5 0 5
Plus & Minus
Interior quality, big boot, generous standard equipment, fresh looks, fun handling
No manual gearbox mode, gearbox calibration a little dozy, huge front seats in upper spec models limit rear space
The Wheels Verdict: I know the pickings are thin, but the latest Juke might be one of 2020's more pleasant surprises. It's decent to pedal, it's well equipped, decently finished and offers respectable practicality for a car just 4210mm long. What's more, it's no longer tediously goofy like its predecessor. The Juke might have grown up but it hasn't lost its sense of fun.
WHAT IS THE NISSAN JUKE
Nissan popularised the whole supermini-SUV thing back in 2010 with the original Juke and that model, facelifted in 2018, enjoyed a decade of wilful wackiness that proved almost inexplicably popular. The latest all-new iteration of the Juke has a lot more in the way of competition and it needs to up its game to level with the likes of the Mazda CX-3, the Hyundai Venue, the Toyota C-HR and incoming Ford Puma.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
Nissan's first model on the new CMF-B chassis, which also underpins alliance partner Renault's latest Clio and Captur models, is pivotal to its small car success story now that the Micra has checked out. We had the opportunity to sample the British-built crossover for the first time in Australia in order to bring you the verdict on a car that could become a very familiar sight on local roads.
THE NISSAN JUKE REVIEW
Is it fair to say that this latest Nissan Juke doesn't have a lot to live up to? While it may well seem invidious to denigrate the achievements of the previous generation car, which sold in respectable numbers and was part of a clairvoyant push by Nissan from legacy vehicle genres into SUVs and crossovers, time hasn't been particularly kind to it. In the decade since it was launched, rivals equalled and then cantered past it. Catching up with them isn't going to be easy.
First impressions are promising. The front end of the car no longer looks like a cane toad's O-face, the dimensions have been teased out in each direction while retaining a tautness of surface yet there are still enough stylistic curlicues to set it apart from the bunch. But where the old Juke exited with a 160kW engine in top trim, you now get little more than half that in the flagship. In fact, all versions of the Juke in Australia get the same 84kW/180Nm three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. All feature a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission driving the front wheels as well, making the four-car model range effectively a lengthening menu of tinsel. That range comprises the entry-level ST grade (from $27,999) and its sibling, the ST+, identified by their 17-inch wheels. Then there's the mid-level model, the ST-L, which runs on 19-inch wheels and is expected to account for fully half of all Aussie Juke sales. Finally, at the top of the range is the Ti, with its shark-fin antenna on the roof and fancy Bose headrest speakers. The reason I mention these identifying features is that none of the cars carries a trim designation on the boot.
The 1274kg kerb weight of the range-topping Ti version compares favourably to the 1460kg a Toyota CH-R Koba has to heft about with only a single kilowatt extra to work with, and the turbocharger gives a decent amount of pep off the line. The steering wheel is unfashionably thin in sections, the leather stretched so taut that it almost feels like a urethane rim and, at 2.5 turns lock to lock, it's something that requires enthusiastic wielding in town. Fortunately, that's no great chore because the Juke's chassis is extremely well supported, with a firmish ride and lovely body control.
The downside to its composure through corners is that there is a bit of head-toss when you encounter a pothole or a bump on one side of the vehicle, but it's not bad and most will happily put up with that for the way that it can jink through bends.
It also resists understeer extremely well, although if seriously provoked, the stability control interventions can be intrusive. The brake pedal is well weighted with easy modulation, and throttle tip-in is also very good, although pick-up is often marred by the dual-clutch transmission clumsily jumping down a ratio or two in order to provide meaningful propulsion.
Zero to 100km/h takes a little over 10 seconds, so it's not particularly rapid, and that figure will be dulled still further with people on board, but the tiny turbocharger does a great job of plumping up the torque curve in the lower registers that it feels amply peppy about town. The engine makes a faint three-cylinder warble at idle, but the dominant sound at highway speeds is the wind rustle around the door mirrors.
One advantage to choosing either the ST-L or the Ti over the ST grades is that the upper-spec cars come with a drive mode selector that can switch between Eco, Normal and Sport. Because all Jukes share the same passive suspension architecture, the Sport mode doesn't affect ride quality and just gives the engine and gearbox the best opportunity to stay on the boil. It also adds a little heft to the steering, which is welcome. You'll find you click into Sport as a matter of course when shifting the gear lever to 'D'.
