It’s still not going to appeal to every palate, but Nissan’s extrovert Juke has had some development budget aimed in its direction. It emerges with some well-judged upgrades.
WHAT IS IT?
The newest version of Nissan’s mad-hatter small SUV. Even today, three years after its launch, the Juke still looks like a concept car that escaped from a motor show stand.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
Sharper looks, better packaging and, importantly, a new entry-level engine appropriated from Renault mean the Juke’s appeal is now broader than ever.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Try to name a more polarising car on sale than the Nissan Juke. In a world of tracing paper, conservative design, the Juke is refreshingly different and is now better than ever thanks to improved packaging, tweaked styling and a gutsy, well-priced base model. We only wish the interior and dynamics were better.
PLUS: new entry-level engine; boosted equipment; improved packaging; sharper styling
MINUS: dated, cheap-feeling cabin; lacks dynamic polish
THE WHEELS REVIEW
IT’S EASY to imagine that the Nissan Juke has its own, sealed-off section at Nissan HQ. A closed door behind which jokes are told, whoopee cushions are sat on and eye-bending designs, like the freshly updated Juke you see here, are drawn.
This facelift arrives three years after the original Juke landed Down Under and it does nothing to soften the visual impact of Nissan’s divisive small SUV. A new front bumper gives greater prominence to Nissan’s V-grille, while restyled head and taillights look like they’ve been stolen straight from the 370Z. There are also new indicator signals in the mirrors, LED running lights, new alloy wheels and the addition of three bold colours, like ‘Bumblebee Yellow’ , just in case the Juke’s mad-hatter styling wasn’t enough of a visual assault.
But it’s under the Juke’s tweaked skin where the real headlines lie. There’s a new entry-level engine for manual ST models, with Nissan replacing the old 1.6 atmo donk with a Renault-sourced 1.2-litre turbo four-pot. Sounds like a raw deal, but the new unit is flexible, strong and, with a fuel consumption claim of 5.6L/100km, more economical too.
Power is actually down 1kW over the 1.6’s 86kW, but torque is up 32Nm to 190Nm which, when mated exclusively to a smooth-shifting six-speed manual, propels the Juke through city traffic effortlessly. The ST CVT models retain the old 1.6-litre lump, and all front drivers now boast a massive 40 per cent improvement in boot space to 354 litres thanks to improved rear packaging. The range-topping Ti-S CVT, with its torque vectoring AWD system, retains its dismal 207-litre load-lugging capacity.
Nissan has streamlined the Juke range and dropped the old mid-spec ST-S, so buyers now have the choice of ST or Ti-S grades and three engine options: 1.2-litre turbo (ST manual only), aspirated 1.6 (ST CVT) and a 1.6-litre turbo (Ti-S manual and CVT AWD).
There’s new tech too, like Nissan’s Safety Shield system which adds lane departure warning, blind spot detection and a reverse camera that includes moving object detection and an overhead 360-degree view to Ti-S models.
What hasn’t changed is the Juke’s suspension or steering hardware, meaning you get the same wheel-at-each corner handling feel and well-weighted tiller. It also means the Juke can be unruly on twisty roads, with a lack of front-end grip when pushed.
Worse still, aside from a few minor tweaks, the Juke’s dated, mismatched interior remains unchanged. Dominated by hard, cheap-feeling plastics and a central stack that looks like a 1990s stereo, the Juke’s cabin is at odds with its cutting-edge, concept car exterior.
Lack of interior polish aside, it’s clear Nissan has improved the Juke. Sharper styling, improved packing and a gutsy, well-priced base model, don’t only add to its sense of individualism, but more importantly, also broaden its appeal.
Model: Nissan Juke ST manual
Engine: 1197cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo
Max power: 85kW @ 4500rpm
Max torque: 190Nm @ 2000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
On sale: now