Nissan Juke Review
Nissan Juke review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety and verdict.
IN A NUTSHELL: Nissan’s range is undergoing a long-awaited refresh. The range of SUVs is possibly the broadest on the market and the funky-looking new Nissan Juke turns heads and is likely to pull punters into dealerships.
PRACTICAL MOTORING SAYS: The Juke doesn’t take kindly to being pigeon-holed: buyers won’t necessarily be comparing it to other small SUVs and crossovers, and although it will appeal to younger buyers, it’s sure to attract plenty of oldies as well.
Managing director and CEO of Nissan Australia Peter Jones has reason to look happy. It’s been a record year for the company with 59,460 cars sold year to date (compared to 58,749 for the same period last year). And with an ambitious program of new model launches in coming months, things can only get better.
One of the most anxiously awaited new models is the Juke. The small SUV/crossover category is hot and tipped to get hotter in coming years. Go back to 2009 and we bought just 20,000 small SUVs. By 2017, it is estimated the category will be up to 85,000 units.
For Australia, the Juke comes in three trim levels (ST, ST-S and Ti-S, like most of the local Nissan range). Overseas, the Juke gets model names (Visia, Acenta and Tekna). The engine choice here is simpler than elsewhere: a 1.6-litre petrol engine or a 1.6-litre petrol turbo (as found in the Pulsar SSS). The Renault-sourced 1.5-litre diesel offered in other markets isn’t coming down under. Transmissions are a five-speed manual in the ST, six-speed manual in the ST-S (with optional CVT auto) and CVT auto with manual mode in the Ti-S.
The Juke’s singular styling is not to all tastes. Some people love it; others find it too cartoonish. Put me in the first category. The design first emerged in the late 1980s from Nissan’s special projects offshoot, the Pike Factory. We don’t know what they were smoking, but they came up with the S-Cargo, the Figaro and the Pao, all of which are vaguely retro, but definitely left field.
The Juke had its basics established by the Qazana concept car that was created in Nissan’s London studio and appeared at the 2009 Geneva motor show. Most concept cars get steadily less outrageous as they approach production status. Not so the Juke.
What look like the front foglights are actually the headlights and what look like they should be headlights are sidelights and indicators, seemingly bursting through slits in the bodywork.
The Juke looks smaller than it is, despite its big standard wheels. Even in the flesh, it’s difficult to get a handle on its actual size. This trick comes about because of the deep flanks and aggressive wheel arches. It pays homage to real SUVs with a valance that mimics a sump guard with cooling vents.
The rear continues the theme with bold boomerang-shaped tail lights and pronounced shoulders. The rear window is convex and sits at a steep angle, limiting boot space but effectively reducing the perceived height and bulk. A bonus is that the rear window doesn’t get as filthy as on some wagons. Sorry, pram pushers, the Juke’s 251-litre boot space won’t accommodate a pram unless you drop the rear seat, increasing space to 550-litres. And then where would you put Junior?
The waistline rises sharply towards the rear, making the rear side windows very shallow – a current styling trend (Range Rover Evoque, Suzuki Swift, Kia Soul). The underlying platform comes from Nissan’s partner, Renault, using Clio bits such as the front struts and rear torsion beam.
It always amazes me where car designers delve for inspiration. Inside the Juke, it isn’t quite as outlandish as the exterior might lead you to believe. We’re told the design borrows from moto-GP influences. The two main dials appear to be separate from the main dashboard, with an eyebrow cover. As if that isn’t sufficient, the centre console apes a motorcycle fuel tank (silver or body colour). It works, and is a welcome return to form for Nissan’s interior designers who, to be honest, haven’t been at the top of their game in recent years. There is no shortage of hard plastics, as you’d expect at this price point, but there’s enough whimsy to distract. Disappointingly, the steering wheel is only adjustable up and down, but not for reach.
The turbo engine feels much more spritely than the normally aspirated version – hardly surprising since it has 140kW and 240Nm compared to a miserly 86kW and 158Nm. The non-turbo car needs to be stirred along, whereas the turbo just wants to get up and go. The all-wheel drive models are only available with the CVT gearbox. It’s not our favourite transmission and it makes plenty of noise as it goes about its work.
These days, it doesn’t cost much to stand out from the crowd. The 1.6-litre normally aspirated Juke ST starts at just $21,990 ($24,390 with the optional CVT transmission). Step up to the turbocharged ST-S and the price rises to $24,390 and the Ti-S tips the scales at $32,190.