Should you click one of the wheel-mounted paddle shifters that control the dual-clutch transmission, the Juke will register that gear and stick with it for about fifteen seconds before dropping back to Drive. Hold the paddle for longer than a hilariously exact 0.65sec and the Juke will stay in manual mode. Hold the upshift paddle for the same amount of time and it'll switch back into Drive. That takes a bit of discovering as, unlike most other models, you don't click the gear lever across to signify that you're in a manual mode.
Stretching the wheelbase by over 10cm compared to its predecessor works wonders for interior packaging. The 2020 Juke's 75mm longer, 35mm wider and 30mm taller than the old version and you'll spot this most clearly in the rear seats. A word of warning though. The two upper-spec models have absolutely huge front chairs. They're seriously chubby and this means that kneeroom in the back of the ST and ST+ grades is better as a result. What's more, the back of the TI's one-piece front seat is finished in piano black, so the rear seat passenger gets a view of their own face reflected back at them. I can think of a few people who would like nothing better than to gaze into a mirror for a two-hour journey, but it won't be for everyone.
On the subject of the front seats, those chunky chairs in the ST-L and Ti grades are extremely comfortable, but they're specified quite differently. The Ti has a leather and Alcantara mix but instead of the usual sports seating method of putting the grippy Alcantara on the seat back and cushion and use the leather to trim the bolsters, it opts for the opposite. The ST-L, on the other hand, gets that right with a cloth centre section and leather bolsters.
Accommodation up front is otherwise excellent. The Juke is a great choice for very tall guys (or indeed ladies) because the manually-adjusted seats are positioned low in a cabin with an arcing roofline and no sunroof to impinge on headroom. I'm 193cm and long in the body and still had a good 5cm of space overhead. That's extremely rare.
The dashboard is busy in the amount of information it attempts to convey, but it's executed well. There's a small but deep centre bin, big bottle holders in all four doors and a huge glovebox. The only ergonomic fail is that there's not a wireless phone charger, and the cubby that is earmarked for a smartphone is just too small. What's more it's impossible to get your phone into that tray if it's plugged in for smartphone mirroring.
The infotainment system is fairly easy to navigate about, with the screen looking almost identical to that featured in the current Ford Fiesta. One small goof is that the physical navigation key on the centre console will only ever take you to the proprietary nav system, even if you were using your smartphone's Waze for instance. Instead you have to click the music button and from there jab a finger at the map icon on screen.
The six-speaker Bose stereo fitted to the Ti model deserves special mention. It's a punchy system and features headrest speakers that you can control to deliver an astonishing surround effect. It's like being wrapped in a scarf of music, although it must be noted that these compact speakers are better at communicating the treble frequencies than bass tones.
Move round to the back, flip up the manual tailgate and you'll notice a very large boot for the class. Nissan quotes a figure of 422 litres, which makes a Mazda CX-3's 264 litres or a Toyota C-HR's 318 litres seem undernourished, but the boot aperture is smaller than ideal. Nevertheless, it makes the Juke a far more practical thing than the old version, which fronted up with a 354-litre luggage capacity. Wide opening doors at front and rear make entry and egress very easy.
The fuel tank on all versions is 46 litres which, given a test average of 7.6L/100km, gives a typical range somewhere in the region of 600km. Not bad for a little 'un but still a bit off Nissan's claim of 5.8L/100km combined.
Whether the Juke is as good as a Ford Puma or a Volkswagen T-Cross is a fact-finding exercise for another day. I'd say it easily has the measure of a Mazda CX-3, which is some measure of its competence and, above all, it's endearing. Making it bigger and a little more mainstream in its styling will undoubtedly pay dividends, because it can now appeal to young family buyers. Well finished, well equipped, good to drive and still with a sprinkle of individuality, the new Juke is off to a very solid start.
Ford Puma, Hyundai Venue, Mazda CX-3, Toyota C-HR, Volkswagen T-Cross
2020 NISSAN JUKE TI SPECS
Model:Nissan Juke Ti
Engine: 999c, 3cyl, dohc, 12v, turbo
Max power: 84kW @ 5250rpm
Max torque: 180Nm @ 2400rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h: 10.4sec (claimed)
On sale: Now
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