Middle-age spread that works for this funky little SUV
Growing up takes some longer than others. Having just turned 10, the Nissan Juke has come of age.
While maintaining its youthful exuberance with an outgoing design, this new Juke possesses an air of sophistication.
Arriving in Australia during May, the new Juke has grown in every dimension — but rather than putting on bulk the small SUV now looks more athletic with distinctive lines which show strong lineage to its predecessor while providing a fresher modern edge.
When launched back in 2010, there were few rivals. Recent years has seen an influx of competitors including the now dominant Mazda CX-3, Hyundai Venue and the most recent additions of the Ford Puma, Skoda Kamiq and Volkswagen T-Cross.
An underdog in the past, Juke space improvements raise its position as a worthy family alternative with prices starting from about $30,500 drive-away. Our family has begun a long-term test of the range-topping Ti version, which is packed with prestige equipment and can be in your driveway for $39,490.
Fun doesn’t stop on the outside with the Juke. It’s a groovy cabin which maintains the console design inspired by a motorcycle fuel tank.
Base models come with an eight-inch touchscreen, alloys, rear spoiler and steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, but the Ti raises the bar significantly.
While $40,000 is a significant investment at this end of the SUV realm, the eight-speaker Bose stereo, quilted accented leather with alcantara seat trim, 19-inch alloys to properly fill the wheel arches and a seven-inch digital driver display deliver features and an ambience akin to prestige offerings.
Colour options are blue, ivory, gun metallic, black, burgundy, silver and the signature red.
Servicing distances are short, but common for turbocharged engines, at 10,000km or annual. Capped price servicing is available through dealers, and the average cost is $416 over the first five years.
Once you reach 120,000km or six years then it climbs rapidly, with maintenance costing $1544 with the drive belt to be replaced along with transmission fluid, and a host of other standard changes.
Warranty coverage meets the new industry standard of five years and unlimited kilometres. One key differential inclusion is Nissan provides roadside assist for the entire five years if there is a breakdown or issue.
Strong crash test results in Europe last year led to the Juke being awarded five stars in Australia. Adult occupant protection was rated at 94 per cent, while children were rated at 87 per cent — inclusive of a perfect side impact score.
All Jukes come with automatic brakes which can step in to help avoid or reduce frontal accidents (also watching for pedestrians and cyclists), lane intervention to stop a distracted driver wandering, speed zone recognition and blind spot monitoring.
Up-spec models also come with radar cruise control to always maintain a safe distance from other vehicles, an all-round camera view that is great for parking and the Ti also has tyre pressure monitoring.
The only items missing are auto emergency braking while reversing and cross junction assist.
Smaller cars and SUVs have a tendency to feel undernourished. Yet the Juke is robust and confident.
Efforts have been made to reduce external noise. The quieter engine sits on stiffer mounts and there is also thicker window glass.
Increasing the wheelbase enabled engineers to improve cabin space, and for those in the back knee room has improved by 5.8cm while headroom is about 1cm better.
Combined with a boot space which more than doubles what was previously available, the Juke becomes a genuine family option.
Infotainment and cabin design are among the best you’ll find. The buttons are well labelled and everything from the aircon to the satnav is straightforward.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard features and mirror the primary functions of your phone to provide easy access to calls, messages, Google Maps and music.
That boot space of more than 400 litres can handle a reasonable grocery shop, and the rear seats also fold 60-40 to provide 1300L of space — but the cargo area isn’t flat with a large lip where the seat backs fold.
The sculpted centre console can handle two cups, while each door has the ability to handle a bottle, and there is a handy storage area in front of the shifter perfect for phones. USB ports are located front and back.
All variants share the same turbocharged three-cylinder engine, which now proves the only chink in the Juke’s armour.
Small capacity turbos are becoming popular across smaller variants, but the key issue for the Juke is the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Power and torque from the turbo triple is zesty but Nissan has struggled to calibrate smooth gear changes.
At low speeds acceleration can be hesitant and erratic. Three drive modes have a major bearing on the performance, with eco and standard providing the jerkiest responses.
We’ve found shifting directly into sport mode delivers the most linear acceleration. Once under way the Juke proves a delightful drive that responds better the harder you push.
Cornering with car-like prowess courtesy of being lighter and more rigid than before, it embraces bends and the dual-clutch works its magic with much improved cohesion. Those who like to drive can make best use of the paddles. Fuel consumption over more than 2000km is averaging 7.1 litres/100km.
Boasts the looks and features of a prestige car without the bank balance dent.
Striking design with flared arches, rear door handles integrated into the pillar and rally-inspired headlights, the sportiness inside and out lights my fire.
SKODA KAMIQ 85TSI DSG $37,890 D/A
One of the better drives in this genre, it’s a tough competitor with strong pricing, size and specification. The price here includes $4100 for the support pack and $3800 for the tech pack to get close to the Juke specification. Also powered by a 1.0-litre 3-cyl turbo, 85kW/200Nm.
TOYOTA C-HR KOBA $38,891 D/A
Features similar striking design but with more sharp finishes. Similar outputs of 85kW/185Nm from the 1.2-litre turbo 4-cyl and it’s similarly frugal (6.4 litres/100km) but the rear seats are snug and there’s not as much boot space.
While the styling doesn’t excite everyone, our design eyes love the silhouette and proportions. Athleticism is bursting inside and out, but the dual-clutch driving experience takes some practise for smooth operation.
AT A GLANCE
NISSAN JUKE TI
PRICE $39,490 drive-away (top-shelf offering)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 5yr, unl’td km w’ty (good), services $2084 for 5yrs (OK)
ENGINE 1.0-litre turbo 3-cyl, 84kW/180Nm (fun, but jerky transmission)
SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags, AEB, blind-spot warning, lane-keep assist, rear traffic alert, traffic sign recognition (good)
THIRST 5.8L/100km (7.1 on test)
SPARE Space-saver (standard)
BOOT 422 litres (awesome)