very much love-it-or-hate-it, the interior is far from roomy and depending on which model you pick, the driving experience is either yawn-worthy or full of torque-steering thrills.
Now we have an updated model. The range has been cut down to just the entry-level ST and top-shelf Ti-S, and there’s now a 1.2 litre turbo manual under the bonnet of the base model.
Some cosmetic enhancements strengthen its family ties to the rest of the Nissan range, but in all this is a mild makeover.
Is its funky design still fresh enough to lure small SUV buyers? We took the updated Juke on a brief launch drive in Melbourne to find out.
- Cruise control, climate control, trip computer, power windows, LED daytime running lamps, heated front seats (Ti-S), xenon headlamps (Ti-S), leather upholstery (Ti-S), keyless entry and ignition (Ti-S).
- Infotainment: Bluetooth audio streaming and telephony, AM/FM/CD 4-speaker audio system, USB audio input. Ti-S adds: digital radio tuner, sat-nav, 5.8” colour touchscreen display, 6-speaker audio, internet connectivity via smartphone.
- Luggage capacity: 354 litres with rear seats up.
Quality issues remain with some of the cabin plastics, and the large areas of high-gloss (and easily-scratched) piano black plastic don’t look as premium as they’re supposed to.
The lower LCD screen (which displays climate control info, an economy meter, torque display or boost guage, depending on what mode you’re in) also looks low-rent thanks to a cloudy plastic cover, and the instrument binnacle feels thin and cheap.
The design is fun and cheeky though, and one that younger buyers may well gravitate toward. There’s no shortage of dull interiors in the SUV segment, but this is definitely not one of them.
Like the Micra (which the Juke shares its platform with), the Juke’s steering column only adjusts for tilt and not reach. Under-thigh support is also sub-par thanks to a seat squab that’s just a smidge too short.
The spec list is healthy though.
All models get climate control, cruise control, Bluetooth phone and audio integration, a USB port and trip computer.
The 5.8-inch sat-nav headunit in the Ti-S has been given a substantial upgrade, and now incorporates a 360-degree camera view, digital radio tuner, internet connectivity via smartphone apps and six speakers rather than four.
The Ti-S also gains leather upholstery and heated front seats, plus dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning.
Disappointingly though, only the Ti-S receives a reversing camera system
For the ST and 2WD versions of the Ti-S, boot space has grown by a substantial 40 percent, bringing it to 354 litres with the seats up - about level with most modern small hatchbacks.
A two-level boot floor also improves the Juke’s versatility.
ON THE ROAD
- 85kW/190Nm 1.2 litre turbo petrol inline four | 6sp manual
- 56kW/158Nm 1.6 litre petrol inline four | CVT automatic
- 140kW/240Nm 1.6 litre turbo petrol inline four | 6sp manual or CVT automatic
- Front-wheel drive. Ti-S automatic features torque-vectoring all-wheel drive
- Ventilated disc brakes at front, solid discs at rear
- Turning circle: 10.7 metres
Besides the Ti-S model's substantially improved infotainment system, the big news for the 2015 Juke update is the addition of a 1.2 litre turbocharged petrol engine for the base model ST manual.
Sourced from Renault and shared with the Clio, the Juke’s new 1.2 produces 85kW of power and 190Nm of torque.
While power might be slightly less than the 86kW 1.6 litre non-turbo engine that powered the previous ST manual, the new turbo engine boasts a sizable 32Nm more torque.
Out on the road, it’s a perfect pairing for the Juke. The power curve is quite linear for a small-capacity turbo engine and it pulls strongly from 2000rpm.
The gearshift is light and user-friendly too, and there’s even some muffled turbo spool and blow-off noises to remind you that the anemic old 1.6 is gone.
It’s a shame that this engine - in the Juke at least - isn’t available with an automatic transmission. If you want an automatic Juke ST, you’re stuck with the old 86kW/158Nm 1.6 litre four-pot.
The top-grade Juke Ti-S still makes the same 140kW/240Nm power and torque outputs, but an increase in compression ratio now sees peak torque arrive at just 1600rpm rather than 2000rpm.
We drove the 2WD manual variant of the Ti-S, and while we preferred the manual in the base grade the situation is reversed for the Ti-S.
The long-throw manual shift is notchy and slow in the Ti-S, and it’s hard to get a feel for the clutch’s friction point.
There’s also plenty of torque steer to contend with during hard acceleration, as all of that power and torque is channelled through the front wheels.
The Ti-S CVT automatic, which only comes in AWD flavour and has a clever torque-vectoring system, has no such issues.
Ride quality in all grades isn’t great. While the ride certainly feels sporty, it’s brittle and busy over small bumps.
It’s not a true bone-rattler, mind you, but it could use a softer suspension tune given most owners will rarely stray from the city.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - this model scored 33.03 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist and six airbags are standard across the Juke range.
Ti-S models get blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, a top-down camera view and moving object detection as standard. The ST grade does not receive a reversing camera.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Spec improvements and powertrain upgrades have seen prices rise for the Juke (the ST automatic being the only exception, with unchanged pricing), but is that likely to hurt its appeal in the market?
It seems unlikely. Sales are actually up for the quirky Juke compared to the same time last year, and sells reasonably well within its segment.
The new 1.2 litre turbo is a true sweetheart of an engine, and makes the Juke a genuinely fun car to drive. Not quick, but definitely enjoyable. It’s a pity there’s no automatic option.
Tech heads, meanwhile, will no doubt be impressed by the Ti-S’ enhanced connectivity and infotainment suite, though at $29,790 for the Ti-S manual it simply feels a little too expensive for what it offers.
Our advice? If you’re not afraid of having three pedals in your footwell, definitely give the Juke ST manual a try.
At $23,490 MSRP, it’s an affordable head-turner.
PRICING (drive-away price in brackets)
- Juke ST - 1.2 DIG-T 2WD, Manual - $23,490 ($26,568)
- Juke ST -1.6 2WD, Xtronic - $24,490 ($27,600)
- Juke Ti-S - 1.6 DIG-T 2WD, Manual - $29,790 ($33,073)
- Juke Ti-S - 1.6 DIG-T AWD, Xtronic - $33,490 ($36,888)
Nissan notes that its drive-away estimate is based on data for Victoria, including 12 months’ registration, 12 months’ CTP and applicable statutory charges, dealer delivery and administration charges.